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    Indiana Pacers Game Thread: New York Knicks @ Indiana Pacers 12/23/2020 [Game #1]

    (0-0) -- (0-0)

    Venue TV TIME
    Bankers Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN MSG 7:00 PM EST

    Probable starters:

    Injury Report

    New York Knicks Indiana Pacers
    Dennis Smith Jr. - Bruised left quad (PROB) Goga Bitadze - Right ankle sprain (OUT)
    Mitchell Robinson - Sprained right ankle (PROB) Brian Bowen II - Partial tear, right groin(OUT)
    Omari Spellman - Sore right knee (OUT) Jeremy Lamb - Left knee rehabilitation (OUT)
    Austin Rivers - Sore right groin (OUT) T.J. Warren - Plantar fasciitis, right foot (QUEST)

    Game Preview

    The Indiana Pacers have been far more successful lately than the New York Knicks, which can be said about just about everyone else in the NBA, too.

    But the Pacers and Knicks will both be looking for similarly fresh starts Wednesday night, when they are scheduled to oppose one another in the season opener in Indianapolis.

    The game will pit two of the nine NBA teams debuting new head coaches. The Knicks hired Tom Thibodeau on July 30, while the Pacers hired Nate Bjorkgren on Oct. 20.

    The task for Bjorkgren, who takes over a team that finished with the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference (45-28) last season, is a little less daunting than Thibodeau's but no less challenging.

    Nate McMillan led the Pacers to the playoffs in each of his four seasons at the helm but never got the team beyond the first round. Indiana was swept three times, including by the Miami Heat in August.

    With injury-prone yet explosive Victor Oladipo entering the final year of his contract, there's a sense of urgency for the Pacers -- who haven't gotten to the second round since making the Eastern Conference finals in the spring of 2014 -- to take a step or two forward under Bjorkgren. Indiana went 0-3 in the preseason but averaged 42 shots from beyond the 3-point arc and 117.3 possessions per game, up from an average of 28.2 and 98.9, respectively, last season. Bjorkgren's style could be more up-tempo and aggressive than McMillan's.

    "His energy is amazing," said Oladipo, who was limited to 19 regular season games last year following his recovery from a ruptured right quad he suffered Jan. 23, 2019. "The style of play is going to be different, but we're going to play hard, like Pacers basketball."

    Knicks basketball has been anything but brand-worthy for most of this century. New York has the worst record in the NBA (693-997) since the calendar flipped to 2000 and has advanced beyond the first round of the playoffs just once since 2001.

    Thibodeau is the 14th head coach since 2000 for the Knicks, who missed the playoffs for the seventh straight season after going 21-45 last year.

    New York looked like it might be big players in free agency with $40 million in cap space at the disposal of new general manager Leon Rose, yet the biggest offseason addition was Obi Toppin, whom Rose selected with the eighth overall pick of the draft after Toppin was the consensus national player of the year at Dayton last season.

    But a team of anonymous grinders may be perfect for what the intense and defensively-minded Thibodeau has in mind for the Knicks' latest rebuild. New York went 3-1 in the preseason and held each of its opponents under 100 points.

    "I'm trying to make the playoffs and trying to win," Knicks guard RJ Barrett said. "We shouldn't expect anything less from ourselves. We've got a lot of talented players and hard workers. If we put it together with the coaching staff we have, we should be able to do very well."

    --Field Level Media

    (STATS /

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