By Joe Giglio
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New York Knicks head coach Mike Woodson was wrong for changing his lineup, going big, benching Pablo Prigioni and trying to match Indiana’s size and toughness down low.
Instead of approaching the ebbs and flows of the Eastern Conference semifinals like a team that had won over 50 games with a style and identity of three-point shooting, floor spacing, and, most importantly, Carmelo Anthony’s versatility in the power-forward position, Woodson panicked.
By going big, double-teaming an average offensive player in Roy Hibbert and letting Indiana dictate the pace and flow of the series, New York found themselves in a 3-1 hole heading into Game 5.
While hearing Woodson admit that he was wrong would be satisfying to some Knick fans, it’s unnecessary. By adjusting back to the formula that helped New York reach this point for the first time in over a decade, Woodson admitted everything that needed to be disclosed.
Sitting down Amar’e Stoudemire and Jason Kidd wasn’t about respect, it was about playing to win. Riding the hot hand in Chris Copeland wasn’t about fairness, it was about finding a jump shooter ready and able to knock down shots.
Despite the 3-2 lead, Indiana isn’t much better than New York. They may be longer and stronger, but they’ve also had the luxury of New York falling into a collective shooting hole. Through five games, this series is where many felt it would be — on the verge of being very, very even.
WFAN takes many calls and thoughts on the Knicks. Over the course of the season, countless calls about rotations, minutes, Copeland and Woodson have lit up the lines. On Thursday, those calls were heard.
Ultimately, this series will be determined by adjustments. We’ll never know what Game 4 would have looked like with the Game 5 decisions, but it’s irrelevant now.
There’s many reasons why Woodson has had a successful tenure in New York. From talent to chemistry to accountability to Anthony’s top 5 MVP finish, the deck has dealt Woodson a good hand to succeed at Madison Square Garden.
Yet, not every coach could have adjusted the way he has. From the tinkering of the rotation to injuries to minute restrictions to suspensions, Woodson has had a challenge since taking over for Mike D’Antoni last year.
That’s why hearing Woodson admit a mistake isn’t necessary. All coaches make them over the course of a series, but the better coaches aren’t stubborn.
They readjust, finding the right formula before it’s truly too late. If you watched the immortal D’Antoni in Los Angeles this season, adjusting and readjusting with a roster not specifically designed for his style was the issue.
Aesthetically pleasing basketball is fun, but winning basketball is all the matters.
When Indiana wanted to go big, Woodson gave in, losing the compass of his basketball team. Ultimately, he allowed Frank Vogel to outcoach him and guide the flow of the series.
On Thursday night, he admitted his mistake, one substitution at a time.
As the chess match continues on Saturday night in Indiana, trust Woodson. It took five games, but he once again has the pulse of his team against Indiana’s strengths and weaknesses.
For Knicks fans, nothing more can be asked.
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