After a late stretch in the regular season in which Chris Copeland proved his worth, he found himself stuck to the bench during these playoffs.Despite the New York Knicks’ struggle to score, Mike Woodson, not a huge proponent of playing rookies, left the 6’9″ rookie forward off the court for the most part.
It was odd, too, given Copeland’s strong finish to the season. Through March and April, Copeland averaged 12.3 points per game on 47.2% FG, 47.6% 3FG, and 3.3 rebounds per game in 21 minutes per game. He filled in admirably at the end of the season as various Knicks’ big men all caught the injury bug, placing the undersized Copeland at center.
In the first round series with the Boston Celtics, there wasn’t a huge need for Copeland; the Knicks’ offense was able to function fairly well. However, in the semi-finals, struggling to score against the staunch Indiana defense, the Knicks needed a floor-stretcher and a guy who could create his own shot, especially with so many of the Knicks’ most consistent scorers off-target. Last night, Copeland got his chance.
After Mike Woodson’s failed experiments at going “big” versus Indiana in Game 4, and the Knicks’ inability to break 85 points on the road, Copeland was told he’d be seeing real minutes in Game 5. Fans and analysts alike agreed with the move as Copeland could stretch the floor, potentially pull away Indiana’s bigs from the basket, and provide scoring to a parched offensive team.
Copeland responded with 13 points on 4-6 shooting, 3-4 from behind the arc, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals in 19 minutes. Furthermore, he provided the Knicks with momentous plays at various points during the game. Upon checking in in the second half, he immediately knocked down a three-pointer on a spot-up attempt. Later in the third quarter, he chased down DJ Augustin to break up a two-on-one fastbreak, misfired on a three, but collected an offensive rebound on a second attempt and laid it in to put the Knicks up 11.
Though his playing time has been limited, Copeland has had a positive effect when he’s on the floor. in 74 minutes of playing time, with Copeland on the court, the Knicks have an Offensive Rating of 108.5 – best on the team – and a Defensive Rating of 90.4 which is three points better than the Knicks’ average DefRtg in the postseason. His 18.1 Net Rating could be inflated by playing at the end of games or in short spurts, but overall, the Knicks have been better with Copeland on the floor.
Given his positive effect on Game 5, it seems likely that Copeland has secured a spot in the rotation for the remainder of the playoffs – hopefully longer than one more game.