There are many teams that can be classified as an enigma in the NBA. They can be so talented, yet so hard to actually make a true judgment of. Eventually after watching a playoff series or a stretch of games, you can make a proper sentiment. That’s not the case with one team and that team is the New York Knicks.
Since I’m a New York resident, I’ve always followed the team and see mostly disappointment. When you don’t win a playoff series for thirteen years, it shows how dark times were for them. Now the Knicks are back playing playoff basketball in May, but it’s been mostly unpleasant so far. Other than the first and fourth quarter run in game two, they’ve looked sluggish in their series against the Indiana Pacers.
I’ve tried to label the Knicks as a legitimate contender because they really do have a talented roster. They may not be stacked with superstars, but they have specific roles for their players and have seen more positives compared to recent years. Raymond Felton has been rejuvenated going back to New York and played well this year. The same can be said for J.R Smith and Kenyon Martin.
After taking care of Boston in six games like I predicted, it has caught me off guard that they’ve struggled this much against Indiana. This is an Indiana team that doesn’t shoot well and isn’t as athletic as New York. That hasn’t mattered much because Indiana has used their size and made them look like toddlers at times. The Knicks now face a 2-1 deficit and game four is essentially a must win game. Here are some adjustments they should make going forward to win this series.
Eliminate Small Ball
With the return of Amarie Stoudemire, this should mean the end of small ball. Sure the Knicks may start Carmelo Anthony at the four, but as the game progresses the Knicks need to have a legitimate power forward on the court. It’s become apparent how they like to put Anthony at power forward to use his speed and explosiveness to create mismatches.
It has been successful for the most part this season, but this is simply a bad matchup. Despite being 250 pounds, David West is quick for his size and never seems to tire out. He plays physical and is relentless on both ends of the court. Other than Roy Hibbert, he’s been their biggest problem so far.
Obviously Hibbert has the biggest problem, which is why they need to start playing actual centers. Mike Woodson is out of his mind for putting Kenyon Martin on Roy Hibbert for an extended period of time. Why they haven’t used Marcus Camby at all is beyond me. Camby may not be much of a contributor offensively, but he’s 6 foot 11 and can physically hang with Hibbert.
Indiana is starting to realize that if Hibbert stays aggressive, then they are tough to beat. It has set the tone in both of Indiana’s wins in the series. He’ll get his points, but you can’t allow him to get eight offensive rebounds alone. Tyson Chandler has to step up as well. In a series like this, he can’t be averaging just four rebounds. The only time that Martin or Stoudemire should play center is when Hibbert isn’t on the court.
Inconsistent Guard Play
People always tend to ask me what the major difference between Miami and New York is. Both teams have their superstar and the Knicks did win the season series. One thing that truly separates teams is their guard play. The Knicks don’t have one consistent guard on their team.
As good as Raymond Felton played this season, he tends to get rattled and spends too much time complaining to refs. In game three, he seemed fatigued and never got going offensively. It was only one game though and Felton has proven to be the most reliable guard so far in the playoffs for the Knicks.
The two major issues are Jason Kidd and J.R Smith right now. Smith will get his minutes and it’ll come down to him simply producing. As for Kidd, I don’t see how he is anything but a liability in this series. His terrible outside shooting and constantly being late on rotations have killed the Knicks. In game one, it was D.J Augustin hitting open three pointers. In game three, it was George Hill constantly getting looks and only hit five three pointers out of 12 attempts.
He is a fan favorite and gives the Knicks playoff experience compared to the other guards on the team. At best, Kidd should only be playing 12 to 15 minutes. Pablo Prigioni is a better option at this point for his defense and three-point shooting. He may be 35 years old, but Prigioni has quietly been one of the few consistent contributors for the Knicks in the playoffs.
The Biggest Enigma Of Them All
How excruciating is it to watch J.R Smith miss contested jump shot after jump shot? It’s rare to see him take a shot that isn’t contested. To his credit, Smith made significant strides this season. With Stoudemire hurt for the majority of the year, Smith stepped up and earned himself the sixth man of the year award by averaging 18 points a game.
In the past five games, Smith has shot a combined 28 percent and still managed to take 14 shots a game. If that isn’t being a cancer to a team, then I’m not sure what is. He’s constantly made poor decisions and even when he drives to the basket; it hasn’t resulted in much success.
The Knicks are in a tough spot with Smith, but they need to seriously consider limiting his minutes. With Stoudemire showing some spark in game three and Iman Shumpert being such a valuable asset to the team, Smith should be limited to about 20 minutes a game until he starts progressing. Shumpert has started to play better despite his inconsistent jump shot.
Unlike Indiana, the Knicks have a decent bench and need to start using more. They should consider using Chris Copeland more, since they need scoring. He may be a bit of a defensive liability, but is Smith that much better? With Shumpert being a top defensive player in the league, he’ll take the reigns of guarding Paul George. Despite his struggles, you can’t have Smith completely sit out. He can explode at any time to score 20 points in a half. It’ll be more about limiting his minutes for now.
Before the playoffs started, I had New York beating Indiana in five games. The reasoning behind it was Amarie Stoudemire would have been back and playing at least 20 minutes already. Also, it seemed like the Knicks would give Indiana’s lack of quality guards’ trouble.
To the Knicks credit, they’ve done that and it was shown in game two when they forced 21 turnovers. That contributed to their 30-2 run in the fourth quarter. This series hasn’t been completely one-sided and the Knicks are very much in this series.
My concern with the Knicks is that in the two losses, they didn’t really look like much of a threat in winning either game in the fourth quarter. Both losses were sound defeats and that has to concern all Knick fans. There is no doubt that Game Four is a must win situation.
Even though Carmelo Anthony is a superstar and can be the most dangerous player in the league, it’s nearly impossible winning three straight games in a row coming from behind. Indiana is a disciplined team, along with being almost unbeatable at home. They are too good to lose three games in a row.
It’s starting to become do or die time for the Knicks. They’ve done plenty of positive things this season, after years of embarrassment. Still it’ll be extremely disappointing to lose in the second round with all their talent. Mike Woodson should start making better adjustments revolving around his personnel. The adjustments will be needed, but it’ll be on the likes of Smith, Felton, and Chandler to step up if the Knicks want to advance to the next round.
You can follow me on twitter at @Allen_Strk or e-mail me at AStrk19@gmail.com.