New York Knicks: Five Things the Knicks Need to Have Success in NBA Playoffs
Barring an epic collapse in the last few weeks of the season, the New York Knicks will be in the playoffs. They stand 4.5 games ahead of eighth place Indiana as of today and would see the Chicago Bulls in the first round in a throwback to classic series of the 1990s.
The Knicks are likely to finish in sixth of seventh place and face one of the three best teams in the Eastern Conference: the Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, or Miami Heat in a first round series.
Here are some things the Knicks need to do in order to have success against these teams.
5. Get Carmelo and Amar’e on the Same Page
Individually, Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire are obviously great players and prolific scorers. However, the Knicks big guns have yet to really gel together so far. More time on the same team will help, but they also both need to subjugate their games to accommodate the others’ strengths.
The reason the Boston Celtics Big Three was able to win a championship in their first season together was because they all put ego and numbers aside for the betterment of the team concept. Until Carmelo and Amar’e do the same, they won’t be able to consistently beat the better teams in the East.
In my opinion, working Carmelo and Amar’e on the same side of the floor more often and forcing defenses to choose who they want to get beat by on a given possession is the way to do it. Carmelo likes to post on the right block, and Amar’e is pretty deadly with the 15-18 foot free throw line extended jumper, so working in sets where the two of them and Chauncey Billups form a triangle on one side of the floor would put even more pressure on opposing defenses.
4. Decide on a Rotation and Stick with It
Mike D’Antoni has used five different starting lineups since the Knicks traded for Carmelo Anthony. Players such as Anthony Carter, Shelden Williams and Bill Walker have been yanked in and out of the rotation at a moment’s notice. Ronny Turiaf, Shelden Williams, Jared Jeffries, Shawne Williams and Toney Douglas have started some games and come off the bench in others.
Until D’Antoni settles on a starting lineup and subsequently a rotation, people will be confused about their roles on the team. This obviously breeds a lack of chemistry, which is one of the main complaints about the Knicks right now. Once it is settled, everyone can find their niche on the team and figure out the ways that they will be able to contribute positive minutes.
I think a starting lineup of Billups, Landry Fields, Carmelo, Amar’e and Turiaf with Douglas, Shawne Williams, Jeffries and Roger Mason Jr. off the bench is the most effective for this current Knicks team. It’s an undersized lineup to be sure, but the Knicks need to go with what works—spreading teams out and attacking with ball movement and the three pointer.
3. Figure out Their Fourth Quarter Offense
The game against the Celtics perfectly encapsulated one of the Knicks major problems right now. They were ultra-efficient on offense and defense in the first half, and in the second half, they fell apart, especially in the fourth quarter.
The Celtics clamped down on defense and the Knicks ended the game on a 1-11 shooting streak. You’re not going to win games that way.
Too often in the fourth quarter, the offense consists of one of three plays: throw it in to Carmelo and everyone else stands and watches, throw it in to Amar’e and everyone else stands and watches or Chauncey takes a jumper while trying to draw contact. I’m not sure what it is that gets to the Knicks in the fourth quarter, but it needs to be solved.
Chauncey and Amar’e gaining chemistry on the pick-and-roll like Amar’e did with Raymond Felton and this could be an answer to their problem. The pick-and-roll is the one play from which all else flows in Mike D’Antoni’s offense. Once they get this play rolling, everything else will flow from there. Landry Fields, Shawne Williams and Roger Mason will have open threes, Carmelo will have room to operate in the pinch post and Jared Jeffries will have room to miss layups (just kidding).
2. Push the Pace
The Knicks have played significantly slower since the arrival of Carmelo, Chauncey and company. This is partly because the types of sets Melo excels in—isolations and post-ups—require the ball to be slowed down. But Denver was the fifth highest paced offense in the league and Melo and Chauncey played there, so the Knicks would be wise to speed it up again.
The Knicks, obviously, are not very good defensively, and maximizing their amount of possessions in order to outscore teams just might be the best way for them to win come playoff time.
Mike D’Antoni has proven that he can win basketball games at that pace, so has Amar’e Stoudemire, and really, so have Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups. It’s time for the Knicks to start moving the ball up and down the floor quickly, and getting into their offensive sets quicker too.
Some of this will come with more familiarity with each other and with the playbook, but a conscious effort needs to be made to get out and run.
1. Buy in Defensively
The previous four keys I listed for Knicks success had to do with offense and continuity, but everyone knows you cannot win in the playoffs without defense. This team has shown the potential to be a good defensive team at times (see: wins against Miami, Atlanta, New Orleans and a close loss to Boston).
Until they bring defensive effort and intensity nightly, however, they may be stuck in that five to eight-seed range and going on the road to a better team’s stadium in the playoffs. It all starts with Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire.
If those two buy in and put forth maximum effort on the defensive end of the floor night in and night out, the rest of the team will have no choice but to follow suit.
They need only to look at the Boston Celtics for an example of how this can work. Right from the get-go, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen worked on the defensive end of the floor, and Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins then emerged as premier defenders at their positions.
Working hard, being held accountable and putting forth maximum effort on every possession defensively is the only way the Knicks can have a sustained playoff run.
No matter what happens with the offense, no matter how much firepower the Knicks have on the court, if they don’t play D, they wont be making a run this June.