Sunday, May 19, 2013
The Knicks' 106-99 loss to the Pacers in game six of their round two matchup put an end to their NBA title dreams, thus allowing the season to come to a close.
Having won a previously pivotal game five on their home court to stay alive, New York had hoped to steal a game six victory away from Indiana as well (this time on the road) to bring the series back to the Big Apple and essentially, force a game seven.
The hearts of Knicks fans everywhere were broken as Brooklyn's own, the spunky Lance Stephenson, helped the Pacers break away in the game's final minutes to earn themselves a series victory. New York kept the pace for three full quarters, proving they wouldn't go down without a fight. The likes of Carmelo Anthony, Iman Shumpert, and even Chris Copeland helped their team secure a small lead in the third quarter, but such satisfaction escaped them quickly as that same lead was short-lived.
Anthony was playing like a true superstar, Shumpert was having a breakout postseason performance, and Copeland was simply continuing to prove why he deserves quality minutes. Even J.R. Smith played relatively well in relation to his recent outings, scoring more points by getting to the line efficiently and grabbing more rebounds, too.
With the Knicks on their heels and the momentum clearly in the visiting team's favor, the Indiana crowd came alive as the Pacers neutralized Anthony, thus creating a domino effect as the star was left for dead. None of his teammates were able to capitalize and come through in the clutch in keep the Knicks alive.
Losing game six is undoubtedly a bummer for the Knicks, but frankly, it's hard to blame their efforts in the final loss. The home crowd was behind the Pacers, who received last minute boosts from unlikely sources as the Knicks attempted to cover all necessary and expected bases. It's difficult to place blame on an individual or two, considering New York was in the game until the very end. It's tough to criticize their effort.
But that only goes for game six. Where was that same urgency throughout the rest of the series? Examining the rest of the Knicks' losses is where cause for concern can be found.
Tyson Chandler was not only none existent, but tremendously outplayed by Roy Hibbert all series long. It's one thing to depend on your starting center as a coach, but Mike Woodson should have pulled the plug on Chandler earlier in the series. A shortened leash was necessary. The same could be said with regard to performances by the likes of Smith and Jason Kidd. There were players waiting in the wings (Copeland, Steve Novak, and even Pablo Prigioni in game four) who could have stepped up to fill the massive voids.
The Pacers stole game one from the Knicks on their home court, but clearly, the Knicks had plenty of opportunities to recover. Both games three and four in Indiana were winnable contests. The crowd was a quiet one, the pace was slow, and the Pacers were inconsistent. All that was necessary was that the Knicks be ready to pounce. They weren't, and they failed to capitalize on things that would have kept them in the series.
As poorly as the Knicks were playing in both games, their offense stagnant as could be, Indiana was playing just as badly. New York failed to steal either one of those games away. That, paired up with the fact that they lost at home, is what truly led to their demise.
They should hang their heads high after a valiant effort in game six, but frankly, fault can be placed on those individuals who didn't step up and allowed New York to be in such a position in the first place. The team shouldn't have had to play with their backs against the wall throughout the series.
Saturday, May 18, 2013
Defense win championships. Every smart basketball mind seems to understand this, and Knicks' Coach Mike Woodson is no different. Over the last year and a half, he has spearheaded a movement that's helped New York elevate their collective defensive effort immensely. Such an elevation has clearly been key to the Knicks advancing to where they are today.
But whereas Woodson may be a defensive guru, his lack of adjustments on the offensive end has (and will continue to be, should the Knicks lose in their series against the Pacers) been the team's undoing as of late.
Too stubborn to perhaps give up relying upon the likes of J.R. Smith and Jason Kidd in recent games, Coach Woodson has hung on to his belief in certain individuals that they will break out of their slumps to once again get New York back to where they need to be.
Having confidence and instilling faith in such individuals can undoubtedly be a good thing sometimes, but as the coach's eventual nod to Chris Copeland in game five finally proved, sometimes change is good. Adjustments are necessary, especially if what's currently going on hasn't seemed to work.
On his way to scoring 13 points in 19 minutes against Indiana on Thursday, Copeland not only took some pressure off Carmelo Anthony, but his ability to help spread the floor also allowed Raymond Felton a little bit more room to drive inside. His impact was clearly felt, as it was ever infectious to a number of his teammates.
