Mandatory Credit: John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Cue the memories from the 1990s and get Reggie Miller a security detail: The New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers are in a playoff series again.

Knicks fans know this pain all too well. The Pacers killed what was supposed to be the 2012-13 dream season and stunned the Knicks in the East Semifinals. Thirteen years prior, the Pacers robbed the Knicks of a second straight trip to the NBA Finals. Indiana eventually lost to the Shaq-and-Kobe Lakers, but New York still feels the sting. Twenty years of suck tend to have that effect!

This year, however, is different. The Knicks aren’t relying entirely on a one-dimensional Carmelo Anthony, a tired Tyson Chandler, and streaky J.R. Smith. This team, though shorthanded thanks to injuries, still plays hard and refuses to go down easy. Jalen Brunson has put the Knicks on his back all year and seems ready to floor it in the playoffs.

However, he and the Knicks will have to get back a Pacers team that might not defend well, but had enough size and speed to finish top in the league in scoring.

Key Storyline: Indiana offense vs. New York defense. This is a tough series to call because though the Pacers won the season series 2-1, both wins have asterisks. Indiana defeated New York 140-126 on December 30, but the Knicks were down Mitchell Robinson. OG Anunoby had also just been acquired from Toronto and wasn’t yet with the team. The Pacers lost at MSG on February 1, but beat the Knicks at home again on February 10, 125-111.

Except in that game, the Knicks were without Robinson, Anunoby, and Isaiah Hartenstein, leaving Precious Achiuwa and an aging Taj Gibson to man the paint. New York, one of the top rebounding teams in the league, got outclassed on the boards 41-32.

Both teams are as healthy as they’re going to be right now and it’s a simple numbers game again. The Pacers were the best scoring team in the NBA, but ranked 27th in points allowed. The Knicks’ modest offense ranked 19th, but 2nd in points allowed.

Were the Pacers that good in the first round, or were the Milwaukee Bucks just that bad without Giannis or a healthy Damian Lillard? We’ll soon find out.

Key Matchup: Pascal Siakam vs. OG Anunoby. Siakam was the Pacers’ go-to guy in the first round, averaging 22.3 points and 8.8 rebounds against Milwaukee. On the New York side, Anunoby has been a defensive stalwart while also chipping in 15 points per game. He will be tasked with stopping Siakam, who the Pacers acquired from the Raptors in January.

The two have similar builds and the Pacers need Siakam’s offense to get past the Knicks. Anunoby is well aware he’ll be guarding the Pacers’ leading scorer. On top of that, the Pacers are arguably a better coached team under Rick Carlisle than Nick Nurse’s Philadelphia 76ers.

Remember what ultimately sunk Philly? It was the lack of a consistent third option aside Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey. Can the Pacers get to the East Finals with Tyrese Haliburton and Myles Turner leading the way?

X-Factors: Mitchell Robinson & Isaiah Hartenstein. The Pacers’ key advantage over the Knicks is that their bigs can shoot. Myles Turner shot nearly 44% from three in the first round and has shot 36.7% for his career. This is where Robinson and Hartenstein’s defense becomes critical.

Robinson cannot score outside the paint. Hartenstein has range, but largely stays in the paint for rebounding purposes. The two now have to be prepared to defend guys like Turner or Siakam stretching and spacing the floor. But in doing so, the Knicks also risk losing the rebounding game.

The Knicks are the better defensive team, but the Pacers’ offense is fast and feisty. Robinson and Hartenstein might need to be perfect the whole series for the Knicks to have a chance.

Pacers predicted starters: Tyrese Haliburton (PG), Andrew Nembhard (SG), Aaron Nesmith (SF), Pascal Siakam (PF), Myles Turner (C)

Knicks predicted starters: Jalen Brunson (PG), Donte DiVincenzo (SG), Josh Hart (SF), OG Anunoby (PF), Isaiah Hartenstein (C)

Series Prediction: We’ve heard the old adage a gazillion times before. Offense wins games, defense wins championships. By that measure, the Knicks should win this series in a walk. ESPN unanimously picked New York to advance to the East Finals.

Sorry, Knicks fans, but yours truly is not ESPN. It’s been a great season, one that can hopefully be built on next year, but New York’s road ends at the East Semis again. Between Turner and Siakam’s range, Indy’s army of shooters, and Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau almost certainly having to rely on Alec Burks coming in cold, the Pacers will pace themselves to the East Finals. Pacers in six.

Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.