The New York Knicks are down 2-1 in Round two of the playoffs, and they are at risk of getting themselves into a deep hole if they don’t win tonight in Indiana. Their offense has sputtered, J.R. Smith has gone MIA, and Roy Hibbert has dominated on both ends of the court. The Knicks need to figure things out a even up the series tonight. Here are three key things the Knicks need to accomplish in order to win Game 4:
1) Share the ball
This season when the Knicks have kept the ball moving around the perimeter, they have been almost unstoppable. This was never more evident than in the fourth quarter of Game two, when the Knicks went on a 30-2 run to win the game. The team has been guilty of losing their identity and regressing to a team that holds the ball or passes the ball to Carmelo Anthony to have him bail his teammates out.
‘Melo has been dealing with a shoulder injury and struggling to find his rhythm against the Pacers. Isolations haven’t been working, but the problem with the offense doesn’t end with ‘Melo simply shooting better. J.R. Smith has been terrible on the offensive side of the ball and on top of that is dealing with a virus. The 2013 sixth man of the year needs to find his shot or figure out a way to get to the free throw line because ‘Melo needs a sidekick.
The offense could also use a lift from the perimeter shooters on the team. Jason Kidd hasn’t made a shot since the vietnam war, Steve Novak is barely playing, and the team is uncharacteristically barely taking shots from beyond the arc. In order to get back into a rhythm the ball needs to swing around the perimeter and shooters need to take open shots without hesitating.
2) Defend the paint
Roy Hibbert has outplayed Tyson Chandler on both ends of the court, but his impact has been in the low-post where he has dominated with his mini hook shot and post moves. Hibbert is averaging 14.7 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 3.0 bpg, and is shooting 53% from the floor. He has resembled an old school center with the Pacers going to him early and often, and the Knicks have no response.
Hibbert hasn’t been the only one getting points in the paint though, David West has also had a very good series. At times he has bullied Carmelo Anthony down low, and defending West takes a lot out of Anthony on the offensive side of the ball.
While most of the defensive responsibilities rests with Kenyon Martin and Tyson Chandler, other players need to help out too. Quicker double teams and crisper traps can help limit Hibbert/West’s comfortability down low. The Knicks need to force the Pacers to become a jump shooting team and not allow them to get easy shots in the paint.
3) Raymond Felton must return to Round one form
Doc Rivers, as did others, said that in the Boston Celtics series, Raymond Felton was the key to the Knicks success. He attacked the paint and ran the offense to a tee, but that was partially due to the Celtics lack of a point guard. Felton is only averaging 2.7 assists against the Pacers, and George Hill/DJ Augustin have contained Felton’s penetration.
If Felton can return to the player who was marching into the paint at will and orchestrating a beautiful offense against the Celtics, then it can greatly increase the Knicks odds against the Pacers tonight. If ‘Melo, J.R., and Felton can all get it going tonight, then expect the Knicks to even up the series and bring the Pacers back to the Garden with the round tied 2-2.