STAT improving, but NYK's interior lacking


Who would've thought before this season that Amar'e Stoudemire would sub into a game for Tyson Chandler as the Knicks' backup center?

That's what unfolded in the first quarter on Monday in the Nets' 88-85 win over the Knicks. With Marcus Camby and Rasheed Wallace out, Mike Woodson has had to make different adjustments recently, and Monday night was just the latest example.

Fortunately for Woodson, playing center is nothing new for Stoudemire, who's a versatile offensive threat. Instead of working through the low post, which he had done more in the past few games, he was a prime pick-and-roll and weak-side target against the Nets. He was especially effective connecting with Carmelo Anthony. Out of the nine pick-and-roll plays Melo facilitated, the Knicks shot 50 percent and scored nine points. A couple of them came from Stoudemire, who finished with 15 points in 27 minutes.

"The only difference is I run more pick-and-rolls at the center position than I would at power forward," STAT said afterwards. "That's basically the only difference. A lot of centers are not fast enough to compete, so that poses a mismatch from that aspect, and it works out as an advantage at times."

However, Stoudemire at center poses a problem for the Knicks defensively. Just look at the first five minutes of the second quarter on Monday. When Chandler was sitting and Stoudemire was alone protecting the middle, the Nets had nine rebounds -- three offensive -- and Kris Humphries had three buckets inside. The Nets took the second quarter 21-17 and led 47-41 at the half.

On the season, STAT hasn't helped the team defensively by himself, but he's been more effective alongside Chandler as a help-side defender. When Stoudemire has played at least 20 minutes with Chandler, Anthony, J.R. Smith and Pablo Prigioni, the Knicks have a negative-4.8 plus-minus on defense. But when Stoudemire has played at least 20 minutes as the sole big man with Anthony, Smith, Prigioni and Steve Novak, they have a negative-19.8 plus-minus. The Knicks allow more rebounds and points in the restricted area.

After the game, Stoudemire admitted the team is missing the two injured bigs.

"Camby and Rasheed definitely are two quality rebounders that have been doing it for a while in this league," he said. "They're definitely needed for sure."

When Mike Woodson addressed the lack of window cleaning tonight -- which was 52 to 37 in favor of the Nets -- he said the Nets purposely used rebounding-heavy lineups to throw off the Knicks. With the Nets having size and the Knicks lacking frontcourt depth, that made sense.

"I didn't match up well with one unit that they had," the coach said. "They had (Reggie) Evans and Humphries in, because they buried us on the glass during that stretch."

Looking ahead, especially against bigger and physical opponents like the Celtics (on Thursday), Woodson is going to need to play Chandler and Stoudemire more together. Or perhaps utilize Kurt Thomas more? The Knicks can't afford to get beat on second-chance points when their perimeter defense is solid. That can be derailing to a team's morale, and it will force them to have to fight back more in games.

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