Matthew FalkenburyGREENBURGH, NY – It had been less than 24 hours since the Knicks had finally eliminated the Celtics and finally won a playoff series after 13 years of waiting.
But there they were, back at practice, getting ready to play the Indiana Pacers in Game One of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on Sunday afternoon.
The NBA did neither team any favors by giving them one day off before starting their series, which could be very physical. For the Knicks, the thing that they want to take advantage of, is that they will have home court advantage.
“We put ourselves in this position this year to host the first round and the second round at home and we can’t lose at home,” coach Mike Woodson said. “It’s important that you win your home games. It starts tomorrow, we got to come out blazing, committed to 48 minutes and stay focused and stay the course.”
Carmelo Anthony, whose seven points down the stretch helped the Knicks put the Celtics away in Game Six, was at practice today after playing with a shoulder injury the past couple of games.
“[The shoulder] felt pretty good today. The only time that I really feel it is when I get hit extremely hard and gets yanked on or something like that. But, other than that, I try not to think about it” Anthony said. “I’m good to go, I’m ready to go.”
With the second round about to get underway the question about when or if Amar’e Stoudemire will be ready to play also was a big topic of discussion.
Although he wont be ready to return quite yet, as he was ruled out for Games One and Two, the wait could be over very soon, starting in Game Three.
“If [Amar’e] feels fine after Friday then I think we will play him Saturday,” Woodson said. “If he’s right he can help us a lot. There’s no doubt.”
Stoudemire has been out for the Knicks since March 7th with a right knee injury and he had surgery to clean out debris in the knee four days later.
Stoudemire did not speak to the media after practice but, did say before leaving the court for the day that he is “Not back yet”.
Steve Novak, who only played three minutes in Game five and missed game six against Boston with back spasms, will also be out for Game one on Sunday.
The Pacers will present a challenge to the Knicks that will not be much dissimilar to what the Celtics showed them in the first round.
They were the best defensive team in the league and were the best in three point field goal percentage allowed. The Knicks know that the Pacers are talented and will be ready to go come Sunday.
“They try to slow the temp up, they want a low scoring game, they want to try to play in the high seventies, low eighties. We want to play like we did against the Celtics,” said Anthony. “We want to push our tempo, get up and down the court, force the pace on them and just play basketball at this point.
The Knicks franchise waited a long time to get a win in a playoff series. For Anthony and the rest of his teammates, they hope the next playoff series happens within 13 days instead of 13 years.