Philadelphia, PA – The New York Knicks are in serious trouble.
Keen observation, Commander Obvious, seeing as they are down 3-1 to the Indiana Pacers in a best-of-seven series, but the Knicks are in immediate peril, including Thursday's Game 5 in Madison Square Garden.
The Knicks have done almost nothing right in their series with the Indiana Pacers. Save for a brilliant 30-2 run in Game 2, the Knicks would be at Shinnecock right now playing better-ball.
The first problem is offensively. The Knicks averaged 100 points per game on the button during the regular season, but are down to 87.9 ppg during their 10 postseason tilts.
Clearly there is some type of issue here, but it's a simple one - the Knicks' shots aren't falling. New York was a jump-shooting team all season and managed to shoot 44.8 percent from the floor. The Knicks led the league in 3-pointers made and were tied for fourth in long-range percentage.
In the playoffs, the Knicks are shooting at a 41 percent clip and converting only 7.6 3-pointers per game. Sometimes the ball doesn't go in and it's not for the Knicks.
Carmelo Anthony is scoring at a high level in the postseason. He's also taking some lip from Tyson Chandler and pundits about not spreading the basketball around enough.
That is complete rubbish.
J.R. Smith's scoring is down from 18.1 ppg during the regular season to 14.3 ppg in the postseason. Chandler's down four full points a night. Jason Kidd hasn't scored this month. That's not my usual sass, Kidd has not scored a point since Game 2 of the Knicks' first-round series with the Boston Celtics.
Where exactly should Anthony look to for help? Chandler can't score, Kidd can't score, Iman Shumpert is not a real offensive threat, Amare Stoudemire can't stay on the floor long enough, Pablo Prigioni is getting yanked out of the lineup and Steve Novak disappeared quicker than a mob informant. Someone ought to dredge the Hudson to see where Novak's at with his concrete boots.
It's worth noting the Knicks won 54 games, an Atlantic Division title and the second seed in the East employing the same offensive strategy.
Smith is killing them more than anyone. At almost four points less and nine points lower field-goal percentage-wise, Smith is just not producing at the same clip.
"I take the blame for this whole series," admitted Smith.
(In an era when athletes deflect and go on the defensive, honesty, something as basic as that floors me.)
He's been awful, but he's certainly the only one.
Defense has even been a bit of a problem for the Knicks. Their numbers are great with opponents' scoring at 85.0 ppg, but the Celtics were the Three Stooges of offense.
Game 3 against the Pacers proved to be a huge problem for the Knicks. Chandler got manhandled by Indiana's Roy Hibbert. That forced the Knicks to double-team every Pacers player on the low post in Game 4. Indiana was disciplined enough to move the ball and even knocked down eight 3-pointers.
Chandler finished on the All-Defensive first team and was last season's defensive player of the year. His inability to defend Hibbert forced a change that directly caused a huge problem in Game 4.
So where does coach Mike Woodson go from here?
Well, he panicked in Game 4 and started a bigger lineup with Kenyon Martin in and Prigioni out. That worked wonders. Martin scored zero points in just under 29 minutes, Prigioni played under four minutes to no critical acclaim.
You can understand why he did it. Priggy is not a guy who will fill a stat sheet and the Pacers' girth has hurt the Knicks. Martin didn't help that at all. Indiana still outrebounded New York, 54-36.
The first thing Woodson can do is go back to his starting lineup with Prigioni out there and he all but said he would.
"That lineup has been good and there's a strong chance we could go back to that lineup," Woodson said after practice on Wednesday.
Next up, are the tougher decisions.
Kidd is a Hall of Famer one day. At this point, he is an offensive liability. The Knicks are playing 5-on-4 when they have the ball and he's out there. Kidd is not only not scoring, but he's not taking open shots in the flow of the offense. Before you get on your soapbox about everything else Kidd does, know he's averaging 2.4 assists and 1.1 steals in 23.5 minutes per game.
Also, Smith will need to be handled differently. If he doesn't have it early, Woodson needs to pull him earlier. Give Chris Copeland or Novak a chance to score. Smith doesn't do anything well enough outside of scoring to warrant being out there.
The problem is, Woodson doesn't have five guys he can unconditionally rely on at the moment. Anthony, Felton and Chandler will be out there (all three should play close to 48 minutes). Shumpert is probably the fourth, but if Smith isn't on, who do you go to?
Also, the Pacers' frontline is killing the Knicks on the glass. Indiana is getting 13 offensive rebounds a game. The Pacers get 10.5 rebounds more than the Knicks in this series.
Martin has to play better. They need him because an elimination game is not where Marcus Camby should crack the rotation.
Stoudemire could play more, but can his knee handle that? Doubtful, but in 10 minutes per game, Stoudemire is averaging 5.5 ppg and 3.5 rpg. He might have played longer in Game 4, but came out way too amped up and started fouling like crazy.
Woodson is in trouble, but it's not because of Anthony, or even Smith that much. He's in trouble because the Knicks are a jump-shooting team. When they don't go in, it looks ugly like it has through four games.
His rotation is shot due to ineffective play. His team can't rebound with the opposition.
Yeah, Commander Obvious reporting - the Knicks are in serious trouble.
- You do have to feel badly for the Seattle area. They deserve a basketball team, but the NBA just loves the Sacramento area. Or, the NBA really loves Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, the former All-Star point guard for the Phoenix Suns. The NBA just wants to rid us of the Maloof brothers and probably not give them any satisfaction on the way out. A deal will be made with this Sacramento-based consortium and the team with the worst home attendance in the NBA stays put. The Kings have been mismanaged since Chris Webber and Mike Bibby left town. The Maloofs have mailed it in, so showing them the door is fine. But Sacramento has not showed up for the team. A new building will do almost nothing. New basketball people could do a lot.
- I refuse to believe a team will pay Nate Robinson a lot of money based on his playoff run with the Chicago Bulls. I have faith in basketball minds that they will realize on an offensively challenged group like the Bulls, his style of chucking worked. They needed any warm-blooded male human to score points for them. Truth be told, I don't think he's back with Chicago next season, unless, of course, Derrick Rose plans to sit that out, too.
- The Bulls do earn credit in my book with how hard they competed down so many key people. But for those who talk about moral victories, the Heat won their four games by an average of 18.3 points.
- After Tuesday's NBA Draft Lottery, the focus will shift some to the draft every week.
- I'll never understand how analytics work in basketball. I didn't when it started in baseball, and I won't for a while in the NBA. The Philadelphia 76ers' hiring of Sam Hinkie reflects a philosophical change for an organization desperately in need of one. Doug Collins served his purpose for two years, but can you say the team is in good shape when he left? There are only a handful of teams in worse shape right now than the Sixers.
- Movie moment - As I tweeted earlier this week, I love that Bane wears a winter coat in "The Dark Knight Rises." This is a man who lived in a sewer and a pit prison covered in cloth, but he respects cold.
- TV moment - I can not express how excited I am for the return, no matter how many episodes, of "24." While it's preposterous and played out at times (like what screening process does CTU use, because there are moles every year), this show was still, even at its looniest, better than almost everything on television.