Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Why the Knicks Struggled Against the Pacers
By Kenneth Teape (@teapester725)

With the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat starting their Eastern Conference Finals series tonight, it is finally set in that the Knicks have been eliminated from the playoffs.  It was a rough series against the Pacers as they struggled on both sides of the court for most of the six games and were eliminated by a team that looked like they wanted it more.  Here are some things as to why the Knicks fell to the Pacers in the second round of the NBA playoffs.


The most glaring difference in the series between the Knicks and Pacers was the rebounding numbers.  The Pacers dominated the boards throughout the series, only being outrebounded in Game 2, a Knicks blowout victory.  The Knicks small-ball lineup with Carmelo Anthony starting at the power forward was no match for the Pacers huge frontcourt of Roy Hibbert and David West; even when the Knicks went big they were still unable to contend with the Pacers front court.  To put into perspective how badly the Knicks were outrebounded in the series, here are some numbers to take a look at:

272 total rebounds for the Pacers, at 45.3 per game. Rebound Each Game: 44, 35, 53, 54, 43, 43
220 total rebounds for the Knicks, at 36.7 per game. Rebounds Each Game: 30, 37, 41, 36, 40, 36

When the Knicks were able to keep the rebounding numbers close, they were successful.  The two games the rebounding numbers were closest were the two games that the Knicks won.  The Knicks played defense well, but were not finishing the defensive possessions as the Pacers best offense was to grab an offensive rebound and kick it out for a three pointer or lay it back in as they dominated the offensive glass. 

- Free-Throw Disparity (Poor Refereeing?)

A lot of talk throughout the series was that the Knicks were not getting as many calls and in turn less free throw attempts, as the Pacers because the Knicks were a jump shooting team.  This is true as the Knicks set the NBA record for three pointers made and attempted in a season, but was not the reason the Knicks did not take as many free throws.  In the series, the Pacers were just as much a jump shooting team as the Knicks.

In the series, the Pacers attempted 140 three-pointers, taking 23.3 per game.
In the series, the Knicks attempted 136 three-pointers, taking 22.67 per game.

That throws the notion right out the window that the Knicks were not getting calls because they are a jump shooting team as the Pacers actually attempted more three pointers than the Knicks did.  With that thinking the Knicks would have more free throw attempts than the Pacers, but those numbers are even more lopsided in favor of the Pacers.

In the series, the Pacers took 176 free throws, 29.3 per game, with a high of 46 and a low of 18. The Pacers took 30+ free throws the last three games of the series.
In the series the Knicks took 107 free throws, 17.83 per game, with a high of 25 and a low of 10. The Knicks took less than 20 free throws in four games.

The Pacers were called for 114 fouls, 19 per game, with a high of 23 and a low of 17.
The Knicks were called for 157 fouls, 26.17 per game, with a high of 34 and low of 24.

What really stands out is how the foul disparity grew as the series wore on, as the first three games the foul numbers were almost identical, as the Knicks were called for only two more fouls, but in the last three games of the series the Knicks were called for 41 more fouls.
Numbers as lopsided of that are tough to ignore.

-Tyson Chandler’s Struggle

Tyson Chandler struggled throughout the playoffs but was really exposed against the Pacers in round two as Roy Hibbert did whatever he pleased against what was an overmatched Chandler.  Chandler did miss 16 of the last 20 regular season games, causing him to be out of rhythm in the first round against the Celtics, but he looked lost at times throughout the series and a shell of the player who was named Defensive Player of the Year last season.  Chandler says he gave 100 percent and was pleased with how he played; scary with how badly he was outplayed by Hibbert. 

Tyson Chandler: Minutes, Rebounds, Assists, Blocks, Personal Fouls, Points
                             29.8        6.0           0.2        1.7             4.8            6.2

Roy Hibbert: Minutes, Rebounds, Assists, Blocks, Personal Fouls, Points
                       37.5         10.3         1.7       3.2             4.2            13.3

With Chandler playing as poorly as he did, it hurt the Knicks because they had to change their defensive schemes with his inability to guard Hibbert one-on-one. The double-teaming the Knicks were forced to do against Hibbert threw the rest of their defense out of whack as the constant scrambling left the Pacers open for numerous three point attempts, which they converted more times than not, and the Knicks out of position to rebound as well. 

-Where was J.R?

Throughout the series Carmelo Anthony was the only Knick that was able to constantly provide any type of offense and a big reason for that was J.R. Smith struggled mightily.  Smith was suspended for Game 4 of the series against the Boston Celtics for hitting Jason Terry with an elbow and was never the same after that, struggling the remainder of the Boston series and the whole series against the Pacers.

Smith could not hit water if he fell out of a boat against the Pacers, shooting 28.9 percent on the series, averaging 13.5 points per game.  His three point shooting was even worse, as he shot 23.1 percent from beyond the arc.  Without Smith the Knicks could not find a constant second scoring option and the offense was unable to get going at all throughout the series outside a couple of a few isolated stretches.

The Knicks will have a big decision to make this offseason with Smith most likely opting out of his contract to become a free agent.  The Knicks will have to decide if he is worth a contract extension, as he can get a bigger payday from other teams as the Knicks can only offer him 175 percent increase in his contract from this season.  His poor showing in the playoffs may cause some teams to shy away from signing him, but all it takes is one team to like what they see to offer him a big contract the Knicks cannot match.  

-Mike Woodson’s Coaching

Mike Woodson put himself directly on the hot seat with his performance in the playoffs.  Woodson was as stubborn as ever against the Pacers and it really hurt the Knicks in the end.  He watched without making a move as Chandler was dominated by Hibbert throughout the series even though he had Marcus Camby sitting next to him on the bench.  Camby had not played much throughout the season because of numerous injuries but letting him just sit there while Chandler got worked was a poor decision.  It would not have hurt to see what Camby could give.

Woodson also showed too much trust in players like Smith and Jason Kidd.  Smith was lighting the world on fire with his shooting compared to Kidd, who did not score a single point in the whole series against the Pacers, going scoreless since April 25th, a span of 10 games.  Those were the players who helped the Knicks win 54 games and the Atlantic Division during the regular season, but their poor play in the playoffs lasted long enough that a change should have been made.

Players such as Iman Shumpert and Chris Copeland showed they were capable of giving the Knicks good minutes and Woodson let them toil on the bench numerous times as the lineups he opted for were not working.  Another player who fell victim to Woodson’s mindless rotation decisions was Pablo Prigioni, who played only three minutes in Game 4 as Woodson panicked and went away from what the Knicks do best and played big.  Prigioni had started 20+ consecutive games and was benched in Game 4 as Woodson went big and watched the Knicks offense fall apart again as the Pacers still dominated the boards.

Woodson was unable to make the adjustments necessary to get the Knicks over the hump and was badly out-coached by Pacers head coach Frank Vogel.  Woodson’s track record of poor playoff performances continued and he has no one really to blame other than himself.

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