(Sports Network) - Two of the Eastern Conference's best teams square off
Wednesday night when the Atlantic-Division leaders, the New York Knicks, visit
the best in the Central, the Indiana Pacers.
These two squads are second and third in the Eastern Conference, both trailing
the Miami Heat. This will be the first game back after the All-Star break for
both sides, which were well-represented in Sunday's showcase of the elite.
Carmelo Anthony of the Knicks started for the East and Tyson Chandler made his
first All-Star team. Paul George of the Pacers also played in his first All-
"Any time you get a chance to play with guys that you don't really get to play
with, and they're the elite guys, it was just fun," said George.
Fun time is over and it's back to business.
"This is definitely a game we'll be up for. We're only a game-and-a-half back
from New York and it's very possible that we can move up to the second seed,"
Wednesday's game should be a grueling battle between the league's third and
fourth-best defenses in terms of opponents' scoring. Indiana is third, but
best in the NBA in opponents' field-goal percentage. New York is fourth in
The Pacers won six of eight before the break, including a victory last
Wednesday at home over the Charlotte Bobcats. That snapped a two-game home
losing streak for Indiana, which hadn't lost two in a row at home in a full
It seemed like Danny Granger was all set to return for the Pacers in the
Bobcats game, but the flu sidelined him further. His head coach has appeared
to slow on the idea of an imminent Granger return.
"I don't want him coming back until he feels 100 percent ready," said Frank
The Knicks are ready to begin their march toward an Atlantic Division title,
which would be the first for the team since the 1993-94 season where they lost
to the Houston Rockets in the NBA Finals.
"The weekend is over, now it's back to business," Anthony said.
The Knicks lost their last two before the break, both at home. They fell to
the Los Angeles Clippers a week ago Sunday, then dropped a 92-88 decision to
the Toronto Raptors last Wednesday.
Like almost all NBA teams at this juncture in the season, trade rumors abound
for the Knicks, mostly revolving around young guard Iman Shumpert. Phoenix and
Orlando have been mentioned as possible destinations.
The Knicks own a 2 1/2-game lead over the Brooklyn Nets in the Atlantic
Division, but their margin over the Pacers for second in the Eastern
Conference is down to 1 1/2 games. Maybe a trade would solidify their status
in the East.
The Knicks and Pacers split their first two matchups, each winning at home.
New York has lost its last two in Indianapolis, but won the two before that.
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