The New York Knicks are on the verge of disaster. After nearly allowing themselves to be forced into a Game 7 against the Boston Celtics in the first round of the 2013 NBA playoffs, the team has now ffallen behind two games to one against the Indiana Pacers. Mike Woodson, although he has proved himself as a high quality coach, hasn’t showcased his abilities to lead the team against Indiana, but going into Game 4, he can change that.
Woodson has allowed insidious distractions to take over the locker room, which include, but are not limited to, Rihanna, shot selection and funeral attire.
J.R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony have been horrendous, and Woodson continues to let them dance around with the ball in one-on-one situations and fire up contested shots as their teammates stand and watch. It almost seems as though those two are reverting back to what’s comfortable for them, and what they’ve both done for most of their careers, which is also what got them bounced in the first round of the playoffs last year against the Miami Heat.
Tyson Chandler has been abused by Roy Hibbert in the three games that they have matched up, and the Knicks have absolutely no answer for the former Georgetown player on the low block. After Game 1, Woodson said that he needed to get Chandler playing better than the Pacers’ big man, but that has yet to be seen, and it doesn’t seem likely that it will be seen before the end of the series.
There are several problems with the Knicks that have come to light during the course of the postseason. However, no team is perfect, and despite the 2-1 deficit that New York is now faced with, the team is far from dead.
Going into Game 4, though, Woodson has some changes to make to save his Knicks.
J.R. Smith has played terribly in the playoffs. Nearly all of his stats—including points, rebounds, assists, three-point percentage, shooting percentage and free-throw percentage—have dropped from his regular-season averages that won him the Sixth Man of the Year.
Not only has Smith hurt the team while on the court, he has become a distraction off the court, as well, due to his rumored romance with the recently single pop star Rihanna.
Smith was out partying the night before his Knicks took on the Pacers in Game 1 at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 5. Not surprisingly, Smith shot 4-for-12 for nine points in one of the most frustrating performances for the Knicks over the course of the playoffs.
Woodson needs to sit down with Smith, who he has protected and supported ever since taking over as head coach, and help him eliminate all distractions and focus on playing basketball. Without Smith, the Knicks are too reliant on Anthony offensively and at times look completely lost.
What Chris Copeland did to infuriate Woodson and earn himself a consistent spot on the bench, the world may never know. What we do know, though, is that Copeland can score, and the Knicks are starving for offense against Indiana.
New York is thin as far as scoring goes due to Smith’s struggles as well as Anthony reverting back to isolations on seemingly every possession.
It’s time for Woodson to reconcile with Copeland and fix whatever is keeping the 28-year-old rookie on the bench. He’s only averaging 7.2 minutes per game during the postseason, but Copeland has the ability to fill it up fast—something that the Knicks need, especially against the Pacers.
Tyson Chandler got taken to school by Roy Hibbert in Game 3. Hibbert poured in 24 points on 9-of-18 shooting and grabbed 12 rebounds, eight of them offensive, against the 2011-12 Defensive Player of the Year.
Chandler is an elite defensive center, but Hibbert is proving to be just too much for him. Woodson needs to give his big guy some help down low—with a zone, with more double-teams, with anything. Otherwise, Hibbert is going to continue to dominate New York in the coming games.
Pablo Prigioni has completely outplayed the veteran Jason Kidd this postseason. Kidd has not scored in three games against Indiana despite playing 20 minutes per night. He did, however, grab more rebounds than Chandler in Game 3, so take that as you will.
Anyway, Prigioni needs to be on the floor because, quite frankly, he makes the Knicks better. He can catch fire from three-point territory, pressures the opposing guard as well as anyone in the NBA and the ball seems to move much more fluently when he’s on the floor.
Kidd has been awful, while Prigioni has become a folk hero in New York. The 36-year-old rookie from Argentina has broken out of 5.0 points and 4.3 assists per game throughout the postseason with sporadic explosive performances.
Although Kidd has proven himself in the playoffs time and time again over the course of his illustrious career, Prigioni is the better option for the Knicks at this point.
This may be surprising to some, but it shouldn’t be.
The reason that the Knicks won 54 games, won the Atlantic Division and got the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference was because of their superstar, and the NBA’s scoring champion, Carmelo Anthony.
Anthony scored 28.7 points per game during the regular season and is giving the Knicks 28.3 points per night here in the postseason. The only problem is that Melo’s shooting 39 percent from the field and 29.5 percent from three-point territory in the playoffs.
However, Woodson needs to encourage Anthony to let it fly—when the time is right. Enough of the contested isolation plays that the defense encourages him to take. Let Anthony run the pick-and-roll and give him some three-point looks in transition so that he can get in a rhythm.
Anthony isn’t a passer; he’s a scorer—and it’s that scoring ability that has gotten the Knicks to the position that they find themselves in: the second round of the playoffs. Woodson needs to let his superstar take a high quantity of (good) shots to give his team the best chance to win.