Mike Woodson has credited his team's offensive versatility for helping the Knicks maintain their winning ways. On some nights, it's mostly been Carmelo Anthony; on others it's been Melo and J.R. Smith; and on others it's been the team's 3-point shooting, leading to six different players in double-figure scoring.
In their first-round series with the Celtics so far, even while averaging an uncharacteristic 86 points per game, the Knicks have gotten over the hump another way: with their pick-and-roll playmaking.
That's a credit to Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin setting smart screens to throw off the Celtics, and Anthony, Smith and Raymond Felton reading the defense the right way, quickly attacking and taking smart shots. While Chandler and Martin have been mostly non-factors as roll men, their ability to help free up their scoring teammates has been huge.
Melo, Smith and Felton have posed different advantages in pick-and-roll sets against the Celtics, which is the why the three of them have been the only Knicks in double-figure scoring. Melo is already a lethal scorer in isolation, but with an added screen, he's even more dangerous. He's developed as a pick-and-roll specialist this season.
"Melo has grown as a player and he's hungry to win a title," Woodson said on ESPN New York 98.7 FM radio on Wednesday, "and his game has really benefited from all the hard work that he's put in. As a team, his teammates have benefited from it."
Smith excels in isolation as well, and his unpredictable side-to-side dribbling makes him even harder to guard in screen sets. And Felton is pedal to the medal like a running back, which has been a nuisance to the Celtics because of their bigger lineups. He's been a key mismatch, or as Kevin Garnett put it, "the X-factor."
While the Knicks' roll men have only scored 10 points on 13 plays, Anthony, Smith and Felton as pick-and-roll ball-handlers have scored 39 points on 29 plays. They've also protected the ball, as the team is only averaging 12 turnovers in the series.
So what's been the biggest weakness with the Knicks' pick-and-rolls? They're not running them enough. Their offense has been isolation-heavy -- make that 28 percent of their postseason possessions. But the pick-and-roll is working more, so much so that the Celtics have been forced to switch a lot, and their bigger size has struggled to keep up with Knicks' speed. After halftime in Game 2, when the Knicks outscored the Celtics, 45-23, they put up 26 points in pick-and-rolls.
"Our style this year has always been, when we got stops, to try to push the pace a little bit more than other teams," Woodson said. "I thought in that third quarter last night, we were back to our old ways in terms of pushing it and the ball moving. When we're doing that, we're really nice to watch."
The Knicks' perimeter play has also benefited them in transition, and it's made the Celtics miss their one-man fastbreak, All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo.
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