The Knicks try to correct a stretch in which they’ve lost six of 11 and prevent the Indiana Pacers from winning nine in a row at home for the first time in nearly 10 years.
New York (23-11) is 8-2 following losses, but unlike all but one of those games, they’ll be without Anthony on Thursday. He was suspended for one game by the NBA on Wednesday for confronting Boston’s Kevin Garnett after Monday’s 102-96 home defeat. The two were involved in a fourth-quarter altercation in which both were given technical fouls.
Anthony approached the Celtics’ locker room and later waited for Garnett outside Boston’s team bus.
“There are no circumstances in which it is acceptable for a player to confront an opponent after a game,” NBA Executive Vice President of Operations Stu Jackson said in a statement. “Carmelo Anthony attempted to engage with Kevin Garnett multiple times after Monday’s game and therefore a suspension was warranted.”
Though Anthony was held to 20 points on 6-of-26 shooting, his 29.0 points per game rank second in the league. He averaged 35.0 over his previous five contests.
“We’ve sat down and we’ve talked about it,” coach Mike Woodson said. “Listen, Melo’s been playing at a high level and Melo likes winning. He’s tasted that here and he’s a big part of why we’re winning and hey, he just can’t have slippage right now.”
Without Anthony, New York may need J.R. Smith to continue his recent scoring spark. Smith is averaging 23.9 points over his last nine games after scoring 14.4 in his first 25.
The Pacers (21-14) have won eight of 10 and continue to play some of the league’s best defense, allowing 89.5 points per game. They held Miami to a season-low output in an 87-77 home win Tuesday and have limited four of their last five opponents below 90 points.
Indiana has been even more impressive on the defensive end during its eight-game home win streak, allowing opponents to average 82.8 points. The Pacers haven’t won nine in a row on their own floor since a 14-game run Nov. 28, 2002-Jan. 26, 2003.
Paul George is tied with David West for the team lead with 16.7 points per game as Indiana continues to play without Danny Granger (knee). George had 29 against the Heat after scoring 17 over his previous two games on 8-of-29 shooting.
“The simple fact that Danny Granger is hurt has created this opportunity for him to show what he can do,” Heat star LeBron James said of George, who is averaging 6.8 minutes more than last season. “He’s doing everything. He was a good player last year, but we weren’t able to see it because he wasn’t a featured player.”
Coach Frank Vogel said Granger’s recovery is on schedule, and he should be able to return in about a month.
For the Knicks, guard Iman Shumpert practiced Tuesday for the first time since tearing his ACL in April. There is still no timetable for his return, but it’s a good sign after Shumpert averaged 9.5 points and a team-best 1.7 steals as a rookie last season.
Anthony had 26 points as New York beat the Pacers 88-76 at home Nov. 18 for its fourth win in five meetings.
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