Saturday, December 22, 2012
Bulls stymie Knicks' pick-and-roll game
By Jared Zwerling
For most of the postgame period, the Knicks repeated themselves, attempting to avoid giving the Bulls credit for their 110-106 win -- the second one in their regular-season series.
"We missed some shots," the players echoed. "We missed some shots."
It wasn't until the very final seconds of media availability when Carmelo Anthony finally gave the quote that explained how Joakim Noah changed the Knicks' game on offense.
"[Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau] let him be very aggressive tonight from the jump," Anthony said, "and when he's very aggressive like that and they allow that to happen, then he's the anchor of that team, he's the motor of that team. When he gets it going as far as being the aggressor, everybody else follows."
Before every game, the home and visiting teams are able to watch the other's previous game on the TV in the locker room. What Noah, the Bulls starting center, obviously saw was Tyson Chandler roll to the rim easily off pick-and-rolls and finish five alley-oops in the Knicks' win over the Nets on Wednesday night.
The Knicks' pick-and-roll offense met its match against the Bulls' defense on Friday night.
Noah, almost like a mirror image of Chandler in terms of his height, length, mobility and ability to guard multiple positions, wasn't going to let the Knicks' starting center play above the rim like that. But no one expected what would happen tonight. Chandler finished the first half with only two points (on two free throws). He didn't even attempt a field goal. After the game, Chandler hinted at the biggest challenge he faced tonight: not being able to finish off the pick-and-roll.
"They were able to take us out of some things, and then we didn't get to the line much, which didn't help," said Chandler, who actually worked out with Noah a bit over the summer.
Listen to this: Entering the game, Chandler was averaging more than five points per game as the roll man, and averaging an NBA-best 1.41 points per play (with a minimum of 35 plays). But tonight, he specifically struggled to get his offense going as the roll man. Two free throws he made after getting fouled made up his only points off the pick-and-roll.
To emphasize Noah's impact, he's defended 58 plays against the roll man this season, and among 37 players who have faced at least 20 plays, he ranks 10th in the league, allowing 0.70 points per play and 40 percent shooting. Tonight, the Knicks only shot 41.6 percent (32-for-77) in the paint.
While the Rockets lost to the Knicks twice in similar fashion -- getting beat in isolation and transition -- the Knicks lost another one to the Bulls by not establishing their pick-and-roll.
"It was almost kind of a carbon copy of how we played down in Chicago [on Dec. 8]," Woodson said afterward.
Because the Knicks' pick-and-roll game was defunct -- Raymond Felton's 9-for-21 shooting night didn't help either -- it was up to Anthony and J.R. Smith to pick up the slack in isolation.
"J.R. and Melo, those two guys were the only two guys that were really scoring tonight," Felton said. "We just really couldn't put the ball in the basket, man, that's all."
Right before Felton wrapped up talking, he said, "Next time we play them, we'll be ready."
It was like the exact words from Macaulay Culkin's character in the classic movie "Home Alone," when he realized he needed to safeguard his house before the burglars returned.
And what happened? Culkin got the best of them.
That's what Chandler, Felton and the Knicks need to do with their pick-and-roll offense on Jan. 11, the next time the Bulls come to the Garden.
Research assistance: Douglas Clawson, ESPN Stats & Info