Time to Run.

Unless the Knicks average height sprouts a few inches over the next 24 hours or so, one thing remains certain entering tomorrow night’s pivotal Game 2 at Madison Square Garden: this has the look of a physical mismatch, advantage Pacers.

Indiana is bigger, stronger and on many levels, tougher, both physically and mentally. That too, probably won’t change throughout the course of this series.

Knicks star Carmelo Anthony is already searching for answers as the Knicks look to bounce back in Game 2 versus Indiana.

Knicks star Carmelo Anthony is already searching for answers as the Knicks look to bounce back in Game 2 versus Indiana.

Quite frankly, the only elixir for Mike Woodson’s squad right now is basketball efficiency. Sure, a Kenyon Martin elbow to someone’s grill might spark something, and perhaps Woodson dusts off Marcus Camby and utilizes his length and 6 fouls at times this series. But the bottom line for the Knicks is this: make shots or go home quickly.

While simple on the surface, it has proven elusive ever since his team recklessly and unnecessarily challenged karma toward the end of their first round victory versus the aging and depleted Celtics.

The Pacers you see, are not the Celtics. They are better. Actually, they are much better.

When the Pacers hit the Garden floor tomorrow night, they will have already swiftly stolen home court advantage from the beleaguered Knicks, and their physical advantage will remain unchanged, meaning Roy Hibbert will still be 7’2″ and David West will still be a rugged, no-nonsense forward.

The “rule of verticality” was referenced several times on Sunday as Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks were consistently swatted backwards. At times, it had the look of a sloppy and lopsided early October tune-up for the bigger and stronger Varsity squad against the frustrated JV.

News flash: that’s how Indiana plays, and the refs know it. The Pacers have quietly earned league-wide respect as a tough-minded team with great defensive principles. They rotate hard. They box out aggressively. They challenge when opponents attack the rim. They contest hard on run-outs. They set solid picks and they fight thru ones that are set against them. There’s a reason why the Pacers were a 3 seed rather than say the 7 or 8 seed.

In fact, they were good enough to have the eventual World Champs on the ropes in last year’s 2nd Round, racing out to a 2-1 series lead before eventually falling prey to the most complete basketball player ever to grace the planet: Mr. James.

This season, the retooled Knicks raced out to an incredible start and finished with a flurry, galvanizing the city and waking up the ghosts from the 90’s. They mattered. After playing well versus Miami and the Spurs during the regular season, and winning late at Oklahoma City, New York was viewed as a legit threat by some to Miami’s throne.

New-York-Knicks-Indiana-Pacers1

The Knicks are dangerous, but the Knicks are volatile and limited. Any time your franchise player lists “making it out of the first round” as a goal, you know things are dicey. Their second best player, J.R. Smith, is quickly morphing back into what we all despised: an unreliable, erratic chucker with zero conscience. (last 3 playoffs games: 3-14 FG, 5-13 FG and 4-15 FG) Their center, though proud and fierce on the defensive end and a leader in the locker room, is a complete zero on the offensive end, creating too many 4-on-5 scenarios. If he doesn’t catch an alley-oop off a pick-and-roll he is a complete non-entity on that end of the floor.

Since it’s the Knicks and Pacers, there’s an underlying narrative that traces back to the fierce battles between Reggie and Starks, the Davis Boys versus Ewing, Oak and Mason. It sounds good, but the 2013 Knicks need to play a completely different brand of basketball, a brand that Pat Riley resisted at every level in the mid-90’s, out of necessity.

Starting tomorrow night, the Knicks need to turn this series into a track meet. While the Pacers are tougher, the Knicks have the edge in the skill department.

If they can’t lace ’em and run for the next 10-15 days, they’ll have plenty of time to walk back to their sports cars and mansions, lamenting a lost opportunity and an abbreviated playoff run that went awry way too early.

Your move, Knicks.

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2 Comments

  1. Chris

     /  05/07/2013

    Great article. I agree 100%. This is the Knicks’ best year to win a championship in the foreseeable future. Next year Derrick Rose will be back, which will make things that much tougher in the east (just look how well his team is playing without him, Deng & Hinrich and an injured Noah). It will truly be a lost opportunity if the Knicks don’t go all the way.

    I always questioned the decision to get J.R. Smith on the team. He’s too inconsistent & takes too many bad shots with his reckless style. Not to mention his immature attitude & how he gets into all sorts of trouble that screws up the team as seen when he got thrown out against Boston. If the Knicks don’t make it to the next round, I think there’s a decent chance they will trade Smith (I believe his contract is up next year).

    Chandler is great defensively & in picking up offensive rebounds, but he’s being underutilized as BT said. He can be such an offensive presence if Woodson would’ve gotten him to be a direct factor in the team’s offense. He doesn’t have the girth that Shaq had, but I doubt he couldn’t be utilized in a similar fashion with his size & height. The only thing is, getting him to tweak his game this late in the season is pretty much impossible. If it happens, I think it will have to be next season.

    The players I’ve been impressed with the most, at least against Boston, are Shumpert & Felton. I was very enthusiastic about Shumpert’s return from his injury but never expected him to bee back in form as soon as he did. And Felton has been a work horse with his energy & ability to drive the ball through the paint (in addition to his passes as point guard) which the rest of the team needs to do as well instead of shooting all the time because when they’re cold doing that is a sure way to guarantee a loss. And their shooting has been pretty cold lately.

    Anyway the series is definitely winnable but the Knicks must win the next match or else they will certainly be eliminated. This team is good enough to win, they just need to dispose of their bad habits. What I especially hate is how they’re seemingly overlooking Indiana like they did with Boston in Game 5 when they wore the funeral attire. That was not the mindset that won all those games in the regular season.

    I’ll address this to the Knicks: It’s been 40 years since our last championship (I wasn’t even alive when we last won it), so don’t keep your fans waiting any longer for the next one.

  1. Time to Run. - Real Sports for Real Sports Fans

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