The New York Knicks are struggling, and their play over the last few months has exposed some major weaknesses in their game.
Despite a strong start to the season, Mike Woodson's side has failed to keep it up, as teams have adjusted and found ways to beat them.
When the NBA Playoffs roll around, the Knicks will hope they can regain form, but if opposition sides game plan properly, that might be easier said than done.
Assuming that Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler are going to be healthy, here's the blueprint for beating New York in the postseason:
All season long, Woodson has been going with a small lineup, with Melo lining up at power forward. While he does benefit from being faster than most of his matchups, problems start to arise when it comes to rebounding and defense.
As a result, frustration starts to build up, and as we've seen plenty of times this season, New York ends up losing its cool and conceding technical fouls.
On the season, the Knicks have a 4-7 record against the Bulls, Pacers, Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets, all of whom play physical basketball and have a good chance of facing New York in the playoffs.
Crash the Boards
With so many injuries hitting the Knicks' old frontcourt, it's been hard for them to consistently win the rebound battle.
Even when healthy, it was never something they were particularly good at, as they currently sit 23rd in rebounds per game.
Outside of Tyson Chandler and the oft-injured Marcus Camby, New York really doesn't have any great rebounders, which is made worse by the fact they tend to use small lineups.
Second chance points have been a killer for the Knicks, so crashing the boards and taking advantage of their lack of glass-eaters will only help opposing offenses.
Players like Joakim Noah and Reggie Evans have done some serious damage against the Knicks, and that's because they look for offensive rebounds and get under the skin of New York's frontcourt.
Attack the Weak Perimeter D
Outside of Iman Shumpert, the Knicks' perimeter defense has been terrible this season. Players are finding it way too easy to get inside, which breaks down the entire defensive system.
This is a particularly big problem, because the main culprits are Raymond Felton and J.R. Smith—two players whose offensive importance hinders Mike Woodson from quickly removing them due to poor defense.
Tyson Chandler is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, but his teammates are doing him no favors letting guards get into the lane so easily, making it hard for him to have the same kind of defensive impact he had last year.
New York will need to fix this problem as soon as possible if it wants to make noise in the playoffs, but if not, being aggressive and driving to the basket is something that will pay off in a big way for opposing guards.
Use the Pick-and-Roll
One of the main criticisms of the Knicks' defense this season has been their tendency to switch in most pick-and-roll situations.
It's clearly something they've been trying to do on purpose, but it creates mismatches that just compound the lack of perimeter defense.
The most glaring example of this came late in the Knicks' January clash with the Boston Celtics, where Paul Pierce ended up with a one-on-one match-up versus Tyson Chandler, before sinking one of the most important shots in the game.
Until Woodson realizes this is not the way to go, teams will continue to have success just by running one of the most fundamental plays in basketball.
Don't Let Raymond Felton Play His Game
Returning Knick Raymond Felton was a revelation in the first half of the season, but after a series of hand injuries in December, hasn't been nearly the same player.
Felton also has a history of fading away in the second half of seasons, but whether it's that or the injuries that are the issue, opposing teams would be wise to take advantage of it.
Because of his ability to penetrate, which forces defenses to collapse, Felton is one of the Knicks' most important offensive players. His style of play is perfectly suited for a team that wants to score from the outside a lot.
What opposing teams need to know is that though Carmelo Anthony is the best offensive player on the team, he's not the one they necessarily need to stop. There are plenty of instances of Melo having high-scoring games and his team still losing.
If opposing guards make it hard for Felton to get inside early, he tends to start picking up his dribble or settling for contested pull-up jumpers, causing the offense to break down.
Felton takes more shots per game than any player on the Knicks other than Melo and J.R. Smith, which is a big problem as he's only shooting 41.6 percent from the field.
Despite his obvious importance to the offense, when he's not doing what he's supposed to be doing—which is penetrating and playing from the inside out—Felton is actually a detriment to the team.
Because he doesn't have a suitable backup, Felton will stay on the court whether he's producing or not, which has a huge negative impact on the entire team.
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