Sunday, May 5, 2013

2013 Playoff Preview: (2) New York Knicks vs. (3) Indiana Pacers: What To Watch For

Thanks, NBA. The Knicks won game six against Boston on Friday, and on Sunday, head back home to face the Indiana Pacers. Not even fair for Indiana either, as the Pacers were in Atlanta on Friday knocking the Atlanta Hawks out of the playoffs as well. Couldn't we push the game back to Monday? No matter, the New York Knicks face the Indiana Pacers tomorrow, and instead of giving you a BS review, I wanted to give you a few things to watch out for during this series, but before that...

Some simple stats....

Offensive Efficiency: New York (3rd overall)-Indiana (20th)
Defensive Efficiency: New York (18th)- Indiana (1st)
Pace: New York (28th)- Indiana (25th)

Now, let's talk about some of things to watch for:

The Shooting Woes Of Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith

The Knicks avoided a game seven against Boston, but that wasn't because of their two leading scorers. J.R Smith and Carmelo Anthony struggled to score the basketball efficiently, and that probably pushed the series a game further than it went. Carmelo Anthony went 61-160 from the field, while J.R. Smith went 28-73 in his five playoff games. Going against Indiana, the best defensive team in the league, the Knicks will need both Smith and Anthony to be a bit more efficient scoring the ball. With Smith, he needs to be more vibrant in attacking the basket, while Anthony needs to be quicker making decisions with the ball. On isolation attempts, Anthony was brutal. However, when Anthony gets quicker isolation attempts, catch-and-shoot attempts, and post attempts, the Knicks have found solid shot attempts (and makes) for Anthony. 

The Big Man Tandem Of David West And Roy Hibbert

One of the biggest reasons why I believed Indiana was moving on to the second round was the two bullies inside for the Pacers; the veteran David West and the big monster Roy Hibbert. Both West and Hibbert could offer some problems for New York. West's ability to play inside and out on the offensive end could push Carmelo Anthony into foul trouble, and Roy Hibbert's ability to end any interior scoring could make things interesting. This frontcourt will also push Knicks head coach Mike Woodson to play Kenyon Martin and Tyson Chandler together more, which would bog down New York's offense. 

Iman Shumpert vs. George Hill's Defensive Matchups

Both Frank Vogel and Mike Woodson have a defensive monster to sic on opposing offensive players. For Vogel, point guard George Hill will be an interesting matchup. Do you leave Hill on Felton to possibly disrupt the offense, or do you place Hill, a very good solo defender, on J.R. Smith to disrupt any momentum he could receive scoring-wise? For the Knicks, guard Iman Shumpert will find himself defending Pacers star forward Paul George. After having a ton of success annoying Paul Pierce, could Shumpert do it again in round two against the taller, and much younger, Paul George? It remains to be seen. 

The Indiana Pacers Bench 

One of the most intriguing benches left in the playoffs. Gerald Green is good wing player, but he doesn't have sixth man credentials every game, Tyler Hansbrough is annoying as he is average, I like Jeff Pendergraph, but he's shooting 31%, and D.J. Augustin, the reserve who gets the most minutes off the bench for Indiana, is posting shooting splits of 26-25-87. That's right. 26% from the field and 25% from three. While the Knicks bench isn't any better, it will be interesting to see how Indiana creates bench points.

Amar'e Stoudemire's Return

While Stoudemire's been ruled out for the first two games of the series, his return is looming. Could the Knicks figure out how to make this work defensively? With Martin in place, he has a defender he could lean on, and with Prigioni and Felton running point guard, the Knicks could figure out some of his pick and roll schemes with him. If Stoudemire can come back and offer an offensive threat (before he was ruled out for the season, Amar'e averaged 14.2 points on 55% shooting and 5.0 rebounds in 22.7 minutes of action), the Knicks could have another dimension off their bench. However, this move could backfire if the Anthony-Amar'e can't coexist, or if Stoudemire's defense holds down the second unit.


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