The New York Knicks put up an average effort in their Game 1 loss to the Indiana Pacers, but the feisty guards of the Central Division champions ultimately made life difficult for the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 seed. If New York is to bounce back in Game 2, Indiana’s backcourt attack simply needs to be neutralized.
That isn’t to say that other players on the Knicks don’t need to step up. All-Star center Tyson Chandler needs to do better than just four points and three rebounds in 28 minutes of play, and leading scorer Carmelo Anthony must do more than shoot just 10 of 28 from the field.
But that doesn’t take away from how much damage the Pacers’ guards ultimately unleashed on a Knicks team that just looked tired at times yesterday. Backup point guard D.J. Augustin sank four three-pointers and had 16 points in just 13 minutes, and fellow point man George Hill chipped in 14 points while also pulling down seven rebounds.
The worst damage came from the incredibly athletic Lance Stephenson, who had 13 rebounds and three steals to go with his 11 points. That’s not at all bad for someone just 6-foot-5, 228 pounds.
Based on those numbers alone, one thing is certain. Whatever Knicks head coach Mike Woodson‘s plan was for the series against the Pacers, it needs to be adjusted. Indiana is a unique team in that on top of their phenomenal defensive and rebounding abilities. They like to play a fast-paced offense despite having a fairly weak scoring attack, having ranked 23rd in points scored during the regular season at just 94.7 points per contest.
This means that in Game 2, the Knicks’ plan of attack should just be as such: make life difficult for the Pacers’ guards, especially Stephenson. He is easily the best athlete of them all, so having the ever-pesky Iman Shumpert guard him seems like the most viable plan in terms of slowing him down. Regarding Hill, he’s streaky enough already, so just having Raymond Felton play tighter defense than usual could be enough to keep him in check.
In terms of Augustin, he’s just a shooter who cannot be left open under any circumstances.
That isn’t to say that the Knicks shouldn’t worry about the rest of the Pacers, particularly All-Star forward Paul George, but the fact of the matter is that much of Indiana’s momentum comes from the guards who get the stars the ball and also contribute as necessary. By taking out this key cog of the machine, New York has a definite shot at evening the series.
Otherwise, the road to the Conference Finals becomes all the more bumpy.