By John Schmeelk
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After the Knicks’ loss in Game 1, a number of people, including Kenyon Martin (who coincidentally would receive more playing time under this plan) advocated for a bulkier starting lineup against the bigger Indiana Pacers.
It would push Carmelo Anthony back to the three, and off of David West in the post. It would theoretically help the Knicks’ defense and rebounding, the team’s two biggest deficiencies in the series opener. It would also be a complete deviation from what the Knicks have done all season.
And it would be a terrible idea.
It’s not even clear if such a move would solve the New York’s problems. West finished with only four rebounds, compared to 11 for Anthony. As for the rebound master known as Kenyon Martin, he finished with three, all on the offensive end. That’s right. He had all of zero defensive rebounds in 24 minutes, a tough feat considering he was playing center. Tyson Chandler was a little better, grabbing three rebounds (two defensive) in 28 minutes.
Sam Young had just as many defensive rebounds in eight minutes of play as Chandler and Martin in 53 combined minutes. That’s as pathetic as it gets.
Roy Hibbert’s domination of those two on the glass nearly made up Indiana’s entire advantage. Chandler and Martin should worry more about playing big when they are on the court than coach Mike Woodson playing two bigs at the same time. They played together for five minutes on Sunday and were outscored by seven points. If Chandler and Martin can’t turn it up, whether they are on the floor together or not, this series will be over quickly for the Knicks.
Maybe playing Martin and Chandler together would help defensively? West finished with 20 points, though he never showed the ability to consistently dominate Anthony in the post. The Knicks were way too anxious to double-up on West, and should have given Anthony the chance to guard him one-on-one. Anthony is far better as a post defender than on the wing, and I honestly believe he would do a better job on West than Paul George. (Of course they could hide him on Lance Stephenson and leave Iman Shumpert on George.)
According to NBA.com, the Knicks played far better defensively with Anthony on the floor than Martin. In fact, other than Chris Copeland, the Knicks played their worst defense with Kenyon on the court (122.1 defensive rating). In the five minutes Martin and Chandler played together, the team’s defense was off-the-charts bad.
Going big with Martin and Chandler would also severely hinder the Knicks’ offense, which has been downright terrible throughout playoffs. New York would lack another perimeter shooter to spread the floor, making it even easier for Indiana to send help on Anthony going to the basket. It would take away the Knicks’ strength as a three-point shooting squad, completely changing the character of the team. It was also necessitate playing Marcus Camby off the bench, someone else who gives nothing offensively.
The offense can’t afford such a tradeoff. It would be a panic move after just one loss, and huge mistake. Woodson was right when he told the media on Monday that nothing was going to change for Game 2.
The only real solution is better play from Chandler and Martin.
They have to continue to play small, and play their game.
Now isn’t the time to panic.
Not yet, anyway.
– I want Chris Copeland to play at least 15 minutes in Game 2. Let him spread the floor and make West chase him near the three-point line. The Knicks need his offense, and with Steve Novak out he’s their best shot. He can do for the Knicks what D.J. Augustin did for the Pacers in Game 1.
– Hibbert’s ability to defend the rim was a true difference-maker in Game 1. Briefly, here are ways the Knicks can combat the Hibbert factor: pull up for the short-midrange jumper (what Indiana wants), shoot floaters, drive and hand off to Chandler (who needs to time his cuts better). Hibbert did the same thing to the Heat in the playoffs last year, but they adjusted and won that series. It took them three games to figure it out, though. The Knicks won’t be able to wait that long.
– Anthony and J.R. Smith have to make shots. It sounds simple — and it is. They shouldn’t stop taking it to the rim, but they also need to make the Pacers pay for leaving them open on the perimeter. The Pacers defend the three well, and the Knicks need to cash in on the few opportunities they get.
– Finally, the Knicks need to run. And run some more. That’s how they will get their best looks. Woodson used less isolation in the half-court on Sunday, and that trend needs to continue Tuesday night. If that means running a simple high-screen-and-roll on every possession, so be it.
You can follow me on Twitter @Schmeelk for everything Knicks, Giants, Yankees and New York sports.
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