The New York Knicks season is speeding toward an early conclusion from what Carmelo Anthony and Mike Woodson envisioned after losing again to the Indiana Pacers and falling to a 3-1 deficit in the series on Tuesday night.
Woodson is clearly searching for answers as he tried to go toe-to-toe in the size department with the Pacers but failed. The Knicks continue to struggle in a few key areas, number one being the rebounding department. Adding Kenyon Martin to the lineup didn’t solve the problem as Indiana dominated the boards and once again kept the Knicks from scoring much in the way of fast break points.
Rebounding is normally not a stat that people think will make or break a game, but let’s face it, when you’re shooting 35% from the field, how well you can create second chance opportunities by crashing the glass plays a big part in how well you can put points on the board. This is an area the Knicks have to improve on if their going to stop their season from ending in game five.
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In game four, the Pacers won the rebounding battle 54-36, outscoring New York 36-26 in the paint while allowing them just eleven offensive rebounds. Excluding game two, the Knicks only victory, in which New York pretty much beat Indiana in every statistical category imaginable, the Pacers have dominated the painted area in every way.
On average, the Knicks are being outrebounded by 14 rebounds per game, five per game on the offensive end, consistently giving the Pacers an edge in second chance points. In game three the Knicks scored more than Indiana in the paint, but shot the ball so poorly from everywhere else on the floor, particularly three point range, that they couldn’t manage more than 71 points. In their other two losses, the Knicks have been outscored in the paint by an average of 12 points.
If you watch the Knicks offense, the efforts to rebound are minimal at best. The ball is sticking on Carmelo Anthony again and even when it doesn’t, they generally get very little penetration and instead settle for jump shots. On several occasions on Tuesday night, every player in a blue shirt vacated the area around the rim and took off up the floor instead of boxing out or grappling for rebounds.
New York players say they are confident they can be the ninth team of all time to overcome a 3-1 series deficit, but their body language and pouting over non-foul calls says otherwise. If this team is going to pick itself up by its boot straps and complete an incredible comeback, they are going to have to get ugly and beat Indiana at their own game.
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If the Knicks can’t man up, get in the paint and fight for their lives on the glass, this one is done. They’ll need to get Roy Hibbert in foul trouble by going right at him and they’ll need to get to the line more than 14 times like they did in game four. The Knicks are a team that relies on high percentage shooting from long range, but Indiana is making that hard on them thanks to their defense. The answer for the Knicks is rebounding. It has to be the number one priority. The Pacers offense isn’t very strong and the Knicks defense is pretty good, but it hasn’t held Indiana back. The one thing that will sway things in New York’s favor is boning up on the boards or this series is going to be over without a return trip to Indiana.