The New York Knicks have been embarrassingly bad in their postseason series with the Indiana Pacers, letting Roy Hibbert lead the way in the utter and complete domination under the paint, while their only option on offense, Carmelo Anthony, has been been experiencing the closest thing to legal torture under the hands of Paul George, making the NBA’s top scorer look like an average player at best.
The Pacers go into New York with a 3-1 lead, knowing that their last game at the Madison Square Garden wasn’t one to remember. The Knicks won 105-79, going on a 36-4 run during a 12 minute stretch that began in the third quarter. Carmelo Anthony got hot in the second half, finishing with 32 points, but that was the last time we saw the Knicks doing anything worth mentioning on offense. It’s been quite painful to watch ever since.
The Knicks are shooting worse than anyone else in the playoffs from the field (41.2% so far), and although the Indiana Pacers haven’t been doing much better (only 41.8% from the field), the way these teams get their points is very different. The Knicks relied heavily all season long on hitting three point shots, but they’re making only 31.8% of their shots from beyond the arc. Rebounding has been even worse – grabbing only 55.4% of the defensive rebounds up for grabs. The Pacers aren’t making shots (Paul George is shooting only 34.8% from the field in this series), but they’re getting more possessions, averaging 13 offensive rebounds per game.
And George more than makes up for his offensive issues by taking Anthony out of his comfort zone and rhythm. Yes, Anthony is scoring 26 points per game, but he’s taking 23.3 shots per game to get those points, not to mention reaching the free throw line only 6.5 times a night (compared to 8.2 against the Celtics). George isn’t just stopping Anthony from scoring, he’s playing almost perfect defense on him.
Anthony is shooting 31.6% against George for the series. Against all other defenders this series, Anthony has shot 55.6%. He was only 4-of-16 against George in game 4, although the Knicks aren’t doing enough to find other ways of scoring. Their three point shot has been taken away, and they find it almost impossible to score on Roy Hibbert in the paint. The Knicks were 13-of-34 (38.2%) for 26 points inside the paint in the game 4 loss; They’re only 69 for 148 during the series, 46.6%. During the regular season they were shooting over 54% from inside the paint.
Those are the keys, but it’s that simple for the Pacers. Keeping the Knicks limited on the outside by almost perfect perimeter defending makes the Knicks rely on just one thing – crazy nights from Anthony and J.R. Smith (13.3 points, 28.1% from the field in this series), which isn’t likely to happen. As long as the Pacers don’t breakdown like in the end of game 2 and keep their focus on both ends of the floor, it’s hard seeing them needing a game 6 or 7 to close out this series.