The Knicks propelled themselves into the postseason with an impressive thirteen game winning streak towards the end of the season. Such a streak began largely in part due to a spark provided by (the since waived) Kurt Thomas. He lit the fire under the rest of his teammates' butts, and each of the Knickerbockers were inspired by his performance to keep things rolling.
Could Copeland's breakout postseason performance end up providing a similar spark? It certainly seemed to in game five, but now it's time to see if he and his teammates can capitalize on that same existing momentum to force a pivotal game seven.
During the Knicks' winning streak, the extra pep in their collective step was enough to keep their different opponents guessing throughout. Unlike New York's past regular season opponents, the Pacers have the opportunity to adjust to what they saw from the Knicks in game five.
If Coach Woodson is smart, Copeland is surely to be featured on offense off the bench once again on Saturday night. But should Indiana be more prepared this time, the Knicks will need someone else to turn to.
Could that someone be Steve Novak? With a similar skill set to Copeland, Novak not only has the ability to make it rain from downtown, but also to open up things for his teammates as well. His long range shooting prowess undeniably keeps opponents honest.
Over the course of three playoff match-ups now (dating back to last season against the Miami Heat), Novak has been criticized for not moving around enough to get himself open and help the Knicks. But has that been Coach Woodson's fault for not running the proper plays all along?
Perhaps it has been. The coach has been slow to make adjustments, and clearly, isn't always focused on opening things up offensively. But now it's time. As game five proved, a few adjustments on offense are necessary for the Knicks to not only keep the pace with Indiana, but to control it themselves.
Just as Copeland was a key to doing so in game five, perhaps Novak stands to help out in game six just as much.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Given how the Knicks responded to the beat down they received from the Pacers in game one of the semi-finals, it made sense that they clawed their way back into the series by returning the favor in game two.
So when game three resulted in quite the feeble effort from New York, many expected them to come out raring to go. Unfortunately, only more of the weak play followed through game four.
Over the course of the Knicks 93-82 loss to the Pacers on Tuesday night, it was clear to see why New York should be at a loss for words at this point.
For the second straight game, the Knicks failed to get things going offensively. Despite scoring 24 points and grabbing 9 rebounds, Carmelo Anthony cannot do it all alone. As he winces through the pain and attempts to minimize his difficulty to play through a bevy of accumulated postseason bumps and bruises, the forward is by no means able to carry the Knicks all by himself. Frankly, he shouldn't have to. The Pacers' defense is too good to fall victim to such a method and let Anthony takeover games.
The Knicks have plenty of other offensive options capable of spreading Indiana's defensive attention, but the shots simply aren't falling. What's more, an array of Knickerbockers simply aren't displaying the same type of aggression they put forth earlier in the year. As they fail to make the Pacers pay, what does Indiana have to be afraid of?
J.R. Smith's offensive prowess checked out midway through the Knicks/Celtics series and has yet to return. Now scoreless through seven contests, Jason Kidd has been unable to help the Knicks spread the floor. As previously noted, Tyson Chandler's lack of aggression on both ends of the floor has set quite the feeble tone for his team.
Raymond Felton has been scoring the basketball quite efficiently, but even he has failed to attack the basket much against Indiana. Such an absence in his game plan is strange considering how well it suited the point guard against Boston.
As much as the handful of Knicks are struggling, it's up to Mike Woodson to make adjustments. With his team struggling in the playoffs, clearly their entire season is on the line. Is it a smart decision to play the waiting game and hope that the streaky Smith breaks out his slump? With Pablo Prigioni previously providing a massive spark in game two, is it worth sitting him all but four minutes in a contest in favor of Kidd?
When players like Smith and Kidd are hot, spacing them around the perimeter forces the Pacers' defense to stay honest and guard them (thus pulling other potential defenders away from Anthony). When neither player is a threat, however, Indiana is free to swarm Anthony as the sole offensive threat.
The value of having shooters surround Anthony on the court was proven in the minimal time Coach Woodson opted to play Chris Copeland and Steve Novak on the court. Each player knocked down an impressive bomb from long range. If Anthony is being double-teamed, either of those players stand to be left open. It's good strategy.
