Knicks vs. Pacers: New York's role players thrive in Game 2 blowout

Jeff Zelevansky

Carmelo Anthony deserves much of the praise for the Knicks' Game 2 thumping of the Indiana Pacers, but Pablo Prigioni, Kenyon Martin and Iman Shumpert deserve a nod as well.

Did you know that Carmelo Anthony has teammates? It's true! And several of them aren't named J.R. Smith! Although Anthony is instrumental to the Knicks' success, some of the squad's role players were responsible in leading the Knicks on a berserk killspree blowout victory in Game 2 against the Indiana Pacers Tuesday.

Obviously, the Knicks aren't going to win -- or lose, for that matter -- without Anthony having a say in it. That's the dude who won the NBA scoring title and scored 17 points in a 30-2 run Tuesday night.

But even when he isn't doing something ridiculous like outscoring the opposition, 17-2, in a spurt of an NBA Playoff game, his smart play leads to better options. The team is still in better shape when its offense has movement instead of being an iso-filled slogfest, like it devolved into against Boston. When the process is better, it will lead to better shots for Melo and his teammates, as it did against the Pacers Tuesday.

But those teammates! Melo can play fine, but the teammates have to be productive for wins to happen. Let's discuss some guys who had marked improvements on their Game 1 efforts.

Pablo Prigioni

There's a reason the Garden crowd was chanting Pablo's name Tuesday night. The Argentine rookie shot 4-for-4 with four assists in Game 2, accounting for eight points in the 30-2 run. Prigioni caused havoc out of the pick-and-roll, nailing jumpers and pull-ups in between passes. He's been a nifty passer and sneaky defender all year long, and he's bumped his three-point percentage up from 39.6 percent in the regular season to 47.6 percent in the playoffs.

But Prigioni does have a tendency to cage himself up a little bit. Prigioni passed up an open layup or three on roughly 100,000 occasions this year, playing into the "rookie" part of "35-year-old rookie with tons of international experience." In a Game 1 loss, he took only one shot. In the games he's been successful this postseason (Games 3 and 6 against Boston) he's been aggressive. Two-point-guard lineups have been critical for maintaining the flow of the Knicks' offense all season long. Prigioni should be on the floor in these lineups for at least half the game, something that's only happened twice in eight games thus far.

Kenyon Martin

The Knicks lucked into Martin, who they signed at the trade deadline off the scrap heap. With Tyson Chandler still looking unlike himself after a neck injury late in the year, Martin has been more useful than anyone expected.

Martin went 4-for-5 with 10 points Tuesday night, and they weren't all simple finishes. He shook Roy Hibbert with a dribble to the left and knocked down a 19-footer, showing offensive capabilities that might make the Indiana big men pay more attention to him. Although much of the spring in Martin's legs has faded since he was the No. 1 pick in 2000, he still displays the ability to obliterate an opposing drive to the paint.

Martin merits more minutes, and as crazy as it sounds, they should come at Chandler's expense. The 2012 Defensive Player of the Year provides an enormous boost when healthy, with a ruthlessness around the rim that flustered attackers long before Hibbert earned praise for his Game 1 performance. But he's not healthy right now. He seems tentative on both sides of the floor, with just seven boards through two games. While coach Mike Woodson has tried installing lineups with two big men playing together, they've been out-of-rhythm thus far.

Iman Shumpert

The most important guy is last on this list, because he's the most obvious. The second-year player, a year removed from an ACL tear, has been great for the Knicks all postseason. As a rookie, he was an athletic defensive wing without a jumper. As a second-year man, his import has only increased.

The Pacers' bigger lineup leaves David West on Shumpert often. If Shumpert can hit open looks, this is a mismatch, and Indiana either needs to live with him hitting those shots or take Paul George off Anthony. Shumpert's 15-point effort, six-rebound effort Tuesday night will go a long way toward making Indiana think hard about its decision.

Oh, and this happened:


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