The Knicks were handed a home loss in game one of their second round matchup versus the Indiana Pacers. Or perhaps that’s not really phrasing it correctly. To say that the Knicks handed the Pacers the victory feels a bit more apt.
I am saying this not to detract from the performance of the Pacers, who severely outplayed the ‘Bockers from start to finish. Led by the exemplary play of center Roy Hibbert, who patrolled the basket with tenacity, allowing no easy baskets in the paint. I’m saying it because the Knicks didn’t look like a team who wanted it today.
Carmelo Anthony’s early foul trouble certainly played a hand as he had to ride the pine for almost the entire 3rd quarter, but it was once again the deficiencies of J.R. Smith that were most apparent throughout the game. J.R. finished 4-15 from the field and at one point was 1-10. But honestly, at this point, it’s not even J.R.’s fault, It’s Woodson’s, who apparently doesn’t believe that pulling J.R. from the game is even an option.
Woody has done a lot to develop Smith this season, but ever since the elbow incident in Boston J.R.’s game has completely capsized. And isn’t it fitting, that when the Knicks were only down six points with 50 seconds remaining, it was Smith who missed a deep three pointer that really should have been in the hands of Carmelo to begin with, all but ending the contest.
The Knicks were badly out-rebounded by the Pacers by a 44-33 margin (11-6 offensive rebounds). At many points it wasn’t even lack of size that was killing the Knicks, it was lack of effort. Perhaps most disheartening of the myriad of disheartening items from this contest was seeing the Knicks’ offense and defense begin to click late in the fourth quarter as Shumpert, Felton, Melo and J.R. were all crashing the offensive glass and forcing loose balls, something that should have been taking place for the entire game.
So now on the heels of their 102-95 home defeat, the Knicks must rise to the occasion on Tuesday to ensure that they don’t drop their first two games of the series. It’s game one, too early to set anything in stone — yet if New York can’t solve its offensive identity crisis they seem to be going through then the end may be nearing for the Knicks playoff run.
Hopefully this game was the wakeup call that the Knicks needed to come alive, but as it stands now, Carmelo and the rest of the ‘Bockers are standing on perilous ground.