- Ian Begley, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
Mike Woodson thought his New York Knicks had the pieces in place to contend for a championship this year.
Turns out they couldn't get out of the second round.
So what went wrong in the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Indiana Pacers? Plenty.
WOODSON'S LINEUP LETDOWN: Woodson deserves kudos for getting the Knicks to 54 regular-season wins, an Atlantic Division crown and a first-round playoff series win.
But he made some head-scratching moves in the Pacers series. His biggest misstep came on the eve of Game 4, after watching the Pacers crush the Knicks on the boards in two of the first three games.
Instead of sticking with the small-ball lineup that worked for most of the season, Woodson went big for Game 4. He removed Pablo Prigioni from the starting five and inserted Kenyon Martin, hoping Martin would help neutralize Indiana's rebounding edge.
It didn't work out that way.
Indiana outrebounded the Knicks by 18 and pulled down 16 offensive boards to take a 3-1 series lead.
Martin had five rebounds in 29 minutes. Prigioni played just 3:26. Starting swingman Iman Shumpert was on the floor for a mere 16 minutes.
Woodson essentially changed the Knicks' identity in the middle of a playoff series, and it backfired.
Jason Kidd, by the way, played most of the minutes that would've gone to Prigioni -- and went 0-for-2 in 18 minutes. It was Kidd's eighth straight scoreless game.
NOT ENOUGH COPE: Also in Game 4, Woodson chose to play Amar'e Stoudemire -- in his second game back from a two-month absence -- for 11 minutes. Those minutes could have gone to Chris Copeland, who has the potential to provide instant offense.
Woodson did turn to Copeland with the Knicks down by 15 in the third quarter of Game 4. The rookie hit a 3 to cut the lead to 10 early in the fourth -- and returned to the bench 32 seconds later. Strange.
Copeland helped the Knicks delay elimination by delivering 13 points in 19 minutes during a must-win Game 5. He scored nine more in 19 minutes in Game 6, leading Knicks fans from Alphabet City to Albany wondering: What took Woodson so long to play him?
TYSON'S KNICKS GET CRUSHED ON BOARDS: Indiana outrebounded New York by an average of 10.4 per game. That's 62 rebounds over the course of six games, significant because both teams shot at similar clips (42.6 percent for the Pacers, 40.9 percent for the Knicks), making extra possessions crucial.
If you combine the numbers in the Knicks' two wins, they had one fewer board than the Pacers. In their four losses, the Knicks were outrebounded by 61 (including team rebounds).
Woodson said repeatedly that all five players needed to box out for the Knicks to succeed on the boards. Double-teams, traps and switches on pick-and-rolls left them out of position at times. But sometimes, they were flat-out beat.
Tyson Chandler's performance was particularly troubling.
For the series, the Knicks' All-Star center averaged 6.2 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 29 minutes per game. His counterpart, Roy Hibbert averaged 13.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.2 blocks, including a 21-point, 12-board performance in Game 6.
Chandler may have been bothered by neck, back and wrist ailments, but it's fair to expect more from a member of the NBA's All-Defensive First Team.
J.R.'S STRUGGLES: After another off shooting night in Game 4, J.R. Smith said he'd take the blame for the Knicks' struggles against Indiana.
That may have been a bit of an overstatement, but Smith -- the NBA's top sixth man during the regular season -- certainly played a role in the Knicks' downfall. He missed 64 of 90 shots in the series. He averaged 13.5 points on 28.9 percent shooting and hit just 9 of his 39 3-point attempts (23 percent).
He was able to get to the rim but had trouble converting against the Pacers' lengthy front line. When he settled for jump shots, they just weren't falling.
Following his Game 4 suspension in the Boston series, Smith shot just 29 percent from the field for the rest of the postseason.
"I wasn't there for my teammates," Smith said after shooting 4-for-15 on Saturday. "They tried to rely on me, and I didn't step up."
ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Jason Kidd's shooting fluctuated for most of the regular season, but the veteran found other ways to impact the game. He came up with clutch steals and assists or tracked down loose balls.
But Kidd's shooting struggles were magnified in the postseason. When he was on the floor, it often seemed like the Knicks were playing 4-on-5.
How bad was Kidd on offense in the playoffs? In 247 minutes, the future Hall of Famer went 3-for-25 (12 percent). He averaged 0.9 points per game in 20 minutes.
He was scoreless in the Indiana series and did not score in his final 10 games. The Knicks weren't expecting much offense from Kidd, but they needed much more than they got.
You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.
6dSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann