The New York Knicks absolutely must win Game 5 tomorrow night, but that’s not going to happen unless rookie Chris Copeland gets more time on the court and head coach Mike Woodson stops waiting for sixth man J.R. Smith to get out of his funk.
In the Conference Semifinals series against the Indiana Pacers thus far, Smith is averaging just 13.2 points per game and shooting just 28 percent from the field. Copeland, meanwhile, has been a nonfactor on offense.
To be perfectly honest, it’s strange that Copeland has not gotten more playing time in the postseason. A 29-year-old rookie who spent six years playing in Europe before coming to the Knicks this year, Copeland has a natural shooting touch as well as solid size at 6-foot-8, 225 pounds.
He only averaged 8.7 points in 15.4 minutes per game during the regular season, but shot 48 percent from the field and 42 percent from 3-point range. Per 36 minutes, he averaged 20.3 points and five rebounds per game. It’s quite clear that if given the right amount of playing time, Copeland can work wonders with the ball in his hands.
Of course, he proved that to be true in the regular season. Not only did Copeland do fine work from 3-point land, he also showed great prowess driving the lane and helping convert on the pick-and-roll. He still has a lot to learn about being a top producer on the NBA level, but the fact that he can create points in the blink of an eye consistently speaks for itself.
Why Woodson continues to use Smith instead of Copeland is an absolute mystery.
That all being said, with Game 5 set to take place at New York’s Madison Square Garden, Woodson owes it to himself to take a chance on Copeland and give him some more playing time. If it works, New York could get some momentum and potentially force a Game 6.
If not, then Smith will become the ultimate goat as people wonder how the Knicks could have done better in trying to beat the tough and athletic Pacers.