Assorted Knicks Thoughts After a Maximally Discouraging Game 4

Brian Spurlock

A few notes and links left over from a sad night of basketball.

Good day. I, like many of you, am feeling sorta numb after the Knicks utterly blew a chance to tie their series last night in Indiana. It was hard to watch Mike Woodson steer away from logic and just as hard to watch his players perform so fecklessly. Brilliant adjustments might have compensated for faulty execution and vice versa, but instead, everyone just made everyone else look bad. The Knicks buckled in a crucial game, and now it's hard to imagine them even testing the Pacers, let alone coming back to win the series. Of course, we'll be watching either way. In the meantime, here are some things on my mind. I have no Point To Make, just lots of loose thoughts:

- This whole series has been an interesting emotional experience for me. After the first-round win, I typed about how watching the Knicks finally upend the Celtics was unlike anything I'd experienced as an adult sports fan. Overall, that series drove me nuts. Every game but Game 4 (a loss, but one that didn't bother me because I was stupid) left me with at least a headache, culminating in the full-body euphoria-terror seizure in the closing moments of Game 6. By contrast, each of these three losses to Indiana has left me feeling pretty empty and even the Game 2 win didn't thrill me like anything from the Celtics series. I haven't even felt that nervous going into any of these games. I'm not sure why any of this is the case. Is it because I hate those Celtics way more than I hate these Pacers (I do)? Is it because it felt like the Knicks really should beat the Celtics and it feels increasingly like the Pacers are just the better team in this series? Is it just chronology-- this is the hangover from the excitement of the first round, and said hangover started with a loss instead of a win? I don't know. I have some sense of it from the comment sections, but I'm curious to hear how y'all would describe your feelings during this series compared to those of the Celtics series.

- After spending last night baffled at Mike Woodson's decision to emulate the Pacers and "go big"-- I really liked tanman5's analogy for this error-- I reflected this morning on how the Knicks' now-familiar and highly successful small lineups came to be. Jason Kidd starting at the two with Ronnie Brewer at the three and Carmelo Anthony at the four came as a surprise in the preseason. Woodson might not have started Melo at the four and two point guards in the backcourt if Iman Shumpert and Amar'e Stoudemire were healthy to start the season. I'm fairly certain he wouldn't have. Shit, he might not have started the season small if Hurricane Sandy hadn't made Miami the first opponent of the season. Some other moves-- like starting Pablo Prigioni and giving minutes to crazy-small lineups with Chris Copeland as a "big"-- were forced by injuries to Tyson Chandler and Kurt Thomas (on top of preexisting big man injuries). Even just looking at the current match-up, Woodson sent a rotation with 14 minutes of Solomon Jones and zero other true big men up against the Pacers in April and beat them pretty soundly...but Jones was the only big man available that day. Woodson has succeeded this season by defying stereotypes and ordering his Knicks to play some downright progressive basketball. His hand was forced by injury, though, and it almost makes me wish his hand were also forced right now. I don't want anyone to be hurt, but I don't want Woodson to have the option to play these traditional lineups, to out-Pacer the Pacers. I've come to like Woodson better when he's MacGyvering with a dearth of resources than when he's working with a full toolbox.

- Like, seriously: How could Pablo Prigioni-- this guy-- play only three minutes last night? How is this possible?

- I made a special note of Jason Kidd's one missed three last night, because it was special. J.R. Smith's been missing, and that sucks. Kidd is shooting to miss, though. His confidence is completely withered. It's nuts. On that one three-point miss, I swear his legs started racing in to fight for the rebound before his hands even released the shot.

- I neglected to mention in my recap that the Pacers had six turnovers in the first eight minutes, then six more in the remaining 40 minutes. This game could have been a massive blowout if Indiana hadn't been punting away possessions in the early going (a phenomenon that occurred in part because of occasional successful Knick traps, in part because they were just throwing awful passes).

- An excerpt from my notes last night:

sending double on mahinmi why, double again on west give up weak side thre,double off augustin gie up three, STILL DOUBLIGN WITH HIBBERT OUT WHYY,

I don't really understand why the Knicks kept sending those sissy doubles at Roy Hibbert/David West and I DEFINITELY don't understand why they stuck with that strategy when Ian Mahinmi is the target in question. I get the basis of that approach, but I think Woodson's charges have made it clear that they're not going to double properly (HARD, and so the big man can't face the floor) or rotate promptly enough to the weak side, so it might be time to stop asking that of them. This has been said before, but when the personnel aren't up to snuff, it's best to just keep things simple on defense. (Incidentally, I have kept all my typo-ridden, stream-of-consciousness notes from these playoffs in one massive document. It's kinda scary to go back and read.)

- George Hill torched Raymond Felton last night whether or not Felton went under screens. I didn't even think Felton's defense was that bad.

- I've mentioned this a couple times on Twitter, but it's been funny to watch Woodson leave objects of clamor like Chris Copeland and Steve Novak on the bench for long stretches, only to bring them in when the game is out of hand.

- Poor James Dolan. I mean, not POOR James Dolan, but ya know...

- Tom Ziller's J.R. Smith thing is...well, it's something. What a guy, that J.R.

- The Pacers are not just a great defensive team; they're practically designed to dismantle the Knicks offense. There's more to 3-1 than that, but I can't ignore it. Chris Herring summed a lot of that up well here.

Practice is wrapping up right now, so look for some updates later.

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