The New York Knicks didn’t play their best game in Game 5, but they did the important thing and stayed alive, forcing a Game 6 in Indianapolis.
However to accomplish what only eight other teams have done previously, come back from a 3-1 series hole, the Knicks are going to need head coach Mike Woodson at his best, which means shrinking his rotation.
There are several things that Woodson must do to maximize the Knicks chances to win Game 6 and force a deciding Game 7 at The Garden and the first deals with superstar Carmelo Anthony.
The first thing that Woodson must realize is that he has to pull out all stops to come away with a win. There is no tomorrow and if that means playing his best player minutes, then so be it.
Anthony needs to be on the floor as much as possible and if I’m Woodson I have a very hard time taking Anthony out of this game unless the Knicks build a comfortable lead.
The second thing that Woodson must do is play Anthony and Chris Copeland together often.
Copeland is the one Knick that is shooting the ball well and right now is really the only one capable of stretching the floor. If Anthony and Copeland are on the floor with a couple of guards who can penetrate, it opens up so many more options offensively.
Another must for Woodson is to go to the pick-and-roll with Raymond Felton far more often. If Felton is running the P&R with Tyson Chandler or Kenyon Martin, Indiana must respect his mid-range game, which means either Felton is making shots or creating plays for his big men. Either way, Felton is the guy who can put the most pressure on the Pacers’ defense.
But while that’s a lot of things that Woodson should do, there are also a lot of things he shouldn’t do.
The first being not giving J.R. Smith major minutes.
If it seems early on that Smith is about to shoot the Knicks out of the game, it’s almost impossible for Woodson to play him 30+ minutes. It will be a tough decision, but if it looks as if Smith is going to have another tough night then Woody has to pull the plug.
Next there’s Jason Kidd.
Kidd shouldn’t be on the floor much in Game 6 as he couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat right now. If you are Woodson, you love the intangibles that Kidd brings to the table, but he hasn’t hit a shot in over 202 minutes and it’s getting hard to run him out there right now. This just isn’t the right time to let the future Hall of Famer work out of his shooting slumps.
Finally Woodson needs to use less of Amar’e Stoudemire.
He only gave STAT six minutes of run in Game 5 and it’s hard to make the case that he should get more right now,
Sure the Knicks could use Stoudemire’s low-post scoring, but Stoudemire still hasn’t had enough time to adjust defensively. Copeland, at this point, can offer a bigger impact on that end because he can hold his own inside and out. Copeland proved he can hold his own defensively down low in Game 5. He had two steals in the contest and was aggressive against David West. That’s something that Stoudemire simply can’t do.
With the Knicks season on the line, the pressure is going to be on everyone to perform at a high level, especially Woodson. If he makes the right adjustments and some tough decisions, the Knicks will have a much greater chance of coming home for Game 7.