The biggest stat line of the night wasn’t New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony’s abysmal 10-28 shooting performance in the Knicks 102 -95 Game 1 loss to the Indiana Pacers. While that stat line is indicative of the inefficiency Anthony has shown during the playoffs, the more indicative line was Tyson Chandler’s two field goals and three rebounds in 28 minutes. When compared to Roy Hibbert‘s 14 points, eight rebounds, five blocked shots and double digit contested shots, it looks almost as if Hibbert was the big kid bullying Chandler out of the sandbox.
Coming into the postseason there were only a few things Knick fans could actually count on. They could believe that Anthony would score at least 25 points and occupy at least seven foul shots during that process. They could count on the combination of Raymond Felton, Pablo Prigioni and Jason Kidd to limit the amount of turnovers the team had. The most consistent thing they could depend on was Chandler’s activity on the boards and defense, which had spring boarded to an Atlantic division winning 54-28 record. The latter hasn’t been as much of a Knicks’ signature, which is why this current inclination of the team looks much different
Injuries have beset the New York Knicks all season. Whether it was worrying about Rasheed Wallace returning, Raymond Felton’s hands or Carmelo Anthony’s knee, the Knicks’ season has seemed to be more controlled by team doctors than actual players on the court. Recently, due to a bulging disc in his back, Tyson Chandler’s play has been a far cry from the defensive linchpin we’ve come to appreciate.
In the playoffs, so far Chandler has been invisible. In six games versus Boston, he averaged only five points and 8.5 rebounds in 28.5 minutes of work. Luckily, Kenyon Martin was there to bail him out with his high energy and physical defensive play.
Against Indiana, the Knicks do not have the same luxury. Roy Hibbert has channeled his inner Rik Smits to become an impact player during this series. The 7’2” Georgetown alum has made his $58 million over 4-year contract an afterthought rivaling the Memphis Grizzlies‘ Marc Gasol with consistent play at the center position. He is averaging nearly 2.3 blocks per game and 8.7 rebounds since the playoffs have started.
The Knicks need Chandler’s energy if they have any hope of reaching the conference finals. They need his tenacity and his willingness to hard double the pick and roll, yet get back to his man. They need the beast on the boards that had three consecutive 20 rebound games. If they don’t get that, no matter how well Anthony shoots, they will have to buy tickets to see Miami.