Glaring Issues NY Knicks Must Correct to Avoid Early Playoff Exit
Down 2-1, Carmelo Anthony and company still have a good chance of winning the series, but their inconsistency makes it hard to tell whether or not they'll make it.
Going back to New York down two games would be a nightmare for the Knicks, so they need to fix things sooner rather than later.
The Knicks still have the talent to win the series, and based on their historical performance in their Game 2 victory, there is hope.
Before we can talk about the next round, though, there are some glaring issues that need to be corrected, or it will be Indiana that advances.
A smooth, well-flowing offense was the key to New York's success in the regular season, but it's been missing for most of the playoffs.
In order to find good looks from outside and to get everyone involved, the ball has to move, but too often in the playoffs it has been held in isolation. As a result, the offense has looked nothing like the dominant force it was just a month ago.
With players like Raymond Felton, Pablo Prigioni and Jason Kidd on the roster, there's no excuse for not having chemistry. Everyone just needs to buy in and let the distributors go to work.
Felton in particularly has been playing great basketball for the majority of the postseason, and needs to initiate the offense on the majority of possessions. His penetration can collapse the Pacers' defense, and his ability to score inside makes him tough to defend.
More importantly, Felton's work in the pick-and-roll will be key to getting Tyson Chandler back on track and Amar'e Stoudemire integrated into the offense. If the Knicks can get some scoring help from guys like that, it will make Carmelo Anthony's job a lot easier.
The Pacers have been fantastic at putting pressure on Melo without fully committing to the double-team, which has made it much harder for him to make good passes out of the post. The only way to remedy that is to let someone else try and initiate the offense.
J.R. Smith's Ineffectiveness
For a variety of reasons including poor shot selection, illness and plain bad luck, J.R. Smith hasn't been worthy of his Sixth Man of the Year title so far in the playoffs.
Smith still has time for redemption, but it will need to come soon, and can start in Game 4 at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
As inconsistent as he is, Smith is a huge part of this offense, and needs to perform if the team is going to spread the floor and give Carmelo Anthony space to dominate.
During the Knicks' 16-2 stretch late in the regular season, J.R. averaged 23.5 points on 50 percent shooting. In the postseason, however, he's averaging 13.8 on 34 percent from the floor, so it's no surprise that the offense is struggling.
If he's healthy, a player with Smith's level of talent and athleticism should be able to score efficiently at a high volume against any defense. He can get to the rim, create his own shot, and is money on the spot-up jumper.
Smith just needs to stay confident and take good shots, and eventually they'll fall. He'll just have to hope that happens as soon as possible.
Playoff rotations are supposed to be short and somewhat inflexible, but when things aren't going well and you have depth, it's OK to make changes.
With J.R. Smith shooting so poorly, it makes sense for Mike Woodson to cut his minutes until he can get back on track. Pablo Prigioni has been playing fantastically at the same position, but is playing just under 10 less minutes per game.
More to the point, Chris Copeland—who has the potential to provide the same kind of instant offense—has been sitting on the bench the majority of the time, despite the talent he showed in the regular season.
Understandably, it's not ideal to have a rookie playing big minutes in a clutch situation like this, but Copeland is a player who's performed consistently when given the opportunity.
Cope averaged 10.8 points on 53 percent shooting against the Pacers in the regular season, and that kind of efficient scoring could be the difference-maker for the Knicks.
Jason Kidd's Lack of Involvement
In a tight series that New York is at risk of losing, a veteran like Jason Kidd who has seen it all before can be invaluable to a team.
The Knicks went after Kidd's experience in the offense just for situations like this, and they'll need him to step up here with the team's title hopes in question.
At 40, Kidd is the type of player whose impact can't always be measured in the box score, but that's gone too far after seven straight games without a single point. It's not even like he's been contributing in other ways with his assist numbers also down.
Kidd's defense and game-management was influential when the Knicks raced out to a 3-0 lead against the Boston Celtics in Round 1, and he will need to repeat that kind of form again here. He doesn't have to completely take over, but a timely steal or three-pointer can really make a difference in a series like this.
As we all know, the Pacers' defense can be ridiculously tough to score on, but Kidd's ability to control an offense could bring the Knicks back together after a few disappointing displays.
Melo Stepping Up as a True Leader
Carmelo Anthony was the only player other than LeBron James to receive a first place MVP vote, but his postseason play has been relatively weak so far.
He started off well against the Celtics, but as it stands, his offensive numbers are down in almost every category besides shots taken.
This is the most important playoff series of Melo's career, and he needs to play like it. Yes, he's playing hurt and isn't getting much out of J.R. Smith, but he has to pull through and lead the way for this team.
The way the Knicks are playing right now, they need some inspiration, and a big performance from Melo in Game 4 could be just that.
According to ESPN, Tyson Chandler has called out his teammates' passing, and it sounds like Anthony in particular is the player he's trying to light a fire under. That's just the kind of wake-up call he needs in this situation.
On the road, with their backs against the wall, this is the type of game that will define Melo's career. Is he a player that chokes in the postseason, or is he a true superstar, capable of leading the Knicks to the promised land?
Only time will tell, but New York needs something more from Melo if they're to progress to the next round.