The New York Knicks live to see another day. Facing elimination on their home floor, the Knicks put together a buzzer-to-buzzer victory over the Indiana Pacers, squeezing out just enough offense and stingy enough defense to force a Game 6. The Pacers, playing without starting point guard, George Hill, struggled to find offense and combusted with a bevy of crucial turnovers and foul trouble to important players.
After losing their identity over some of the previous games – failed attempts at small-ball, a lack of launching from downtown – the Knicks more-or-less got back to their brand of basketball. It helped, of course, that players actually made shots. Carmelo Anthony led the way with 28 points, hitting from all spots within the arc; Raymond Felton found his stroke on wiggles to the lane and pull-up jumpers in the pick-and-roll; Chris Copeland and J.R. Smith both came through with significant offensive contributions. Late in the game, the fate still very much undecided, the Knicks went cold. However, they turned to their defense, forcing seven fourth quarter turnovers, three in the final two minutes.
Let’s take a look at the individual performances with player report cards.
Carmelo Anthony – 42 minutes, 28 points, 12-28 FG, 6 rebounds, 1 steal, 3 TOs, +6
‘Melo began the game with a renewed accuracy. He kicked things off with a jumper at the elbow off a little curl, and then a pull-up three in transition – a welcomed sight. Earlier in the game, too, he exploited mismatches, posting up the smaller, smothering Paul George, and a few times getting mismatches with David West and Roy Hibbert. As the game went on, Anthony got a little more stationary and a bit colder. However, contrary to previous games, Anthony came up with some huge fourth quarter baskets, mostly on face-ups on the right elbow versus Sam Young and George. If the Knicks are going to win the series, they’re going to need the same level of scoring, plus an increased effort on the glass and defensive end – the latter two were a bit lacking in this one.
Final Grade: B
J.R. Smith – 36 minutes, 13 points, 4-11 FG, 1-4 3FG, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 TOs, +8
It wasn’t a return to form, necessarily, but it was a step in the right direction. For the first time perhaps all series, Smith looked like himself on the floor. There the occasional bouts of over-dribbling, ball-stopping, poor shots, and defensive lapses, but paired with those deficiencies were some canned jumpers, good rebounds, timely forced turnovers, and clutch free throws. With Iman Shumpert in foul trouble and Pablo Prigioni and Jason Kidd contributing little, it was a good time for Smith to step up. And then there’s that whole ‘elimination’ thing, too, so yes, nice timing, J.R.
Final Grade: B-
Chris Copeland – 19 minutes, 13 points, 4-6 FG, 3-4 3FG, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 TOs, +2
Mike Woodson reads Twitter? Calls for the dreadlocked rookie resounded during the team’s anemic offensive performance in Game 4, and he received mostly insubstantial playing time. But speak thy name and he shall get playing time… or something like that. Copeland got minutes to start the second quarter, and when the team turned to him in the second half, he responded. His impact on offense was felt almost immediately as he went to the line or canned three-pointers promptly off the bench. His best sequence came when he chased down DJ Augustin on a two-on-one fastbreak, helped force a Pacers turnover, came back on offense, missed a three. Then, when the Knicks rebounded that miss and shot another three, Copeland scooped up that rebound and put it back in for a layup to the roar of the Garden crowd and his teammates. I think he’ll play Game 6. Just a hunch.
Final Grade: A-
Raymond Felton – 37 minutes, 12 points, 6-14 FG, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, 0 TOs, +7
Facing up against DJ Augustin instead of George Hill surely had an effect on Felton’s solid work in this one, but his accomplishments won’t be taken away. Felton’s offensive attack came in spurts, at times dashing his way to the rim off pick-and-rolls, others pulling up at the foul line extended for jumpers. His penetration makes such a significant difference in the Knicks’ ability to get better looks on offense, one can only hope that he keeps it up. Throw in his superior possession care-taking (zero turnovers) and all the stray passes and dribbles he got his flippers on, and this was a vintage Felton playoff performance.
Final Grade: A
Kenyon Martin- 20 minutes, 7 points, 2-2 FG, 2 rebounds, 1 steal, 2 blocks, +8
Martin’s minutes didn’t pile up too high, but he was forced to play an important role substituting for the oft foul-plagued Chandler. He did a stout job defending Indiana’s bigs, and while his rebounding was a bit shy, he protected the rim about as well as a 6’9″ center can. He finished a few looks around the rim and set some good screens, which was nice of him
Final Grade: C+
Iman Shumpert – 26 minutes, 5 points, 2-10 FG, 1-4 3FG, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 TO, +8
Shumpert saw more pine than usual due to some foul woes, some of which were tick-tacky, others a little more justified on the refs’ parts. Though he looked physically better than Game 4, his stroke was astray, and he committed a few emphasized errors, like going under a screen and leaving Paul George open for a three that connected, cutting the Knicks’ lead down to four midway through the fourth quarter. Whether his poor shooting is a result of an iffy knee is hard to tell, but there’s no more than a day’s rest for the remainder of the series, so he’s going to have to keep contributing on the boards and hopefully pick up his D.
Final Grade: C-
Pablo Prigioni – 18 minutes, 3 points, 1-2 FG, 1 rebound, 3 assists, 1 steal, +3
Prigs, thankfully, saw more than three minutes of action in this one, but he still didn’t play a whole lot. Part of that was his ineffectiveness on the floor, and the other was his own foul troubles. The Pacers’ big lineups don’t suit him well on defense, and there was a whole lot less pick-and-roll action for him in Game 5. It’d be preferable for him to start second quarters with Stoudemire and Martin to try and initiate that pick-and-roll magic.
Final Grade: C+
Tyson Chander – 27 minutes, 2 points, 1-4 FG, 8 rebounds, 1 steal, 2 blocks
It seems that Chandler is OK after a scary fourth quarter fall that had him rolling on the ground in agony. That’s good. Chandler was shaky on offense, failing to finish over the Roy Hibbert’s beanstalk arms. However, his defense neared 2011-12 levels, including some big ole swats at the rim. If not, he just tossed ‘em to the ground like he did to Lance Stephenson on a delusional posterization attempt. Lance, meet floor. Most importantly, Chandler played a big part in denying the Pacers so many offensive rebounds, and in the meantime, came up with some biggies of his own. Now get that back fixed.
Final Grade: B+
Amar’e Stoudemire – 7 minutes, 2 points, 0-0 FG, 2-2 FT, 2 rebounds, 1 TO, +4
Stoudemire’s action was limited to the first half and no one quite knows why. In those seven first half minutes, his offensive attempts turned into free throws and a turnover. As was the case in January, Stoudemire looks to be featured a little too much, and his attempts usually come at the expense of rhythm. Stoudemire is a much better player in rhythm. For now, it really doesn’t feel like he’s had much impact on the games; he’s just kind of out there.
Final Grade: C
Jason Kidd – 5 minutes, 0-1 FG, +2
It seems even Mike Woodson has his limits with Kidd. It’s sad to see, but Kidd’s impact on the game is so diminished that it’s not unreasonable to think he doesn’t deserve minutes on the floor. He hasn’t scored in his his last 160-something minutes, and for the second straight game, blew a fastbreak layup. It kind of saddens me to think that his confidence is so misplaced, but these are important games, and charity minutes can’t be dished out.
Final Grade: C
The Knicks have a day off and will play Game 6 in Indiana.