The only time Woodson opted to find out how effective that same strategy could really be, the game was out of reach. Playing each sharpshooter and watching them thrive in minimal minutes simply added insult to injury.
What's perhaps more frustrating than anything else, however, is how close both recent losses have been. The Pacers, too, have struggled offensively. All that's been needed from the Knicks has been a few defensive stops and a run here or there to swing the momentum. As poorly as New York continues to play, the games are still in reach.
But taking control requires potential adjustments. Should Coach Woodson opt to stand pat and allow his team to ride and/or die with the offense of players like Smith and Kidd, their postseason run will come to an end much quicker than anyone had expected.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Shortly before earning himself a spot on the NBA's "All-Defensive" First Team, Tyson Chandler was quick to call out his Knicks teammates for their lack of ball movement on the offensive end.
With a reputation as quite the defensive star, is Chandler right to have called out players like Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith? The fact is stagnant offense and too many isolation sets have both played a role into New York falling 2-1 behind the Pacers in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.
But so has their lack of defensive intensity. While Chandler can criticize his offensive-minded teammates all he wants, there's no denying any one of them would be justified coming back with something to say of their own, with regard to the big man's efforts.
Whereas players like Anthony and Smith are supposed to pour in the points, Chandler is supposed to serve as the anchor of the Knicks' defense. He did it in 2011 for the NBA champion Dallas Mavericks, and there's no doubt that with New York competing at its highest level in over a decade, the team is depending on Chandler to do the same for them now as well.
As the anchor of such efforts, it's clear he sets the tone for what kind of intensity the team will put forth the rest of the way. Unfortunately for Chandler and his Knicks, he hasn't looked much like the defensive aggressor most people expect him to be. Instead, he's looked tentative on the boards and isn't playing as physicality as he can on Roy Hibbert.
Exploiting Chandler's feeble physicality with an array of effective offensive moves, Hibbert has looked as dominant as Shaquille O'Neal against the Knicks in round two. What's more, he's been roaring and soaring up to crash the boards, much like Chandler should be. Hibbert's ability to attack the glass on both ends of the floor is neutralizing the same big man who edged him out for a spot on the Eastern Conference All-Star team just a few months ago.
And of course, taking Chandler out of the game weakens the Knicks tremendously. New York not only depends on him defensively, but usually also appreciates some form of offensive output from his as well. Not putting himself in the position to crash the offensive glass much, the big man has also frequently not been in place to capitalize on alley-oop passes from his teammates.
As a leader, sometimes it's necessary to call out your teammates in hopes of lighting a fire under their butts. But when you're the team's heart and soul, who's going to be there to light the fire under yours when be instead?
Chandler has to understand how much of the Knicks' success starts and/or ends with him. Regardless of whether or not he's simply regarded as a defensive player, his efforts are still nevertheless infectious when it comes to both ends of the court.
Good offense often stems from good defense, and right now, it's clear Chandler isn't giving New York enough of that to inject some life into their offense. Should his feeble efforts continue as Hibbert toys with him again and again, the Knicks' center could be looking himself in the mirror when it comes to figuring out who to blame for an earlier playoff exit than expected for New York.
Monday, May 13, 2013
Though he did earn himself a spot on the NBA's "All-Defensive" First Team Monday afternoon, Tyson Chandler's struggles in the postseason have arguably been more obvious than anyone else's.
There's no doubt the big man has had a tough time containing the Pacers' Roy Hibbert throughout the Knicks' series against the Pacers. He hasn't done much to prove he deserves a spot amongst the league's top defenders, as far as this season goes.
The Knicks have been struggling offensively, and Chandler made a point of criticizing his teammates with regard to the lack of ball movement. Is his own lack of aggression on both ends of the floor against Indiana also to blame, or is it solely his teammates' responsibility to make things easier and get him the ball?
In any event, the clip below provides some interesting analysis on Chandler's most recent comments, as well as his ongoing postseason struggles.
Friday, May 10, 2013
Over the past playoff series and a half, Coach Mike Woodson has continued to mix and match the order of his rotations in hopes of helping the Knicks find the perfect formula for taking down opponents.
