Carmelo Anthony said before last night’s “must-win” game four that the Knicks would learn a lot about their character. Based on that quote, we’d have to conclude that the Knicks are a bad shooting, whiny,, unfocused and flawed group. Now that is a tad harsh, but Knicks fans the world over are calling for the blood of a bunch of teams members from Coach Woodson on down. After a second abysmal effort, this time resulting in a 93-82 defeat, the Knicks find themselves in a daunting 3-1 deficit headed back to Madison Square Garden on Thursday.
I won’t sit here and claim to have all the answers, but the glaring concerns I witnessed last night need to be corrected if this team has any shot of extending the series.
CAN ANYONE SCORE???: There were omens from the outset that the Knicks were in trouble. Iman Shumpert, trying to help lift the scoring load off Carmelo Anthony, went 1-5 in the first quarter. No one else was in sync and the team was shooting 9% at the seven-minute mark. Our offensive ineptitude negated the six turnovers Indy committed in the opening 12 minutes, allowing them to have a nice 23-16 lead courtesy of a 9-2 run to end the quarter. And while Roy Hibbert wasn’t killing it on offense, he managed to still be a force with 5 rebounds (4 offensive).
STOP DOUBLING THE POST: Remember how thrilling the Knicks look when they’re hitting three-pointers? The role has been reversed over the last two games since Coach Woodson has insisted that the Indiana bigs (West, Hibbert) get double-teamed every time they get the ball in the post. They simply pass the ball out, where it’s moved around the perimeter to an open man. For this game, it was George Hill and Lance Stephenson eating off this stupid strategy. Too often we saw the deja vu image of a Knicks guard scrambling to the perimeter too late and the Pacers extending their lead via another open trey.
The Pacer threes, combined with their 30-18 edge in rebounding, allowed them to push their lead to 48-34 at halftime.
Do you think any adjustments were made? Of course not — more doubling in the second half, and more momentum-crushing open threes kept the Knicks subdued for the rest of the game.
WHEN OUR FATE WAS SEALED: Despite how bad we looked, the Knicks were able to get within eight early in the fourth behind some much-needed three-point shooting from Chris Copeland. That potential run went to hell when Woody inexplicably benched him to insert Jason Kidd, who literally hasn’t scored a single point in the last month.
So what happened? How about Kidd leaves Lance Stephenson open for a three that pushes the lead back to 11. And on the Pacers next possession, Stephenson makes the driving layup to put the lead at 74-61. You could tell the team’s spirit was broken and the game was essentially over at that point.
OFFENSE WOES CONTINUE: JR Smith continued the worst shooting slump of his career, going 1-8 in the first half and 7/22 for the game. Melo had 24 points but on 9/23 shooting and got held scoreless in the fourth before fouling out. Raymond Felton contributed 14 points and did his best to look for his shot.
The team as a whole shot 35% and look demoralized for most of this game. Our three-point shooting, which is essential for this team, was a wretched 8/28 for 28%.
CAN WE TURN IT AROUND: The Knicks certainly have the right mix of veterans to come back, but I don’t think they have confidence that they can beat the Pacers. As has been the story all year, the team deflates when faced with tough, physical defenses. With Melo and JR being the only ones who can consistently create their own shots, the Pacers can opt to zero in on them with double teams when they enter the paint, and remain confident they can be contained with man to man defense anywhere else. The other Knicks rarely cut to basket or move off screens, making our offense very predictable when the three-point shot is taken away.
Woody’s stubborn rotations, coupled with bad court leadership from our team captains, has brought us to the brink of elimination. To at least go down fighting, Pablo Prigioni needs to get Kidd’s minutes. Chris Copeland and Steve Novak are defensive liabilities, but at this point our scoring drough is more dire. Play them to space the floor. Dust off Camby and see how he does guarding Hibbert. At the very least, he knows how to box out and block a shot.
Judgement day is tomorrow, guys. Now it’s really a must-win.