Every weekday throughout the season, ESPNNewYork.com will tackle a burning question about the Knicks in our "Opening Tip" segment.
Today's Burning Question: If the Knicks' offense struggles early in Game 5, should Mike Woodson try a five-man penetrating/shooting lineup?
Since the Knicks' Game 3 loss, there's been a lot of talk about the Knicks' lineups, especially offensively, and rightfully so. While the Knicks have held the Pacers to an average of 87.5 points in the past two games, their scoring has been atrocious.
The two biggest offensive issues facing the Knicks have been their inability to capitalize on primary- and secondary-break opportunities, and to force the Pacers' bigs away from the paint in half-court sets. Therefore, in Game 5, it might behoove Woodson to try a lineup featuring Anthony or Chris Copeland at the 5 alongside four guards. Steve Novak could also play the 4.
"That would force [Roy] Hibbert to step outside," a veteran NBA scout said. "The Knicks need to move the ball a lot better and get more open looks, so going smaller could accomplish that against the Pacers."
Because the Knicks have heavily leaned on Anthony as the series has gone on, their offense has been strong side heavy, allowing the Pacers to stay in single coverage and park down low. They sense that Melo is wanting to take over, due to the Knicks' offensive struggles, and his passing has dried up. He's not seeing the weak side on the move. Where has the trust with his teammates gone?
So if the Knicks can inject more ball movement and pick up the pace, it would greatly help Anthony's off-the-ball game. Remember how good he was spotting up from 3-point range in transition during the regular season? Not to mention, Hibbert would potentially have to guard him. That would force the Pacers to double, which they haven't done this series, therefore creating more kickout opportunities for the Knicks.
Defensively, having three or four guards on the court would help the Knicks lock down their perimeter defense, as they would have more speed rotating and less room for error switching on screens. The biggest mismatch would be down on the block with Anthony or Copeland on Hibbert, but if the Knicks focus less on doubling down, they would protect more areas on the court. The Pacers have recently ignited from downtown.
Another offensive possibility is to use Chandler more at the top of the key as a passer while his teammates run off of screens. With Chandler further out, it would create more baseline movement for closer-range scoring. Also, Chandler can be a shooting threat, which we saw once in Game 3. Don't think for a second he can't hit that consistently. He has solid form and accuracy, and if he can hit just one in Game 5, it could force Hibbert out.
Woodson has had to get creative with his lineups because of different injuries all season long. Now that he's got a full stack to play with, he needs to know when to unleash clever adjustments. He called several head-scratching audibles in Game 4. Perhaps in Game 5, he'll throw a unique wild card at the Pacers: going even smaller with his lineup.
Do you think Woodson should try an even smaller lineup if the Knicks' offense struggles early in Game 5? Leave us your comments below.
You can follow Jared Zwerling on Twitter.