Technically, a best-of-seven-series is not over until one team wins four games. However, based upon comments following Monday’s practice sessions, both the Pacers and Knicks are placing a great deal of importance on the Game 4 outcome.
“It’s a must-have-win, and we have to go into it with a lot of desperation and energy and effort,” said Pacers point guard George Hill.
The Knicks held practice at Bankers Life Fieldhouse a couple of hours prior to the Pacers, but Carmelo Anthony discussed a similar New York mindset about Tuesday’s contest.
“I’ll come out a little more aggressive (Tuesday) because we don’t want to go back home, and I don’t want to go back to New York down 3-1,” explained Anthony. The All-Star forward went on to call Game 4 “A gut-check game” and expanded on his approach.
“Be a lot more aggressive than I was in game three and as a team, I think we need to come out with a little bit more aggression and take care of the things that we can take care of and see what happens.”
The Pacers have been in this situation before and haven’t always risen to the occasion. They led the Hawks 2-0 in their first-round series and were soundly defeated in games 3 and 4 at Philips Arena. Just one year ago, the Pacers had the eventual NBA Champion Miami Heat on the ropes in the Eastern Conference Semi-finals. However, a 2-1 series lead turned into a 4-2 series victory for Miami.
Pacers head coach Frank Vogel is determined to not repeat history.
“Our next step in growth of this franchise is our ability to maintain an edge after a playoff win. We struggled a little bit with that in the Atlanta series, we’ve got a 2-1 lead, we can’t get comfortable with that at all. This is a pivotal game and we’ve gotta come out hungrier than they are,” said Vogel in the first answer during his Monday media session.
Just like last year’s Heat series, the chance to take a commanding series lead happens at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. As great as the atmosphere was one year ago, Pacers All-Star Paul George thinks what he saw against the Knicks Saturday was even better.
“It was crazy, I think it was better this series, than last year against Miami,” said George.
Point guard George Hill gave similar props to the crowd that has become a big part recently in helping the Pacers have a true home-court advantage.
“Normally in the regular season you’ve probably seen a lot of Knicks fans here, but the other night (Saturday) it was just amazing to see how many yellow shirts in the stands and very few little blue dots out there. Like we said all season, that’s what we’ve been looking for. We have to tip our hat and I’ll be the first one to say thanks to all the fans who came,” said the Indianapolis native.
The Pacers have won each of their four home playoff games this season in convincing fashion. If they can do the same thing Tuesday night, the atmosphere inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse will be raucous and the Knicks will be in a REAL must-win situation the remainder of this series.