(AP) — With the NBA’s oldest roster and the team experiencing a brief slump, the New York Knicks might have needed the All-Star break rest more than any other team.
For the Indiana Pacers, the break meant they grew even closer to the return of Danny Granger. Though he likely won’t make his season debut Wednesday night when New York comes to town, the Pacers’ offense has made strides without him as Paul George continues to blossom.
The teams split two meetings earlier this season with each squad winning on its home floor. Carmelo Anthony missed the Knicks’ loss due to a suspension and scored a game-high 26 in their win.
New York (32-18) comes out of the break 1 1/2 games ahead of Indiana for second in the Eastern Conference despite dropping three of its last four games.
“I think we might have been thinking about the break beforehand,” said Amare Stoudemire, who totaled 30 points over the last three games after averaging 20.0 in the previous three. “… I think now we’ve had a chance to refocus and hopefully we can get it going.”
Anthony is coming off a strong performance in the All-Star game with 26 points on 8-of-14 shooting despite originally being uncertain to play after bruising his right arm in a 92-88 loss to Toronto last Wednesday. He had 12 points on 5-of-24 shooting in that game after averaging 36.3 in the previous three.
Jason Kidd, who turns 40 next month, said the team needs to do a better job of sharing the basketball instead of leaning so heavily on Anthony for offensive production.
New York is among the league’s worst in assists at 19.7 per game, including an average of 14.0 in the last four. Anthony’s 22.1 field-goal attempts per game are the most in the NBA.
“Melo knows that, too,” coach Mike Woodson said. “Melo’s not here to do but one thing, and that’s to help us win basketball games. I think he’s done a hell of a job up to this point by his play and guys around him playing at a high level and getting better as we go along.”
The Pacers (32-21), winners of 16 of 18 at home, went into the break leading the league in both field-goal defense (41.7 percent) and opponents’ scoring average (89.9).
While averaging only 92.8 points on the season with Granger sidelined, Indiana’s offense has found a better rhythm, scoring 98 or more in eight of the last 10 while averaging 22.2 assists.
Granger, the team’s top scorer each of the past five seasons, resumed practice just before the break. He’s still officially listed as day-to-day and likely won’t return until Friday’s game against Detroit.
“He looks good,” George told the team’s official website. “His mobility is great. There’s going to be some time before he trusts how hard he can push, but he looks great out there how he’s moving.”
George followed his first career triple-double in last Wednesday’s 101-77 win over Charlotte with a solid first-time All-Star performance Sunday. He recorded 17 points, four assists, three rebounds and two steals in just 20 minutes.
George, whose career average is 12.2 points, has scored 20 or more in seven of the past 11 games.
David West is listed as a probable starter for Wednesday after missing his first game of the season last Wednesday because of a scratched eye.