BOSTON -- After Friday morning's shootaround, Mike Woodson said "it's a sense of urgency" with his team heading into Game 6 after having lost two straight to the Celtics.
Since 2001, the Knicks have lost their last four games in playoff-clinching opportunities, and Woodson is only 3-16 on the road in the postseason in his career as a head coach -- the second-worst record in NBA history.
Can Woodson and the Knicks turn those negative trends around in Game 6?
Here are three things the Knicks need to do on Friday night (7 p.m. tipoff) to move on to the second round:
1. Backcourt defense and offense are keys. Through the first four games, the Knicks had 44 steals, while the Celtics had 21. That painted a vivid picture as to how the Knicks took a 3-1 lead in a low-scoring series. Most of the steals were manufactured by the Knicks' guards, taking advantage of a Rajon Rondo-less Celtics. Avery Bradley has struggled at starting point guard. From those steals, the Knicks were able to push the pace and score in transition.
With the Knicks being much deeper at point guard defensively and offensively, they need to get back to forcing turnovers, controlling the tempo and facilitating better ball movement. While Carmelo Anthony is the offensive anchor, the team's guards will need to make things easier for him and everyone.
2. Chris Copeland needs to play. With Steve Novak sidelined for Game 6 with back spasms, the attention turns to Copeland. From game to game in the playoffs, it's all about adjustments, and Copeland brings extra offense the Knicks could use. They have had no other consistent post threat besides Anthony, and Copeland can play down low. Also, if the ball moves well, Copeland excels as a quick-release shooter.
Woodson said he could call on Copeland at the start of the second quarter, which is when Anthony typically rests. If Copeland is confident, he should contritube a few buckets. Woodson claimed he was nervous early in the series. Copeland is the kind of offensive-minded player who needs his first shot to go down to build a rhythm. Defensively will be the biggest question. If he can hold his own, he'll also get second-half minutes.
3. Make free throws. In Game 5, the Celtics made all 17 of their free throw attempts. In fact, they're the first team in NBA history to have multiple games without a missed foul shot in a single playoff series (they've had two games in the series).
Just in case Game 6 comes down to wire, making free throws could help seal the victory for the Knicks. They'll also be in important in the first quarter, while forcing Kevin Garnett or Brandon Bass to the bench at the start. Anthony has that ability to knock opponents out early in games.
The Knicks need to attack Garnett, who's been playing through pain in the series and is only coming off of one day of rest. If Garnett or Bass are in foul trouble, the Knicks can take advantage in the paint. They shot too many outside jumpers in Game 5, not attacking enough. A lot of that falls on J.R. Smith in Game 6. Raymond Felton has taken care of business.
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