The Indians Pacers stick to what works, while the New York Knicks are experimenting on the fly. It’s the middle of March and Head Coach Mike Woodson wants to see what is going to work come playoff time.
Wait a second, no, that doesn’t work; it’s actually Game Four of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Think about how much easier it is to play pick up basketball when you go to the court with people you play with all the time. There is more of a comfort level vs. playing with people you never have before. If your five is being opposed by a five of similar talent, but they don’t know each other, the team who is familiar will most likely win.
The metaphor is a little extreme because there are differences. In pick-up ball, it’s literally playing with people you never played with before and know nothing about, while NBA teammates should understand each other’s tendencies.
The continuity Frank Vogel has achieved with his team throughout the season and playoffs is still a distinct advantage in my view.
George Hill, Lance Stephenson, Paul George, David West and Roy Hibbert have played 209 minutes together in the playoffs and 1218 minutes together in regular season.
Those five played 17 minutes in Tuesday’s game, which is down from the 20.9 mins they’re averaging per game across the playoffs. They weren’t really needed.
Vogel only used nine lineups total – two more for eight minutes apiece, one for six minutes and five between one and three mins.
On the other hand, we have what Woody decided to do.
New York’s most used playoff lineups before tonight were Tyson, Melo, Shump, Prigs, Ray, who played 98 minutes at a +12 net rating and Tyson Melo, Iman, JR and Ray racking up 64 minutes with a +23 net rtg. Those two groups played a combined two minutes in Game Four. The ratings for those two were in the negative against the Pacers across the series (need to show both sides and why Woodson probably went away from what he was trying earlier in the series).
The two lineups Woodson played the most had combined for three total minutes during the regular season. New York used 16 different lineups the entire game. 11 and 10 mins were the top two, followed by a group that played seven minutes and 13 were on the court for between three and one minutes.
To be fair, the lineup of Felton, J.R., Melo, K-Mart and Tyson were a +6 in 10 mins. I’ve been screaming at only one big, I fully admit that, but if you see something is going well during the game let it ride for a little. The +6 was all accumulated in seven minutes during the first half.
I accept the Pacers were the better team no matter what lineups the goateed man decided to use. Their defense was going to eventually win this series, but it shouldn’t have been as easy as it’s been. The Knicks are a better team than this.
There might only be one game left and I plead for Woodson to play the style of lineups that helped his team play at an extremely high level for large chunks of the season (I’m past the point of begging for Copeland or Melo to play center cause its not happening).
It could very well bring the same results as what we saw in Game Four– Indiana has proven they could expose those groups during this series as well.
Play Tyson or K-Mart at center, Melo at the four, and Felton at the point for at minimum 30 minutes in Game Five.
Fill the rotation out with significant run for Shumpert (if knee ok), Smith, Prigs and Copeland.
If New York is going to miraculously win three games in a row, they need J.R. to produce. They have no choice, but to stick with him. Shumpert can’t play 40 minutes and you need length on the wing. Smith has to play.
I’m going to give Woodson a little leeway on playing Kidd, but not as much as he is and never at the one. I can deal with 8-10 minutes.
Stoudemire shouldn’t play. Amar’e was a useful player during the regular season, his offense was terrific, but this isn’t the time. Woodson has to balance placating STAT’s ego and the good of the team; it’s a ridiculously difficult situation. It has to be done though, the season is on the line and Amar’e is no longer important enough to give a crap about his feelings to such an extreme.
That is essentially the best the Knicks can put on the court. If you prefer Steve Novak to get some run or use more intelligent Amar’e based lineup for three to four minutes a half I understand your thinking.
The basic core of what the Knicks should be doing on Thursday is what has made them good all season.
The adjustments failed. Give what worked for so long one more shot.