The New York Knicks got bullied in a ton of different ways by a tough Indiana Pacers team Sunday afternoon, eventually falling 102-95 in their first game of the second round of the postseason. The Pacers had six players score in double figures and collectively embarrassed the Knicks on their own court.
The Knicks were 31-10 at home during the regular season but dropped a game at MSG against the Boston Celtics in the first round, and now they've dropped another in Round 2. Although the Knicks are struggling, this series is far from over.
"They did all the little things," Knicks coach Mike Woodson said to Ian Begley of ESPN New York. "We didn't start playing until we actually got down and it was desperation and we've got to play like that from the start."
New York hung with the Pacers for most of the game, but when Carmelo Anthony got into foul trouble in the second half, Indiana pulled away and led by 16 going into the final period.
“Hibbert, he played better tonight,” Woodson told Howard Beck of the New York Times. “I got to get Tyson playing better than Hibbert.”
These two Eastern Conference foes battled all year long and split their season series evenly at 2-2. The Pacers won the first matchup between them in the playoffs, but the Knicks can come back in Game 2 and even up the series before heading into a hostile environment in Indiana.
Anthony felt that the Pacers not only outplayed his Knicks on Sunday, but also outworked them.
“They just flat-out played harder than we did today,” Anthony said (via NYT). “That was the key in their victory. They outplayed us; they outworked us.”
Here is what New York needs to do to tie the series up at 1-1 on Tuesday.
Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith continued to struggle while shooting the ball in Game 1, which they had done over the last three games against Boston. On Sunday, the two shot a combined 14-43 (32.5 percent) from the field and gave the Knicks a fourth consecutive lackluster performance.
Anthony and Smith came alive in the last couple of minutes, but by that time it was too late—the duo that carried the Knicks to the second round had already shot New York out of the game with ridiculous shot attempts and poor decisions with the ball.
Anthony had 27 points but shot 10-of-28 from the field. Twenty-eight shots is way too many for one player on a team that thrives on ball movement and three-point shooting, but Anthony did chip in 11 rebounds against the strong frontcourt of the Pacers.
Going into Game 2, the Knicks can’t give Anthony and Smith more than half of the team’s total shot attempts, especially if they are going to shoot as poorly as they have over the past week.
Raymond Felton has been the Knicks' most consistent player over the course of the playoffs so far. The fiery point guard is giving New York 17.2 points per game while shooting nearly 47 percent from the field. He added 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting Sunday but disappeared late in the game as it became the Anthony/Smith show.
When Felton runs the pick-and-roll with Tyson Chandler, it helps everyone on the team. Felton starts hitting shots, the offensively challenged Chandler gets involved, and the perimeter opens up. The Knicks didn’t run nearly enough of that offense against Indiana, and there is no logical explanation as to why that was.
On Tuesday, Felton needs to see more looks offensively, and those should come primarily through pick-and-rolls with Chandler.
The Knicks whine and cry more than any other team in the NBA. Every single call the refs make against New York, even the ones that are blatantly obvious, are met with palms raised to the ceiling, exasperated expressions and someone pleading his case to the official.
It's hard to believe that Mike Woodson—such a tough, old-school coach—allows that kind of behavior. But it still goes on. Anthony, although he does get banged around down low, needs to set an example for the rest of the team—yes, the ref called a foul, get over it.
All of the whining and complaining takes away from the Knicks’ flow. There is always someone getting back on defense late because he felt he got hit on the other end, and technical fouls usually start flying around sooner or later. Anthony and Smith ranked fifth and sixth, respectively, in technical fouls called during the regular season.
The Pacers are the complete opposite and don't complain. They just run back on defense and try to make up for their turnovers or missed shots. The Knicks need to take on this mentality going into Game 2.
Iman Shumpert has totally elevated his contribution to the team over the past three games. He’s given the Knicks 13.3 points per game over that span, as well as connecting on 62.1 percent of his three-point attempts.
The second-year guard is playing 28.5 minutes per game and, along with Felton, has been one of the team’s most consistent players in this postseason campaign. Anthony and Smith will get their shots, but they have to stop forcing them and give hot players like Shumpert, who has been a lockdown defender all season long, some looks.
On Tuesday, Shumpert should continue spotting up for open three-point attempts and needs to be ready to see a larger quantity of them.
The Knicks acted like Pacers center Roy Hibbert was some kind of unconquerable giant in Game 1. Yes, Hibbert is a physical specimen at 7’2”, but it doesn’t matter how tall he is—New York put up too many crazy shots on weak, out-of-control drives to the basket that Hibbert flicked away easily.
All he did was stand there with his hands up, which is something that Chandler needs to learn how to do, and the Knicks continued to just throw themselves at his massive frame and complain about the lack of foul calls.
Defensively, New York didn’t do a bad job on Indiana’s big man. He finished with 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting with eight rebounds and five blocks. The stats don’t tell the whole story, though, as Hibbert altered as many as 10-12 shots throughout the course of the game.
On Tuesday, the Knicks can’t be intimidated by Hibbert’s size and presence in the paint. The team needs to drive and dish, not drive and throw up wild shots.
In addition to toughening up down on the blocks, the Knicks had better come into Game 2 mentally tougher with a better attitude.
Make no mistake about it, Game 2 is a must-win for the Knicks.