Whether it be because of our inane propensity to jump to absolute conclusions the second anything happens or just our insatiable need for instant reaction, we tend to overreact to the things that happen in game one of a series. The seven game system is designed to be one that eliminates single game outliers and puts heavy emphasis on sustained trends and strategic adjustments and counter adjustments, and yet we cannot help ourselves from making sweeping proclamations crowning or damning teams based solely off one game. I am just as guilty as the rest, as it is sometimes difficult to mitigate your reaction and opinion of where the series will go when one game is all you have to consider.
So in an effort to avoid that reactionary analysis, I am going to analyze these first four game ones of the second round in the context of what is likely to be a sustained trend throughout the series and what was merely a single game outlier. The caveat, as always with prognostication (even a cautious one such as this), is stuff happens and what I might consider to be an outlier may turn out to be quite the opposite and vice versa. With that in mind here’s outliers and trends for Knicks Pacers.
- The DJ Augustin Game-
DJ Augustin belongs to the exclusive club of players whose only NBA level skill is creating jump shots that they constantly miss, the proverbial “shooters who can’t shoot” club (the most esteemed member of which is the great Michael Beasley). That said he has helped out Indiana this postseason as even the half threat of a three point jump shot is needed on a team that has a frightening lack of it.
But he is shooting 35 percent from three for the season and even though it has gone up to 38 percent in the playoffs, the odds of him actually going 4 of 5 again are not very good. Even if his now steady three point shooting continues, he is not going to get to the rim like he did in this game or draw four free throw attempts again. However, while his production will likely not be repeated, New York has to at least pay attention to him now and not guard him like he is Josh Smith behind the line, like JR Smith and Kenyon Martin did here.
- Tyson Chandler’s terrible, no good, bad game-
Tyson Chandler played one of the worst games I have seen from him in a very long time and I am going to be optimistic and chalk up the catalyst of this performance to being an outlier and not the injury that seems to be nagging him throughout these playoffs. Hibbert absolutely destroyed him in the post but that had much more to do with Hibbert’s aggressive play than Chandler’s defense (we’ll get to that a little later).
No, what was so bad about Chandler’s game was his terrible positioning and inability to set good screens in the pick and roll. The Knicks did a good job of getting Melo the ball in the post when the smaller Paul George was guarding him, but multiple times Chandler screwed up the possession by lagging at the perimeter and letting Hibbert have free reign to help on Melo.
Additionally, the usual bone jarring screens and train-like rim rolling that Chandler is so good at lacked all energy and purpose. Pay attention to how Chandler sets the screen for Felton, and how easily George Hill bypasses them.
- New York’s lack of three point attempts
The Knicks took 19 threes in game one which, if you adjust for pace, is over five less threes than what they averaged during the regular season. The Pacers do a very good job of keeping teams off the three point line so they do deserve credit for the Knicks lack of attempts but, watching the game, New York failed to take advantage of the packing the paint approach that Indiana took all game. Out of the post Carmelo Anthony was getting swarmed by Indiana’s strong-side defense and there were many opportunities to swing the ball to weak side shooters that he just missed.
This is one example where a pass to Prigs or Shumpert could have created a much better look. All season the Knicks have been one of the better teams at the “hockey assist” and swinging the ball around the perimeter. Instead of putting the ball in the hands of three above 36 percent three point shooters, Melo went with the contested layup that ended up being blocked by Hibbert. This is something that has been engrained in the Knicks offensive DNA all season and will likely get righted by game two.
- Inability to guard David West-
This was a matchup problem that you could see coming from a mile away, there is literally no one on the Knicks who has the ability to defend West. The Knicks can’t afford to have Carmelo Anthony in foul trouble (and frankly he doesn’t have the defensive prowess to guard West anyway) and Kenyon Martin probably couldn’t have guarded West five years ago, much less now. West had 20 points on 8 of 15 shooting in game one and honestly the Knicks were lucky that it didn’t get worse than that.
The West mismatch has resounding effects on the series, the biggest of which being Melo having to move from his most effective position at the four to the much less effective three when West is on the floor in big lineups. There Melo is forced to guard Paul George, a prospect George most likely relishes, and on the flip side Melo is now guarded by George, someone he has trouble taking off the dribble (he has tried posting him up but as stated before, Hibbert has been excellent with his help in those situations).
- Roy Hibbert staying tall (and really good at defense)
Hibbert has had a very rocky year to say the least with his offense and his overall aggressiveness on offense waxes and wanes from week to week. One constant, however, was his defense as he was the linchpin of the top ranked defense in the league. He built himself a bunker in the paint and camped out there on pick and rolls and post ups, just waiting for a Knick to be brave enough to take the ball right at him. When Carmelo was posting up smaller defenders, Hibbert was right there to defend his spin move and send his shot careening back to earth. When JR Smith attacked in the pick and roll, Hibbert calmly took a giant step back, kept his feet planted, and blocked out the sun with his outstretched hands as Smith was forced to throw his layups up blindly.
This is the Knicks shot chart when Hibbert was on the court, and that swath of blood around the rim is all because of him.
Both Hibbert and West are likely going to remain huge problems for both the Knicks’ offense and defense and now even DJ Augustin has turned into a pestering nuisance. New York is going to have to hope Carmelo can string together enough high scoring (and even more importantly, highly efficient) games and that Tyson Chandler either breaks out of this funk or recovers from this injury if they want to even have a shot at winning this series.