The Knicks have found success all season long putting Carmelo Anthony at the power forward position and using ball movement to get higher percentage looks from behind the arc but the Pacers are a team that can contest this strategy at its source and it starts with their size. Unlike most other teams in the NBA, the Pacers can rely on both a 7’2″, 280 pound defensive presence in center, Roy Hibbert to control the paint and an incredibly athletic perimeter defender in Paul George to check an opponent’s most lethal scoring threat. By limiting Carmelo Anthony’s success on the low block, the rest of the Indiana defenders can feel confident in staying closer to their assignments waiting on the perimeter.
The Knicks responded in Game 1 by letting Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith operate in isolation but it was to no avail. Anthony shot 10-28 for 27 points and Smith went 4-15 for 27 points. If the Knicks are to move on to the Eastern Conference Finals, their two top scoring threats cannot shoot a combined 14-43 (32.6%) from the field.
In order to win Game 2 and even the series heading to Indiana, the Knicks need a way to open up their offense and it starts with their point guards. Felton, Prigioni and Kidd need to orchestrate the offense in a way that will create better opportunities for their teammates even if that means decreasing the touches of Anthony and Smith when they are guarded by George.
One change that should be made is to increase Iman Shumpert’s involvement. Shumpert was getting checked by a much slower David West in Game 1 and with Shumpert’s athleticism looking like it has returned he should be able to force some defenders to provide help opening up opportunities like they have had all season. Shumpert has been on a role on both ends of the floor and a top contributor to the team going back to the series against Boston.
Injury Report: New York – Out: PF, Amar’e Stoudemire (Knee) Day-to-Day: SF, Steve Novak (Back), SF, Carmelo Anthony (Shoulder), PF, Chris Copeland (Shoulder) Indiana – NONE
Knicks Win If - They can create better opportunities and finish rather than limit themselves to a strict isolation that was overused in Game 1. The Knicks also need to limit the Pacers second chance opportunities which is a challenge due to their size.
Pacers Win If – Paul George continues the defensive impact he had on Anthony and Smith in Game 1 and the Knicks fail to adapt.
Key Matchups - Carmelo Anthony vs. Paul George: Anthony needs to score at a higher efficiency than he has done in recent games. He accounts for a large part of the Knicks offensive output so if he is cold it will cause a chain reaction. The less Pacer defenders need to focus on him the less opportunities the Knicks shooters will have.
Iman Shumpert vs. David West: Shumpert has the advantage in quickness which could help create a big offensive spark for the Knicks. If he can get around West defenders will be forced to provide help opening up looks for the Knicks serving a similar function to letting Anthony operate down low.