Knicks, Pacers in huge East battle at MSG

Two of the Eastern Conference's best jump it up Sunday afternoon when the New York Knicks host the Indiana Pacers for a Madison Square Garden matinee.

The Knicks are second in the Eastern Conference, three games ahead of the Pacers. A win on Sunday and the Knicks are the No. 2 seed, which will guarantee them homecourt advantage through at least the first two rounds of the postseason.

The Pacers have to win the game and then win out. The Knicks are three games clear of Indiana, so the Pacers would need to win their last three and have the Knicks lose their last three.

In that scenario, Indiana would have the edge with a 3-1 season record against the Knicks.

"It's important that we continue to play well at home and protect our court," said Knicks coach Mike Woodson. "It always helps to have homecourt advantage. That goes a long way when you're trying to get to the Eastern Conference Finals."

Stopping the Knicks right now is no easy chore.

New York has won 14 of its last 15 and had a 13-game winning streak snapped Thursday night in Chicago against the Bulls. The Knicks bounced back from the setback with a comeback, 101-91 victory Friday in Cleveland.

"We came out with energy. Everybody that played contributed," said Woodson.

Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith were awesome, as they have been the last month. They shared high-scorer honors with 31 points each as Anthony shot 12-for-24 and Smith went a blistering 13-for-16. Perhaps most importantly at this time of year, neither went over the 30-minute mark.

"It was good we could rest them," admitted Woodson.

The Pacers have been floundering a bit lately. They've dropped three of their last four, including home defeats at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Brooklyn Nets.

The Nets' loss occurred on Friday and the defensive-minded Pacers did not perform at that end. They fell, 117-109 and the 117 points allowed were the most all season.

For the fourth straight game, the Pacers fell behind by 20 points and against the Nets, that happened in the second quarter.

"Clearly we've got to start games with a bigger sense of urgency," said Pacers coach Frank Vogel. "To win in the playoffs you've got to play with that sense of urgency that we had in the fourth quarter for four quarters, and we didn't do that tonight."

The Pacers reclaimed the lead in the fourth quarter, but Brooklyn played brilliantly late.

All five Indiana starters scored in double figures, led by 26 from David West and 21 from Paul George. Roy Hibbert had 18 and 10 rebounds and George Hill notched 17 points and 10 assists.

The Knicks have won four out of five against the Pacers in MSG.