All-Star center Tyson Chandler has been a virtual non-factor for the New York Knicks in the postseason thus far, yet he is going to be the team’s biggest X-factor in Game 2 of the Conference Semifinals against the tough and defensive Indiana Pacers.
Chandler has been working his way back from a bulging disc in his neck that forced him to miss most of the final six weeks of the season, but his lack of production has been puzzling.
The 2012 NBA Defensive Player of the Year averaged 10.4 points, 10.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game over 66 games played. Were it not for missing time with his injury, he likely would have led the league in field goal percentage once again with an incredible mark of 64 percent. Alas, his absence took him out of eligibility, and DeAndre Jordan of the Los Angeles Clippers finished the season as tops in that area.
In the postseason, however, it’s clear that the 7-foot-1, 240-pound Chandler is still hurting a bit. Despite slowly getting his explosive presence back, he is only averaging five points and 7.9 rebounds over 28.4 minutes per contest. So much of Knicks head coach Mike Woodson‘s attack calls for solid production from the center, and Chandler just hasn’t been able to do that consistently as of late.
This is why it is critical for him to be in top form against the Pacers in Game 2. Indiana has a great young center in 7-foot-2 Roy Hibbert, who averaged 11.9 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game during the regular season and had 14 points, eight rebounds and an astounding five blocks in Game 1.
Long story short, Chandler needs to use his experience and superior toughness to outmatch Hibbert in every single battle in the paint.
Yes, it is important that he work his muscle memory back to what it needs to be, but that doesn’t mean he can play scared under any circumstances. He is one of the league’s top centers for a reason, having earned his first All-Star nod this year, and it’s time for him to start playing like one.
By showing up in a grand fashion in Game 2, he can easily help the Knicks even the series and carry some momentum into Game 3, set to be played in Indianapolis on Saturday. Otherwise, New York will be in a position it was rarely in during the regular season and during the first round of the playoffs: on its heels.