The New York Knicks missed a solid opportunity to put the series away on Wednesday night, but the Boston Celtics prevailed. Now New York has to live with the fear of becoming the first NBA team to lose a series after going up 3-0.
This couldn’t be a worse time to grade the Knicks’ performance. For the second game in a row, New York failed to continue where they left off from Game 1 through 3, and the end result has been poor shooting and nightmares about the 2004 ALCS for everyone in the Big Apple.
Don’t worry, I am not about to give everyone on the Knicks an "F" for the whole series just because of their performance over the last four days; however, if I was evaluating each game individually, I would be tempted to hand out a few failing grades here and there.
Anyway, here is my assessment of the Knicks through five games of the NBA playoffs.
Carmelo Anthony started off the series on a strong note with 36, 34 and 26 points. His shooting wasn’t as sharp as it was toward the end of the regular season, but it wasn’t the worst either. In each game, he was right below 50 percent.
Then came Games 4 and 5.
Since Game 3, Melo has missed all 12 of his three-point attempts and broken the New York Knicks' record for most missed field-goal attempts with 25.
As tempting as it was to give Anthony a "C" or worse, I stuck with a "B-" because the Knicks are still in the lead, and Melo is their leading scorer.
Raymond Felton is one of the few New York Knicks who can keep his head high after the first five games of the series. When J.R. Smith was suspended for Game 4, Felton stepped up big with 27 points to keep the Knicks in contention.
He’s averaging 17.8 PPG and shooting 47 percent from the field. Additionally he’s got a win share of 0.7 (per Basketball-Reference.com), the highest on the team and ninth among all players in the playoffs.
Right now, Felton is looking like the leader of this team for better or worse. While it’s certainly a positive that he’s performing at such a high level, Felton shouldn’t be the one leading this team. That would have to be a certain No. 7.
When he’s healthy, Iman Shumpert is one of the NBA’s elite defenders. In this series, we’ve seen tendencies of some of that play, and his 0.3 defensive win share (per Basketball-Reference.com), seventh among all players in the postseason, is a reflection of that.
After a slow start to the series, Shumpert has started to pad his stats a little bit. He had 12 points in both games—and even recorded a double-double with another 12 rebounds in Game 4.
However, Shumpert’s biggest moment of the series were the two three-pointers he made at the start of the second half in Game 2 to tie the score at 48. That sparked a run by the New York Knicks and secured the 2-0 lead.
Tyson Chandler hasn’t quite been the same since returning from injury in time for the playoffs.
Luckily for the New York Knicks, his production and minutes are up since Game 1 when he had no shot attempts, only five rebounds and played a mere 20 minutes.
Still, his scoring is far below his regular-season average of 12 PPG, and although Mike Woodson tells The New York Post (per Marc Berman) that he thinks Chandler is “moving better,” Knicks fans aren’t going to be satisfied until they see some solid play from their starting center.
Here’s an idea. Next time J.R. Smith feels the need to elbow an opponent, which got him ejected from Game 3 and suspended from Game 4 and then later start trash-talking your opponent, he shouldn’t do it.
Smith played well in the first couple of games and got the job done including an incredible buzzer-beater in the first quarter of Game 2.
New York Knicks fans who had hoped that Smith would bounce back from the suspension with a stunning performance were sorely disappointed. He went 3-of-14 and completely dropped the ball in Game 5.
With Tyson Chandler struggling, Kenyon Martin has stepped in and provided the New York Knicks with a few of the defensive stops and rebounds that their starting center couldn’t get them in the beginning of the series.
"K-Mart" is a tough player, and while his 35-year-old body isn’t suited for a long and winding regular season, he can certainly still make an impact in the playoffs. In Game 2, he had quite a night with a total of four blocks.
If Martin continues to play this way, it will take the pressure off Chandler, and suddenly, the Knicks might possibly get the depth at center they thought they were getting once the postseason started.
While it’s no secret that Jason Kidd is on the court for his ball-handling skills and leadership rather than his scoring, his three-game streak of not scoring can’t be ignored—especially when he goes 0-of-9 from the field during the stretch.
If the Knicks are going to have any hope of going far in the playoffs, or even defeating the Boston Celtics at this point, then the production needs to come from every part of the roster. That includes Kidd.
Are a couple of three-point shots too much to ask for from the player with the third-most three-pointers (per Basketball-Reference.com) made in league history?
Pablo Prigioni, C
After being benched in Game 1, Mike Woodson has opted to use Pablo Prigioni more and more in this series. His shooting has been erratic at best; he’s 27 percent from the field and has yet to crack double digits.
However, he has helped the Knicks on the defensive end by averaging 2.8 steals including five and four steals in Game 3 and 4, respectively.
Chris Copeland, F
Chris Copeland has been a huge disappointment, so far, in the playoffs. After finishing the regular season with two performances of 30-plus points, expectations were rising. However, Copeland has yet to score a single point in the series, and after getting 13 minutes on the court in Game 1, he has not played in any of the last two games.
Steve Novak, D
When Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith start getting out of their rhythm, the New York Knicks rely on players such as Steve Novak to get them through it by being reliable scoring options.
But he has been as close to a non-factor in this series as you can get. The Boston Celtics haven’t had to worry about him knocking down three-pointers, as he has yet to attempt more than six shots from behind the arc in the entire series.