Unfortunately for New York, the team has struggled in spots against both the Celtics and Pacers to maintain a balanced attack for 48 minutes in each contest.
But as the Knicks look to build upon their existent momentum from a game two victory, Woodson will have the luxury of bringing both Amar'e Stoudemire and Steve Novak off his bench.
Of course, an appearance by Stoudemire will likely be limited to about 10-15 minutes off the pine at most. What's more, such an outing by STAT is surely to serve as more of an emotional boost for his squad than anything else. The type of impact he will actually have on the court remains to be seen.
But in addition to the big man, Novak is also raring to go after being slowed by back spasms. The sharpshooter did make a short-lived appearance at the end of game two, but this was only due to the fact that his team was ahead by a solid amount, and Indiana had otherwise given up.
Had Novak been sitting on the bench all game beforehand simply because Coach Woodson was hesitant to use him following the injury, or because Novak is actually falling out of favor with his coach?
With Stoudemire set to return, and minutes across the board already difficult to come by, does Novak deserve meaningful minutes of his own?
The fact is, Novak has struggled to emerge as the threat from long range the Knicks discovered him to be in 2011-12. This past season was an overall struggle for him, perhaps not judging by statistics, but by impact.
Opposing teams have begun (if not have already done so) to figure Novak out, as well as how to cover him. Taking a man out of their defensive zones to simply stick on Novak completely, opponents have an easy time neutralizing his offensive prowess.
On the flip side, Novak isn't known to be one to combat such opposing defensive efforts. He doesn't move well without the ball, and doesn't have the extra pep in his step necessary to evade his man and find an open spot on the court.
The Heat did an amazing job of sticking to Novak like glue last postseason, and this year, so did the Celtics. The Pacers only stand to be the next in line of Novak-neutralizes. It's not very difficult to cover someone who doesn't move much on the court. Not one to dribble on the court much at all, it's easier to guess whether Novak will shoot or pass.
Minutes in the Knicks' postseason rotation are difficult to come by, but with the offense falling stagnant as of late, game three in Indiana could serve as Novak's golden opportunity to get back into the mix. What will be key, to his return, however, will be how well he moves.
In order to help New York keep defenses honest, Novak needs to make the extra effort to continuously get himself open. If he can focus on keeping the Pacers' defense on their toes, perhaps the sharpshooter can once again help the Knicks spread the floor efficiently.
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
This past February, KnicksJournal.com reported exclusively via a source that the Knicks still intend to sign Chris Smith, brother of "Sixth Man of the Year" award winner J.R. Smith.
The younger Smith was welcomed into the Knickerbocker family when he played for the team in Summer League, and was poised to compete for a roster spot in training camp. A knee injury forced him to have surgery on his left patella tendon, and the Louisville product has been out of commission ever since.
But as reported previously, New York was keeping an eye on Smith during his recovery. The young gun stayed with the team throughout, rehabbing at the team facility and often appearing at home games.
Smith was hoping to begin scrimmaging in April, and to many fans' surprise, he planned to do so with the Knicks.
Better late than ever, such a plan set its wheels in motion as Smith has been seen working out and scrimmaging with some of New York's players at the team facility this week. He most recently took part in a multi-player scrimmage that included Amar'e Stoudemire, Quentin Richardson, Earl Barron, and Chris Copeland. This means the unsigned guard participated in the most recent of contract drills that will serve as the measuring stick for STAT's potential postseason return.
The Knicks fully intend to do right by the Smith family, especially consider J.R. Smith has the option of opting out of his contract following quite a stellar regular season. Keeping his brother aboard, as they've continued to do all season long, may go a long way for the Knicks.
As for their plans with regard to Chris, a second Summer League appearance and training camp invite appear likely once again. With so many older veterans and/or expiring contracts on the roster heading into next season, the Knicks stand to have quite a few roster spots open.
Will one of them go to the younger of the Smith's? That still appears to be a strong possibility. New York will likely utilize their D-League affiliate, the Erie BayHawks, and assign him there to develop, getting some experience and playing time. To do that, however, the Knicks would still technically need to sign Smith to a formal contract that allows him to occupy a spot on the big league team too.