Every weekday throughout the season, ESPNNewYork.com will tackle a burning question about the Knicks in our "Opening Tip" segment.
Today's Burning Question: With the Knicks getting outworked offensively in the paint in Game 1, do the Knicks need Amar'e Stoudemire to return sooner rather than later?
Could Stoudemire's low-post scoring save the Knicks in the second round? Of course, that might be saying too much, but after the Knicks' Game 1 loss, this much is clear: They need Stoudemire back.
On Sunday, the Knicks got outscored in the paint, 46-32, and they really had no other consistent inside threat besides Carmelo Anthony. On the flip side, the Pacers were able to capitalize down low through Roy Hibbert, David West and Tyler Hansbrough, fueling Indiana's perimeter play.
While the Knicks have had a lot of success with smaller lineups (two or three guards around Anthony), the second-round series marks something different: The Knicks will need to find ways to start their offense inside. That means more post-ups, more opportunities for Tyson Chandler off of different screen sets, more cut-and-curl plays to get the team's guards closer to the basket to score, and Stoudemire needs to get healthy sooner than later.
Recently in drills, Stoudemire has looked very fluid and explosive with his low-post moves against some contact. The key is how he will handle full contact, which is coming this Thursday and Friday when he'll participate in his first 5-on-5 scrimmages since his right knee debridement. If he clears that hurdle, Mike Woodson said the power forward could play in Game 3 on Saturday in Indianapolis.
If Stoudemire returns as well as he did earlier this season after left knee debridement, the Knicks will benefit from not only his ability to score around the basket, but also his ability to draw fouls. On several occasions, he had eight or nine free throw attempts in a game, and he's a solid 76.3 percent shooter from the stripe. If he can continue getting to the line in his return, that could alleviate some of the pressure off of Anthony.
Another advantage to having Stoudemire on the court is his ability to attract double teams. That would increase the Knicks' ball movement, which has been stuttering for them recently, and give them more 3-point looks, also lacking.
Stoudemire's biggest weaknesses are, of course, on the defensive end. But he could be an asset with his help-side protection when Chandler or Kenyon Martin are floating outside, guarding pick-and-rolls. Also, because the Pacers like to post their big men, that could allow Stoudemire to excel in single-man coverages, where he's not having to rotate. That's where he gets into trouble the most.
Overall, with the size advantage the Pacers have in the second round, Stoudemire's paint play could help the Knicks score in different ways. That's not even including his midrange jump shoots and pick-and-roll finishes.
Question: How important is Stoudemire to the Knicks' success in the second round?
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