Aside from an impressive run in the second game of the series, it keeps looking like the New York Knicks are being outplayed and bullied around in almost every moment of their conference semifinal series, with Mike Woodson doing too much tinkering when it comes to his lineups, while Carmelo Anthony is falling into all the categories his critics keep putting him in over the years, and in short simply playing terrible, selfish and failing basketball.
Rebounding seems to be quite the issue. The Knicks lost the rebounding battle 53-40 in game 3, allowing 18 offensive rebounds, including 8 by Roy Hibbert and 5 by David West. West isn’t that much bigger and stronger than your typical power forward, but Woodson went back to small ball for the start and other moments of the game, putting Iman Shumpert at small forward and Carmelo Anthony at the 4. It doesn’t make much of a difference for Indiana, who have Paul George not having a problem of guarding both of them, and making life especially hellish for Carmelo Anthony.
The NBA’s leading scorer was only 4-11 from the field during the moments George was keeping him in check and is an overall 34.1% from the field during those moments in this series. He isn’t trying anything special to try and put the Knicks in some sort of mismatch situations, and Woodson’s lack of offensive creativity is costing the Knicks who keep going to the same things that aren’t working – pick n rolls, which the Pacers are doing a very good job in stopping each game, while also doing the same post ups that chew up the clock for Anthony. He’s averaging 26.7 points per game in this season, but only 41.4% from the field.
The Knicks tried something new on defense – simply crowding the paint in a desperate attempt to help Tyson Chandler. As ESPN put it: last year’s Defensive Player of the Year, was absolutely ground into a fine paste by the aforementioned Mr. Hibbert and appeared floor-bound, oddly sluggish and generally enervated. The Pacers shot only 30.3% from beyond the arc on 33(!!!) attempts, but their offensive rebounding more than made up for their poor execution of wide open shots.
In the final 6:47 of the third quarter, J.R. Smith was the only Knick to make a shot until Amare Stoudemire, back after a very long time, made a tip in with six second left. And then it went dark again, as they made only one shot in the first 9:58 of the fourth quarter. The Knicks are tinkering with lineups and rotations we haven’t seen all season, and a simple offense that worked very well at the end of the season is crumbling to pieces without anyone having some sort of ingenuity to try and come up with a quick fix. Maybe there isn’t one.
The Knicks need better ball movement and to find a mismatch that works. Pablo Prigioni on the court seems to be a terrible idea; He has scored 0 points in both losses to the Pacers this postseason, while not giving anything special in terms of defense or game management.
Woodson is going to keep on shuffling, until something hits and he manages to find something that works for him, or simply prays silently at night that Anthony regains the shooting form he was on late in the season, and prays even stronger that it manages to drag the team in the right direction with him.