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Saturday, May 04, 2013

Indiana Versus New York Preview

Eastern Conference Second Round

#3 Indiana (49-32) vs. #2 New York (54-28)

Season series: Tied, 2-2

New York can win if…the Knicks shoot a high percentage from three point range, keep their turnover rate low and avoid making knucklehead moves on and off the court.

Indiana will win because…the Pacers are a suffocating defensive team that will force the Knicks out of their comfort zone. The Boston Celtics had a good game plan against the Knicks but they lacked the young legs necessary to execute that game plan over the course of a seven game series; the Pacers are well stocked with young, talented players.

Other things to consider: Much like a boxer who "carries" an inferior opponent instead of knocking him out, the Knicks buried the Celtics into a 3-0 hole but--after a series of knucklehead moves on and off the court--the Knicks then dropped two games before barely holding to victory in game six to close out the series. Give the Celtics credit for fighting hard and for being well coached but the Knicks showed signs of reverting back to some lamentable habits: sloppy offensive execution punctuated by low percentage shots or turnovers, indifferent transition defense and collective immaturity (including J.R. Smith's flagrant foul that cost him a one game suspension and the Knicks wearing ludicrious "funeral" outfits prior to losing game five).

Is it possible to win a championship with a roster that includes three players with knucklehead tendencies? You never know when Carmelo Anthony is going to start trying to drill holes in the hardwood while dribbling the basketball as his teammates watch helplessly, J.R. Smith can shoot either team into/out of the game and Kenyon Martin provides defense/physicality but he can also provide momentum for the opposing team with ill-timed fouls/silly plays. Anthony shot often (26.7 FGA/game) versus the Celtics but he did not shoot accurately (.381 FG%, .265 3FG%). He averaged 5.3 rpg--subpar for a small forward, let alone a power forward (the position he now plays in New York's small lineup)--and 1.8 apg and he played his usual indifferent defense; he can be a deadly--at time unstoppable--scorer but his individual statistics and lack of team success in the playoffs throughout his career show that he is not really an elite player, regardless of how much he is hyped up by the media.

Indiana's frontcourt of center Roy Hibbert, power forward David West and small forward Paul George matches up very well with New York's frontcourt of center Tyson Chandler, power forward Carmelo Anthony and small forward Iman Shumpert; the Pacers have great size, length, versatility and toughness.

This should be a very competitive, hard fought series and the Knicks certainly have enough talent to win but the way that they concluded the Boston series hardly inspires confidence that they are primed for a long playoff run.

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posted by David Friedman @ 5:40 PM

10 comments

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10 Comments:

At Saturday, May 04, 2013 6:15:00 PM, Anonymous DanielSong39 said...

Picking New York here. New York is in good form and is the more talented squad.

Miami Heat won the championship with three knuckleheads so I'm not worried about the "knucklehead" factor.

 
At Saturday, May 04, 2013 6:37:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Daniel Song 39:

I have made it very clear that I disagree with how LeBron James handled the "Decision" and with his mental approach in the 2010 and 2011 playoffs but he is not a knucklehead the way that Melo, Martin and Smith are--not even close. Likewise for Wade and Bosh--you are free to root for or against them but they are not knuckleheads. When I think of Melo I think of a guy jacking up bad shots, overdribbling the ball and throwing a punch before backpedaling faster than a Michael Jackson moonwalk; I don't think that NBA players should fight but if Melo felt strongly enough to throw a punch then he should have stood his ground--don't run away like a scared little kid.

 
At Saturday, May 04, 2013 7:14:00 PM, Anonymous AW said...

I do consider Melo to be an top player. Looking back at Melo's playoff career, his teams weren't serious title contenders. They were not bad, but not true contenders really. It's one thing for a team to underachieve badly and it's another to repeatedly lose to better teams.

If Melo isn't in your top six at least, who is besides LeBron, Durant, kobe, Dwight?

 
At Saturday, May 04, 2013 8:25:00 PM, Anonymous 3xAmazing said...

RE: Melo running like a scared girl.

I'm glad I'm not the only one who remembers this. I still can't get the taste out of my mouth after watching that.

Always enjoy checking your site, David.

 
At Saturday, May 04, 2013 10:17:00 PM, Blogger Awet M said...

It's quite a stretch to call Carmelo Anthony a knucklehead, because that's a term you reserve for players like Dennis Rodman or Ron Artest, and in the Knicks' case, J. R. Smith. I believe you can win the title with at the most one knucklehead, provided that you have a locker room full of strong willed individuals the knucklehead can respect. OTOH the knucklehead brings an X factor the disciplined players don't (Stephen Jackson on the 2003 Spurs, for instance).

Anthony just doesn't have the leadership skills of a LBJ or Bryant, but that doesn't automatically mean he's a knucklehead.

I picked the Knicks to win in 7 because the Pacers, while physical and skilled, cannot keep up if the Knicks go on a 3 point barrage.

 
At Saturday, May 04, 2013 11:04:00 PM, Anonymous st said...

David,

What about how the Pacers performed in games 3 and 4 away from home against the Hawks. Don't you think it showed that the Pacers lack a bit of leadership which the Knicks have in Kidd and Chandler?

What's your opinion of Vogel as a coach? If a game is close with a few minutes to go, which coach is more reliable in making good decisions out of timeouts? Personally, I think Woodson is a better coach than Vogel.

 
At Sunday, May 05, 2013 4:11:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Aw:

As I have documented in numerous articles, Melo has not consistently performed at an elite level in the regular season or--especially--in the playoffs. This has nothing to do with whether or not his teams were legit contenders.

In my recent NBA Awards article I placed Melo on the All-NBA Second Team. This was arguably the best season of his career and he still was not a top five player in my estimation. In previous seasons he was not even a top 10 player.

 
At Sunday, May 05, 2013 4:14:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

3X Amazing:

I have a long memory--and that image is also hard to forget. Melo did the wanna be tough guy act again this season when he waited for KG at the Celtics' bus after a game.

 
At Sunday, May 05, 2013 4:17:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Awet M:

It's not a stretch at all. Melo regularly takes bad shots, overdribbles and displays defensive indifference. At least Rodman and Artest proved that they could be important members of a championship team, something that Melo has not done at the NBA level.

The Knicks certainly are capable of winning the series; they have home court advantage and the more talented team--but I don't trust them against a mentally tough team that has young enough legs to keep up with them. If the Pacers can avoid--or at least shorten--their offensive droughts then they will win this series.

 
At Sunday, May 05, 2013 4:24:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

St:

Indiana's performances in games three and four were not impressive but they bounced back with wins in games five and six.

I think that Kidd had great influence early in the season when he was still playing effectively but the sad reality is that as a player's skills decline his teammates are less apt to follow his lead. Scottie Pippen had a lot of wisdom to offer the young Bulls in his final season but he was not healthy enough to get on the court very often and thus I think that the younger guys did not listen to him as much as they should have. Kidd is one of my favorite players but he seems to be running out of gas physically and it probably is not coincidental that the Knicks' knucklehead tendencies are reemerging as Kidd's role is reduced.

Chandler sets a good example with his professionalism but I am not sure how much direct influence he has on Melo and Smith; if Kidd were on the court and playing effectively then he could make sure that Melo gets the ball in his sweet spots, thus making it less likely that Melo will go into full blown dribble isolation mode.

Woodson has a more extensive track record than Vogel but I think that they are both very good coaches.

 

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