The New York Knicks were handled by the Indians Pacers by a score of 102-95 in Game One of their Eastern Conference semifinals series. The final score doesn’t tell the true story of the game, as the Pacers worked the Knicks over. They were better on both ends of the court working seamlessly as an offensive and defensive unit.
A lot is being made of rebounding differential in the opening game, which was decidedly in the Pacers favor. The Knicks can improve a little bit in this category, but I believe New York will need to win games finding a way around this rather than by improving it significantly. During the Knicks’ two regular season wins against the Pacers, NY rebounded 72.2% of the Pacers misses. In Game One, the number wasn’t much lower, the Knicks grabbed 68.6 of the Pacers misses.
The question is how does New York get around this? They accomplished this partially despite losing, since the Knicks still attempted five mores shots than the Pacers. New York only turned the ball over 10 times compared to 16 from Indiana. This helps cancel out the rebounding differential.
It also seems like there is being too much criticism being hurled towards the offense. The Knicks offense in Game One really wasn’t bad — New York ORtg was 99, the Pacers DRtg during the regular season was 96. They were able to score three more points across 100 possessions than Indiana allowed across 82 games and that was with dismal shooting from Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith. The defensive side of the ball, where the Knicks’ DRtg was 110, was the real issue. Problems that have existed for New York all season continued to show – double teaming when not necessary, bad pick and roll defense and letting opposing role players get too comfortable. After an excellent defensive performance against the Celtics the hope was these issues were fixed. So far one game against the Pacers say it was more about Boston’s bad offense than the Knicks good defense. This does have the potential to change and must if NY has any chance to pull this out.
Individually, once again Carmelo Anthony is catching criticism for his offensive performance. Anthony scored 27 points, but shot 10-of-28 from the field. Melo actually shot very well from mid-range, as, by my count, he was 6-12. Looking at his shot chart throughout the postseason this is also where he has had the most success.
This is a pattern that has developed through the seven games the Knicks have played in the playoffs. Melo is finishing at a depressingly bad rate in the restricted area and this continued in the loss to the Pacers. The balance of trying to attack the rim with the idea of getting Roy Hibbert into foul trouble verses shooting from the areas he’s been performing well from is something Anthony and Woodson need to discuss. A lot of this decision-making could be based on a game-to-game basis with how the refs are calling the game. If on Anthony’s first few attacks at the rim the refs are calling fouls when there is contact, even if Hibbert is staying vertically straight up, then continue assaults towards the hoop. If the refs are allowing Hibbert more leeway Woodson needs to find ways to get Anthony good looks in other spots.
Considering how poorly they played that the Knicks only lost by seven does seem to be a hopeful sign. There are things New York can obviously improve upon and they better do it quick. If they fall behind 0-2 heading to Indiana the series is essentially over.