In Game 3 of the second round playoff series between the New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers, Tyson Chandler had nine points five rebounds, while allowing Pacer center Roy Hibbert 24 points and 12 rebounds. His performance was widely perceived as one of his worst.
In that same game, the teams offensive leaders — Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith — uncharacteristically took 16 and 12 shots respectively. After the game, Chandler commented on what he thought was going wrong. He spoke in detail without naming names about how they had to be willing passers. He also said that sacrifices had to be made for the betterment of the team.
Typically, Anthony and Smith can be counted on to double those shots taken numbers, they did not on this night. So why now ? Why is this the time to make comments about “passing the ball” and “sacrificing for the team” ?
To be fair, those statements might be true on any other night. Isolation plays and bad shot selection have often been the Knicks’ Achilles’ heel. But on this night, Chandler had one of his worse performances on the boards. This led to second and third-chance opportunities that the Pacers should never have gotten.
This was a major factor in the loss. But when you look at the 71 points the Knicks put up, it’s obvious there where offensive issues as well.
Driving to the basket is huge in regards to any Knicks’ success. When the team is at their best, they mix drives to the basket with spread out ball movement to create open shots. The problem they are facing with the Pacers is the shot-blocking and lane-clogging provided by Hibbert.
He throws a monkey wrench in the Knicks plans. It would be nice if he had to worry about elbows and baseline jumpers from the Knicks’ centers, but he doesn’t, so he is able to remain a clog in the lane. The rest of the Pacers team focuses on the perimeter to shut down that aspect of their game.
The Knicks need to continue with ball movement, but those series of passes need to lead to their perimeter players beating Indiana defenders off the dribble and drawing Hibbert out of the paint area. The threat of the mid-range jumper needs to come back. This will allow for the drive-and-dish play that Chandler requested. The pick-and-roll is a good place to start, but it won’t be easy.
At the end of the day, the Knicks lost on the road in the playoffs against a super tough Pacer team, and one of the main reasons was Chandler’s performance. That fact makes his surprising comments look like he’s passing the buck.
The issues he described do exist, but not on that night. Chandler needs to look in the mirror.