New York Knicks: 5 Moves To Bury Boston Celtics
New York Knicks: 5 Moves To Bury The Boston Celtics
The New York Knicks stole that game this past Saturday. The Knicks’ defense was about as formidable as Styrofoam. Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith took too many bad shots, often nullifying their team’s offense. Raymond Felton’s defensive lapses were glaring, particularly against Avery Bradley, and center Tyson Chandler was simply not the same and that should scare the butter out of the Madison Square Garden faithful.
Pundits predicted a hard-fought series and that’s just what we are going to get: old school, Eastern Conference playoff basketball with hard fouls and head-scratching calls (there were a good number of those).
Even without A-1 point guard Rajon Rondo the Boston Celtics battled. The normally laid-back Jeff Green went toe-to-toe with Anthony that game, showcasing a solid, multi-dimensional game, hitting 3-pointers and gliding to the basket with panache. Brandon Bass’s defense against Anthony, arguably the best scorer in the game next to Kevin Durant, made things very difficult. The Knicks offense sputtered at times and even when those bad shots fell for Anthony and Smith, they may not fall in Game 2 on Tuesday.
The Knicks were only able to pull out that series thanks to key rotational substitutions: Kenyon Martin for Chandler and Jason Kidd for Iman Shumpert. The chess match between Knicks coach Mike Woodson and Celtics coach Doc Rivers will be entertaining as well. Rivers and his staff, one of the best in the business, should come back with an answer to defend Knicks secondary scorers like Smith and Kidd. They will continue to find ways to take clean looks away from Anthony as well. This series will go six games at the very least, barring any unforeseen injuries. Subsequently, this next week and a half should be quite nerve-wracking.
Do not press panic buttons just yet, Knicks fans. There is an orange and blue sun just ahead that should see the Knicks clear through into the second round against the winner of the Indiana Pacers – Atlanta Hawks series. Here are five moves the Knicks should consider for Game 2 and beyond.
Start Kenyon Martin at Center - For the Time Being
This is so painfully obvious, based on Saturday’s game. Chandler struggled to defend the rim against Green and Bradley. He looked slow and did not have his usual lift. The lane was like the Major Deegan Expressway when Chandler was manning the middle. Luckily, coach Woodson pulled the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in the 3rd quarter for Martin. That made all the difference. Martin’s interior presence helped lock down the middle. Drives to the rim were harder to come by. This gave Kidd and Smith the confidence to be more aggressive defensively on the ball against Pierce and Bradley.
At the Knicks’ practice facility on Thursday, Chandler told reporters, "This is the best I've felt in a long time," He continued, "It actually was a blessing in disguise I was able to get that time off, because now I'll have fresh legs throughout the playoffs." Based on what fans saw on Saturday, I can only think of a line from a Jay-Z song: “We don’t believe you. You need more people.”
Coach Woodson should limit Chandler’s floor time to 15 minutes a game or less for the rest of this series, so he can get healthy enough for the next round (hopefully). Camby could play a reserve role in the meantime, until Chandler gets healthier.
Take Away Chris Copeland’s Minutes
Knicks fans were freely quaffing cups of Copeland-flavored Kool-Aid after the April he had scoring the basketball. He averaged 20.1 points over the final seven games of the season, dropping 32 and 33 points against the Chicago Bulls and the Hawks, respectively. Copeland snagged the NBA’s Rookie of the Month honor for April. While that was fine and dandy, the playoffs are a different beast from the regular season. And when there is so much on the line, you don’t want to put your team’s fate in the palms of a rookie, even if they are 29-years-old.
Clearly, the moment was too big for him on Saturday. Copeland looked nervous and passive, and he got exposed as a poor defender early. In the end, Woodson yanked him off that stage faster than a nervous comedian at the Apollo Theater.
Copeland was pressed into duty because of Pablo Prigioni’s ankle injury, but the Knicks should limit his minutes further. He is simply not ready. Perhaps they can push the more battle-tested veteran Quentin Richardson to take his minutes until Prigioni comes back.
