The New York Knicks are in a must-win situation Thursday night when Game 5 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series with the Indiana Pacers shifts back to Madison Square Garden.
The Knicks dropped both contests in Indiana, including a 93-82 setback on Tuesday night.
In that loss, head coach Mike Woodson changed his starting lineup. Inserted was Kenyon Martin and out was Pablo Prigioni. Woodson said the change had a lot to do with Iman Shumpert's health, but he also wanted to go big to match the strength of Indiana's frontline.
It didn't work.
Martin scored zero points in almost 29 minutes. Prigioni played a little over three minutes.
"There's a strong chance we could go right back to that lineup," said Woodson, referring to the Prigioni-based starting group. "That lineup has been great for us for two, three months.
"A lot of that was based on guys not being in practice. There were a lot of things playing into why I did what I did."
The Pacers still out-rebounded the Knicks, 54-36. Indiana, one of the best defensive squads in the NBA during the regular season, held the New York to 35 percent shooting on Tuesday.
The offensive woes for the Knicks have been exacerbated under the bright lights of the playoffs, but they exist.
Carmelo Anthony led the Knicks with 24 points on 9-for-23 shooting in Game 4. He has been the butt of subtle criticism from fellow Knicks about stagnant ball movement, but who is going to carry the load for them?
J.R. Smith, the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, has shot 28 percent from the field during this series. His scoring, which was at 18.1 ppg, is down to 14.3 ppg during the postseason. After the Game 4 loss, he was candid about his play.
"I take the blame for this whole series," admitted Smith.
"My job is to get us out of this hole," Woodson said.
He needs some of his players to start scoring the basketball.
Jason Kidd hasn't scored a point in the month of May. Shumpert, Martin and Prigioni both took the collar in Game 4. Raymond Felton had 14 and Tyson Chandler managed 12 and 10 rebounds.
The Knicks have just been unable to match up with the Pacers' awesome starting front court. Paul George had 18 points and 14 rebounds on Tuesday, while David West registered a double-double with 10 points and 10 boards and Roy Hibbert only scored six points, but had 11 rebounds and three blocks.
"The effort they're putting forth is humbling for me to watch," said Pacers coach Frank Vogel. "To see these guys pour their heart and souls into the game and playing the game the right way - unselfishly - and doing all the little things to make winning plays. I'm excited and extremely proud of them."
The Knicks, partially because of the dominant performance of Hibbert in Game 3, elected to double-team almost every post player for Indiana in Game 4. The Pacers swung the ball and made eight 3-pointers.
The main beneficiary of the ball movement was George Hill. The starting point guard shot 9-for-14 and paced the Pacers with 26 points. Lance Stephenson (13) and D.J. Augustin (11) also scored in double figures.
The Pacers are in great shape, but are too savvy to think this series is over.
"We understand the next game will be the toughest game of the series," said West. "They had some desperation, but the desperation they play with Thursday night is going to be tremendous. We just have to be prepared to deal with it."
If the Knicks win on Thursday, Game 6 will be Saturday in Indianapolis.