After the Heat were upset in Game 1 on Monday night, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said something very telling about how his guys beat one of the best defensive teams in the NBA.
"They make you work," he said. "If you hold on to the ball, you dance with the ball, you're not going to get a good look. So you've got to move the ball, you've got to make quick decisions, you've got to keep bodies moving."
New York Knicks
With the Knicks facing a top defensive team in the Pacers, more penetrating, passing and moving without the ball are exactly what they need to do. It all starts with Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith, who need to make quicker reads and look for the open man more when they drive. Spread passes would help throw off the Pacers' swarming defense, which is unique for its length and athleticism.
"[The Knicks] have done well in the past penetrating and kicking, but [Raymond] Felton is the only one doing that now," an NBA scout said. "Everyone just floats around the perimeter. They need to get inside the D to keep the defense moving with ball movement."
During the regular season, the Knicks' ball movement was their biggest Achilles' heel offensively. But when the ball stopped in games, most of the time they were able to get by through the individual talent of Anthony and Smith.
But that isolation style of play won't fly consistently in the playoffs, especially against a defensive team, like the Pacers, that wants to force an opponent's offense through their best player, and make them shoot contested 2-pointers.
"The ball and players have to constantly keep moving and cutting," another NBA scout said. "When Melo posts it or isolates, one or two guys can cut to keep the defense honest. Motion-type offenses where guys set multiple screens and run multiple pick-and-rolls usually work best against physical, pressure defenses."
On Tuesday, Mike Woodson worked to "clean [the Knicks' offense] up" by implementing some new sets that would not only help Anthony and Smith score more in the flow of things, but also help their teammates get looks. That included Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin, who will be playing more together in the series to counter the Pacers' size.
"We've got to come up with different ways to move around and find different spots -- just little things like that we need to concentrate on a little more," Martin said.
Steve Novak said it's important for the team's role players to complement Anthony and Smith better to generate consistent wins.
"They're asked to be such a big part of facilitating our offense, and I think we've kind of done that a little bit all year where sometimes we play perfect it seems, and other times we play bad," he said.
Most importantly, because the playoff series will be mostly grinded out in the half court, the Knicks need to break open the games with their defense -- just like they did against the Celtics. When the Knicks secured steals and rebounds, they were able to bank on the speed and shooting of their small-ball lineups.
"The pace has to increase for the Knicks to have a chance," a scout said.
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