The Indiana Pacers have laid waste to the New York Knicks offense, and now Carmelo Anthony and his squad need to look at the pieces and see if they can manage to put together a competent effort to tie this series at two.
It's only 2-1 in Indiana's favor, but it seems worse for the Knicks. The Pacers, the league's best defense efficiency-wise, in the regular season, has twice made New York look completely out of sorts. It culminated in an 82-71 performance in Game 3, an effort that would have been the Knicks' lowest scoring output of the regular season.
The problem here is bigger than bad outcomes for New York: what they do has been fundamentally changed by Indiana. From Joe Flynn of Posting and Toasting, in a piece entitled "Who are you guys, and what have you done with the New York Knicks?"
This loss was infinitely more discouraging than Game 1, not only because it came later in the series (seriously, though, it's later in the series now, guys), but because what we saw in this game was pretty much the antithesis of everything "Knicks." I've hit upon a theme in these playoffs - The Knicks Way, or the formula this team uses to win basketball games. The Knicks Way Checklist:
- Shoot the Three
- DOMINATE the Turnover Margin
- Protect the Offensive Glass
How did they do? Oh sweet Jesus, I wish I didn't have to tell you...
It's that bad. But the good news is that the Knicks have the offensive weapons -- Anthony, J.R. Smith, a possibly healthy Amar'e Stoudemire, and ample shooters -- to make a difference, something they showed in a random 30-2 tear that gave them a win in Game 2.
Can they do anything productive offensively Tuesday night? Three questions to follow in this game:
Will the Knicks get three-pointers?
The Knicks are built to hit three-pointers. The Pacers are built to stop them. The Knicks took more threes this season than any team in NBA history: 2,371, or 28.91 per game. As a result, they hit more than any team in NBA history: 891, or 10.86 per game. In contrast, the Pacers allowed just 1,344, or 16.59 per game, with the opposition hitting just 440, or 5.31 per game. The Knicks surrounded Carmelo Anthony with strong shooters, and shot 37.9 percent from deep. The Pacers start three long, defensive-minded wings and opponents shot 32.7 percent.
Something had to give. It appears to be the Knicks' shooting ability from long-range.
The Knicks never shot fewer than 19 threes in a game this season. In Game 1, they matched that season low, taking just 19 threes, hitting only seven. In Game 3, they took only 11 threes and sank only three.
That's not a team taking a modestly different strategy to try and win games. It's one team thoroughly dominating an aspect of the game, forcing them to drastically change an aspect of their game where they had achieved historic success. It's mind-blowing, and the Knicks simply won't win if it continues.
Does Roy Hibbert continue to kill it?
Roy Hibbert is controlling the game with such tremendous ease that he seems shocked. Defensively, he's everywhere, averaging three blocks a game and shutting down any forays by Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith into the lane. With no threat from Tyson Chandler, Hibbert can devote his effort to strong help defense on anybody driving, allowing his teammates to play tighter on the perimeter.
And he's making mincemeat of Chandler on offense too. Hibbert recorded 24 points with eight offensive rebounds in Game 3 and is averaging 14.7 points on 11.3 shots per game this series.
You could argue the Knicks' only success this series -- a 30-2 run in Game 2 that led to their win -- is only due to Frank Vogel's odd decision to bench Hibbert in favor of Jeff Pendergraph for no apparent reason during a stretch when the Pacers were performing well. Can New York do anything when the Pacers' big is in the game?
How does the Knicks' flu crew do?
Love him or hate him, J.R. Smith has been instrumental to the Knicks' success this season. But after going 4-for-12 Saturday, he's now shot 115 shots and scored only 110 points in the post-season.
Now he has the flu, and he's also given it to Kenyon Martin. Both players have the potential to come in and make a difference. Smith can change a game with his scoring prowess, and Martin provides veteran playoff leadership on the defensive end of the floor. But both players have the ability to come in and be disastrous.