After both losses to the Pacers, the Knicks pointed to the core of the problems: getting beat on the offensive boards.
After Game 1, Mike Woodson said, "The second-chance buckets hurt us because we were out of position a lot of time."
After Game 3, Carmelo Anthony commented, "To give up 18 offensive rebounds, that's the game right there."
Woodson has stuck to his small-ball approach. But heading into Game 4, he needs to be prepared to play Anthony, Kenyon Martin and Tyson Chandler more minutes together. The Pacers' size has been a major difference so far. In Games 1 and 3 combined, they had 13 more offensive rebounds and 20 more second-chance points.
Anthony, Martin and Chandler haven't allowed any offensive rebounds in the five minutes they've played together in the series. Defensively, Martin is an important addition because of his agility to rotate off of pick-and-rolls and still protect the rim with his toughness and rebounding. While Chandler is guarding Roy Hibbert, Martin can also provide strong weak-side defense, which would help ward off David West or Tyler Hansbrough inside.
Anthony can't constantly bang down low because it expends some energy he needs for the offensive end.
The bigger question is: How will the big three -- sometimes including Amar'e Stoudemire -- boost the Knicks' offense, which only scored 71 points in Game 3?
"I think generating offense would be an issue," a veteran NBA scout said. "But if they had a traditional 2-guard that could run off screens and play within a structured system, that front line could work. It would help if Martin was a scoring threat."
The Knicks have a traditional 2-guard in J.R. Smith, but he's been nonexistent against the Pacers. Raymond Felton and Iman Shumpert also need to double their penetration into the paint to generate more scoring and kickouts. That's where Martin and Chandler come in, so they can facilitate more double screens to free up the guards. Sometimes, Chandler can't do that himself because the Pacers are unique defensively for their length and athleticism.
If Felton, Smith and Shumpert can work off of different screens well, it will boost quick-release opportunities for Anthony and feeds inside for Martin and Chandler. They key is the Knicks' guards court awareness off the dribble. Before facing Hibbert, West and Hansbrough at the rim, they need to read the open man. The Knicks' ball movement has dried up.
Martin and Chandler also need to continue to look for their shot, as the scout mentioned. In Game 2, Martin hit a jump shot and blew by Hibbert for a layup, and in Game 3, Chandler swished a jumper facing up Hibbert.
In addition, Anthony needs to run more pick-and-rolls with the Knicks' bigs. Melo is scoring the most points per pick-and-roll (1.4) in the postseason, but he's only run the play 25 times. With the Pacers challenging him in single coverage, he needs more room to operate.
When Anthony runs the pick-and-roll from the wing, he puts more pressure on the Pacers' perimeter defenders to scramble, therefore creating more 3-point looks. If Melo penetrates, Chandler catches the ball on a roll, or Martin or Stoudemire receive a pass slashing down the baseline, the Pacers will be forced to collapse.
Woodson has heard the, "Will you consider matching up with the Pacers' size?" question since the start of the series, and for good measure. Now, with the Knicks down 2-1, it could be time to activate the bigger lineups more often.
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