Monday, March 4, 2013
W2W4: Knicks at Cavaliers
By Jared Zwerling
The Knicks face another All-Star perimeter facilitator, Cleveland's Kyrie Irving, one night after Miami's LeBron James tormented them down the stretch.
Irving (23.3 points and 5.6 assists per game) is expected to play after missing the past three games with a hyperextended right knee. In their last matchup, a one-point Knicks win on Dec. 15, Irving poured in a season-high 41 points.
Here are three main things to watch for, starting at 7 p.m.:
1. Continued pick-and-roll action? On Sunday, out of all their different play types, the Knicks' roll man was utilized 8.7 percent of the time, which resulted in 1.11 points per play. That 8.7 number was their second-highest all month. Most of the time, it's been about 5 or 6 percent. The takeaway is that while Tyson Chandler is usually effective off screens, Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire ran more pick-and-rolls together against the Heat -- and they capitalized, with STAT as the finisher.
That's a positive sign because Stoudemire has continued to develop in limited minutes. Since he returned from knee surgery, he went from unleashing new low-post moves to flashing well to the corners for jump shots. Looking ahead, he can be a threat off pick-and-rolls, as he has been in the past. He just needs to reach his 30-minutes cap more -- he played only 21 minutes against the Heat -- and be on the court when it counts. He sat out of the last eight minutes of Sunday's game, so the Knicks were missing another key versatile offensive threat.
2. Knicks need more attacking besides Melo. While the Knicks got open 3-point looks against the Heat -- from extra pressure on Anthony -- they got too comfortable from the outside, especially J.R. Smith. He missed 13 of 18 shots, including 11 of 14 3-point attempts. After the game, Mike Woodson questioned the sixth man's shot selection, saying, "He's got to mix it up."
Woodson might want to consider having Smith run more pick-and-rolls. When the combo guard was doing so in Raymond Felton's absence, he was averaging more points per play in that setup than Chris Paul, and he was getting to the foul line six or seven times per game. With Felton and Kidd running point guard in both units now, Smith has become a spot-up shooter. He's the kind of player who needs guidance, but Woodson's open basketball system -- as Kenyon Martin put it, "What plays?" -- doesn't help Smith's cause.
3. Watch out for Waiters. In his past four games (three of them without Irving), rookie Dion Waiters has been averaging 22.8 points per game -- eight above his season average. The bulky, speedy guard is able to attack the paint, and he's explosive enough to finish with creativity. Felton (on Irving) and Iman Shumpert (on Waiters) will have their hands full tonight.