Copeland’s one tool is his scoring ability and that will ultimately be underutilized whenever he’s sharing the floor with Anthony and Felton. He can do a lot for the Knicks when he’s able to step up and hit open shots. But is that even enough when he gives up so much defensively? For right now, Copeland is just a capable rotation player who can provide some offensive punch in the right situation. Perhaps he can grow into a more prominent role with another season under his belt. He will certainly have to become a better defender if he expects to make a dent in that Knicks rotation in the future.
Give Iman Shumpert More Minutes at PG
Shump seems to be regaining his lateral quickness after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee last year. He may never be a knock-down shooter, but he can still be a threat offensively, particularly with the corner 3-pointer. In a March game against the Denver Nuggets, he hit four of five 3-pointers. Two of those four threes came from the corner, where Shumpert is at his most effective. In March, Shumpert shot 49.1 percent from three-point range (26-for-53) with the majority of those shots coming from the baseline corner, according to ESPN.
Against the Miami Heat in April, he shot 3 of 5 from beyond the arc. In other words, Shumpert, when in rhythm, can be effective from that space on the floor. So, I respectfully disagree with Magic Johnson and Company when they referred to Shumpert as a non-scorer during the Saturday telecast of the Knicks-Celtics game.
Where the man is even more valuable is in his positional versatility on defense. Starting point guard Felton will have a hard time staying in front of the quicker and stronger Bradley as this series evolves. Shumpert can spell Felton early on against Bradley. He presents enough quickness to bother Green and Paul Pierce when they attempt dribble drives. At his best, Shumpert can provide low double-digit scoring to relieve Anthony and Smith, but he can also get steals and be an effective rebounder from the backcourt position.
Play Pablo, Like Now
The Knicks got some good news about reserve guard Pablo Prigioni who will be listed as probable for Game 2. And they should immediately insert him into the rotation to help stabilize a backcourt — sans Kidd — that went haywire in the third quarter of game one. It was a hot mess. They rushed shots, turned the ball over and neglected to make the extra passes that would have created more open shots.
Prigioni is a defensive liability. Still, his contributions are what helped the Knicks secure the No. 2 seed in the playoffs. Like Kidd, the 36-year-old guard is a calming influence on a volatile team. The Knicks led the league in fewest turnovers a game during the regular season at 12.05, according to NBA.com.
Kidd and Prigioni had a lot to do with that.
While ESPN ranked Kidd third in lowest turnover-to-assist ratio for the regular season, Prigioni ranked in the Top 20, ahead of notable guards like the Los Angeles Lakers’ Steve Nash and the Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry. In other words, re-inserting Prigioni into that second unit would bolster the offensive efficiency of a team that exhibited maddening inconsistencies in that opening game.
Appoint John McEnroe As Head of the Knicks' Celebrity Spirit Squad
Okay, this one’s for fun. But stay with me on this one. Did you notice when the energy of MSG fans began to wane in Game 1? The Celtics were surging and Knicks fans braced for the worst. Another collapse was in the offing. And it was against an old foe.
There was a key event that occurred during the game that helped turn things around. It wasn’t the Martin for Chandler substitution, though many will credit that move as the one that turned the game around for the orange and blue. It was when McEnroe stood up and implored the Garden Faithful to scream its guts out for the home team. The ABC-TV cameras zoomed in on that moment, and the tennis legend was projected on the big screen. That moment got the crowd amped, and, I believe, it gave the Knicks the energy to sustain against an advancing Celtics team, who extended its lead to seven in the third quarter.
Spike Lee is the dean of all Knicks fans, that much is true. But let’s get this McEnroe guy in as head of the spirit squad, stat. He may not have had much luck with tennis line judges of old, but his impact on Saturday’s game was palpable — seriously.
Tacuma R. Roeback is a New York Knicks writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @TacumaRoe, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google+