NBA Playoffs 2013, Pacers vs. Knicks: Rivalry looks to heat up again after competitive season series

USA TODAY Sports

The Knicks and Pacers split the regular season series, but only one team will be able to advance to this year's Eastern Conference Finals.

The New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers know a little something about playoff series against one another, but it's the 2012-13 regular season series that tells us the most about how the next few games might play out. The two teams split the four games they played this season, with the home team winning each contest.

If those games tell us anything, it's that neither team will run away with this series. Having watched both struggle to put away lesser opponents in the first round, little in the past couple weeks would persuade someone to think otherwise.

That leaves us with two teams, both quite talented but ridiculously different, taking the court in the postseason for the first time since Reggie Miller and Patrick Ewing. With a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals on the line, don't be surprised if one of the East's great rivalries gets back to its mid-1990s form this month.

With the big quarterfinals series tipping off Sunday night, here's a breakdown of what happened between these two teams this season and what it can tell us going forward.

What happened?

Other than a 125-91 Pacers shellacking that qualifies as arguably the best performance of the season by Indiana, the other three games between these teams went about as you'd expect: low-scoring defensive battles between two teams that like to play in the half-court.

While those kinds of games play to Indiana's advantages, the Knicks still won a pair and were competitive in a third game even without Carmelo Anthony. If the Pacers slow things down, New York has shown its comfortable playing that game.

What's different now?

The Knicks have never really been 100 percent healthy this season as a team, but they could have their full roster of players active by Game 3 if Amar'e Stoudemire makes his return. The former All-Star only played in two games against Indiana this season while battling injuries, struggling both times, but he was an efficient scorer when able to play this season and could be an X-factor for New York later in the series.

What can we take away from all this?

A slow-paced, competitive series is to be expected between these teams. The Pacers don't have a player of Anthony's caliber, but they play elite team defense and have experience playing in these kinds of situations after last season's playoff run. Compared to New York's opening opponent, Indiana will attack with size and athleticism the Celtics simply couldn't match, and it'll be interesting to see how the Knicks adjust after looking shaky in the final three games against Boston.

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