Apr 14, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks small forward Chris Copeland (14) and point guard Raymond Felton (2) during the fourth quarter against the Indiana Pacers at Madison Square Garden. Knicks won 90-80. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
As the New York Knicks approach playoff time and face the Boston Celtics in the first round on Saturday, I feel its important to discuss what they must do to avoid a playoff disappointment. I think everyone would agree with me that the past two playoffs have been an utter disappointment with a 4-0 sweep by the Boston Celtics in the first round in 2011 and a 4-1 defeat by the Miami Heat in 2012.
And so this year I consider anything short of the conference finals a disappointment. Knicks fans have been invested in the STAT/Melo era for three years now – we expect greatness and so far we have received low results come playoff time. With a deep bench and overall the best team is years, this is the year that the core of Melo, Tyson, Chandler and Raymond Felton can win it all.
Now what factors will contribute to a playoff disappointment:
First thing that comes to mind is the prevalence of injuries. The Knicks in the past two playoffs have had a high tendency to get hurt. Against the Celtics, Chauncey Billups missed a couple games with a strained left knee, and Amar’e Stoudemire missed many games with a pulled muscle in his back. These were crucial pieces of a Knicks team that was so thin on the bench. When Jared Jeffries is the replacement for Amar’e you know that the Knicks are in trouble.
And then last year’s playoffs against the Heat, Iman Shumpert a key perimeter defender went down in Game 2 with a torn ACL., and Baron Davis, who was the only point guard with Jeremy Lin out, also went down with a devastating injury. So back to the upcoming series against the Celtics. We need Melo, Chandler, Jason Kidd, and Kenyon Martin, all who have been dealing with injuries this season to stay healthy if we want to win.
2. Not sustaining their leads
The Heat with their fast style of play and LeBron James running the fast break can go on a run very quickly. They can wipe away a deficit in a couple possessions. So when the Knicks are up eight or 10 points, they have to slow the game down to prevent a Heat comeback.
Apr 7, 2013; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; New York Knicks center Tyson Chandler (6) dunks the ball against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the first half at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
3. Technical fouls
The Knicks are third in the league in most technical fouls per game – Melo (14), J.R. Smith (13), Chandler (10). They need to stay under control in crucial situations especially during the playoffs. When they play rattled and argue with refs, they play their worst basketball. When Melo and Smith play with a chip on their shoulder they start to isolate, not help out on defense, and they don’t hustle. Woodson has to try his best to keep Smith and Melo under control. At least Rasheed Wallace, the career leader in technical fouls, just retired so Woodson won’t have to worry about him.
4. Bad three-point shooting
The Knicks led the year this league in three-pointers made (891) and three-poinnters attempted (2371), and are fourth in the league at 38 percent. This just proves the Knicks reliance on the three pointers. Their offense facilitates through ball movement around the three-point line, its how the Knicks space the floor and give Melo the opportunity to go to work. If the Knicks can’t hit their three’s like last playoffs against the Heat where they shot 27 percent, they will be in big trouble.
Apr 14, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony (7) shoots a free throw during the first quarter against the Indiana Pacers at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
5. Melo doesn’t play like Melo
Teams are going to throw him all sorts of double teams because when it comes to the playoffs, they are not going to let Melo drop 50 like he did multiple times in the regular season. He’s got to play the smartest basketball of his life now, know when he needs to dish and know when he needs to go to work. The first-time NBA scoring champion needs to play basketball at his highest level possible and if he doesn’t, the Knicks wont make it out of the second round.