Shumpert saw Paul Pierce about to make a difficult cross-court pass, and he jumped into the passing lane, stole the ball and finished a fast-break layup.
Those kinds of plays owned the Celtics, fueling the Knicks to a 3-0 series lead and the eventual takedown. In fact, both teams basically shot the same from the field (41 percent), but it was the Knicks' perimeter defense that made the biggest difference. While the Knicks had 62 steals and 79 fast-break points, the Celtics only had 34 steals and 48 fast-break points.
Considering the Indiana Pacers are better than the Celtics defensively, the Knicks will have to break open the potentially close, low-scoring games with transition points off of backcourt steals and defensive rebounds from their guards. The Knicks are undersized and will need help.
"We know we're going to be in for a battle," Tyson Chandler said. "We've got to be prepared physically to match their play, keep them off the glass, limit them to one shot and then run."
Carmelo Anthony agreed, saying, "[The Pacers] want to try to play in the high 70s, mid-80s. ... We want to push our tempo down the court and force the pace on them."
Before the Celtics series, Mike Woodson was asked if he would alter his starting five to match up better size-wise with Pierce and Jeff Green. But Woodson was confident that the tough-minded Shumpert and Raymond Felton would handle their bigger and versatile assignments.
Along with Pablo Prigioni, the three guard starters demonstrated attitude and aggressiveness on defense. Their mentality resembled how opponents defend Melo: Don't make anything easy. Not only did the Knicks' guards crowd the Celtics' perimeter space, but they also utilized their quick hands and heads-up timing to force turnovers.
"[The Pacers] are great defensively," Chandler said. "This series, we've got to continue to move the ball and take advantage of our mismatches."
"Absolutely," Chandler said. "I think we couldn't have had a better first-round matchup to prepare us for the rest of the playoffs."
Because the Knicks will be lacking big men against the Pacers, they'll need their perimeter defense to continue its dominance, disrupting the ball from going inside and providing strong help defense. One effective tactic the Knicks used against the Celtics, especially in Game 6, was sudden half-court blitzes to rattle Boston's play calling and passing. The Knicks also rotated well out of traps, so there weren't many breakdowns.
Woodson could use that element of surprise against the Pacers.
"We'll have different schemes going into tomorrow night's game," he said. "We've just got to ... continue to defend like we defended in the Boston series because that's what got us through that series."
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