At 1pm Eastern Time on Sunday the 2nd round will officially begin. It was quite an exciting first round for both of these teams. For the Pacers, they played an ugly series against Atlanta but ultimately won it out through defense. Josh Smith played his last game in Atlanta, and Paul George confirmed his legitimacy. For the Knicks, it was a tad more dramatic. First, we have J.R Smith throwing the blatant elbow to Jason Terry and then doing that thing that players do where they throw their hands out – palms up, and widen their eyes at the officials, then they’ll do a few owl turns of the head and finally jog back cursing under their breath. He didn’t jog back though, he got ejected. He then went on to say that the Knicks would’ve swept had he been in Game 4. Then he went golfing, then he went clubbing, then they all wore funeral black to the game – a respectful action on behalf of the Knicks who said they were attending the Celtics’ funeral. Jordan Crawford told Melo, that, “his boy f****d his wife,” and Raymond Felton and D.J White got into it. Then they went up 25 points in Game 6, played ISO Melo for 12 minutes and barely made it through. So that’s the recap. Before I preview the series, just want to throw it out there that I had predicted both the Pacers and Knicks to win in 6. Stick with me folks, I’m psychic. Ok, here we go…
How Indiana Wins:
Indiana can win this series on the boards and down low. They averaged 55 rebounds a game on the season as opposed to the Knicks’ 48 a game. If they can create second chances and prevent New York from creating extra possessions then they could win solely off of that. New York plays a small lineup, after Chandler their biggest guy is Melo at 6’8. Second chance points will be big too. New York just played the best defensive series they’ve probably ever played by holding Boston to 82 points a game on 41% shooting. The Celtics are an unusually poor offensive team but so are the Pacers and they know that. Indiana only scores 94 points a game and only scored 94 a game against Atlanta – not nearly the defensive team that New York is. They should learn from Boston’s mistakes. When Boston slowed down and tried to play in the half-court and isolate Pierce or play their sets they couldn’t score. Their runs, and their wins came from scoring in transition. The Pacers have options that Boston didn’t in the half-court like two dependable low post scorers and reliable wings but New York’s defense will only get better in this next round.
I think the Pacers might want to consider double-teaming Carmelo Anthony as an option. New York plays small ball, with two point guards and Melo at the 4. Indiana is the opposite, they play a center, a true power forward, two wings and a point guard and Melo is going to give David West a damn hard time on the perimeter. There is no way he can stay with him as Melo is a lot quicker. You can’t put Paul George on him because then you’ll have David West on Iman Shumpert? That doesn’t sound right. Maybe they resort to a zone, and get New York to settle for threes – something they do on their own anyway. That may be better, as Melo and J.R have been cold lately and like they say the best way to kill an idiot is to give him the gun and watch him shoot himself in the foot. Would playing zone make New York shoot themselves? Possibly.
Indiana needs to take care of the ball in this series. They averaged 15 turnovers a game on the season and in their 2 losses against Atlanta they had 22 turnovers in their 69-point outing and 13 in the other. New York isn’t deadly in transition, however they don’t turn over the ball so it’s not like you might get those possessions back. Every possession needs to be honored if Indiana wants a chance to win.
I think the X factor for Indiana could be David West, Lance Stephenson and the Indiana bench. I think David West has a mismatch size-wise against Melo down low and should attack the basket at the beginning of each game to try get Melo in foul trouble and get him exerting himself defensively. Lance Stephenson has had a breakout season for a guy who didn’t play last year. He averaged 8 points and 8 rebounds against the Hawks and now he’ll be guarded by Prigioni or Felton both significantly smaller defenders. One of his greatest strengths are attacking the basket and I think that’s how he’ll put pressure on the defense – by attacking and keeping possessions alive on the glass. The Indiana bench will have to step up this series as well. The starting lineups are for the most part very equal, but the New York bench has slipped up in the past series against Boston. J.R has been cold since his elbow and nobody else has really been a scoring threat. Indiana needs guys like Hansborough, Augustin and Green to step up and out play the Knicks’ bench. I think for Paul George his real test starts here to see if he can be a star player. The Knicks play stingy defense, they have star power and he’ll have to keep up his level of play in Madison Square Garden against Iman Shumpert who’s been playing the best basketball of his career.
How New York Wins:
New York needs to move the ball first and foremost. The Knicks’ offense is virtually unstoppable when Raymond Felton and Chandler are pick n rolling, Shumpert is cutting and Melo is moving off the ball. That’s how they built 20-point leads and dominated some games against Boston. They lost when they gave Melo the ball one-on-one for half of the game. Not only does it make their offense stagnant and easy to defend but also it takes other players out of their rhythm. Take last night for example. They had a 20-point lead and then they isolated Melo for pretty much 8 consecutive minutes of the 4th quarter and they completely lost the lead. Melo is probably the best one-on-one offensive player in the league but he needs to pick and choose his moments. That’s also on Mike Woodson. He should be catching off movement or isolating as a last resort with 8 or 9 seconds left in the shot clock. With all that said, he’ll have an easier time this series against a much slower David West on the perimeter. He should therefore attack that matchup and go to the paint before he even thinks about shooting. It puts pressure on the defense and gives him the best chance to get to the line and get in a rhythm.
The Knicks have to be tough on the boards. Indiana is one of the best in the league. They grab 13 offensive rebounds a game, good for second in the league. The Knicks think they were good on the boards against Boston well hate to break it to you, Boston sucks at rebounding. They’re actually 29th in that department with 47 a game. Indiana is a much tougher and stronger team on the inside and the Knicks need to battle down low and create extra possessions.
The magic number for New York defensively is 90. Why? In their two losses to Boston they let them score 97 and 92 points respectively. If the Knicks can hold Indiana to under 90 points a game they’ll win the series. To their credit they put on the best defensive performances of the year against Boston. They shut them down and I think a big part of that was Iman Shumpert harassing Paul Pierce. He played the best 6 games of his career against Boston and he will be absolutely key if they want to win. Paul George is a legitimate star and he averaged 18.7 ppg and 9.5 rebounds against Atlanta. Iman needs to come with the same intensity he had guarding Pierce and shut George down. That would be huge.
Indiana also leads the league in opponents’ 3point% at 32.7%, which is awkward for the Knicks who need the three to score the ball. They do have the luxury of Novak in this series. Due to mismatches against Boston, they couldn’t play him consistently. Now they’ll be able to have that extra shooter on the floor and spread the defense out. The X-factor is Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler. Raymond Felton played superbly against a defensive specialist in Bradley and when he’s breaking defenses down and getting into the paint it opens things up for everyone else. I say Tyson Chandler is an X-Factor because he’ll be up against Roy Hibbert – a scoring center who is almost the same size inch for inch. It’ll be a battle for him this series and he’ll have to continue to rebound the ball and guard the paint while worrying about his man as well.
Who Will Win?
I’m going with New York on this one. I think besides their stagnant offense they played an almost perfect series against Boston and Melo has a better matchup this series against David West and the bigger Pacers lineup. I think defensively, New York will contain Indiana who has trouble scoring on their own.
Neither team won in the opposing arena during the regular season so I’ll go Knicks in 7.