The Knicks may have won their initial game against the Celtics, but it was in a very ugly manner. The offense was disjointed and the pace slow–in short, they played right into Bostons’ hands. Bostons’ biggest advantage is their ability to muck up the game, use the fewest amount of possessions, and, however cliche is sounds, grind the other team into a pulp. They may have won, but New York allowed the Celtics to do this to them in Game 1. If this type of play continues, the Knicks’ status as favorite in the series will become very tenuous.
The Knicks have been a potent offensive team this season mostly as a result of three things: pick and rolls, spacing, and ball movement. All of these things are deeply interconnected. They’ve developed into a spread pick and rolling, three point bombing attack; ironically what Mike D’Antoni always wanted them to be. At their best, Tyson Chandler is finishing alley-oops or sucking in weakside defenders from the three point line on pick and rolls. At their best, jab-step-hold-the-ball-for-7-seconds-jab-step-again-18-foot-jumper Melo is at a minimum, replaced by the skillful stylings of catch and shoot, pick and roll, and attack Melo. At their best, Jason Kidd and Iman Shumpert are stroking open three pointers after defenders rotate off of them to defend penetration.
The Knicks were not at their best Saturday afternoon.
Last week Zach Harper outlined the term “selfish ball movement.” There are two types of isolations. The good kind: a product of ball movement that makes it nearly impossible to help on the ISOer. The bad kind: when the ISOer brings up the ball and immediately ISOs or the whole goal of the offensive possession is to get the ISOer in possession with no other action. Nobody else moves. No initial pick and roll, no nothing. Anthony has been incredibly successful on these “good” isolations and when he is lured the bad ones, the Knicks offense stagnates.
Against the Celtics there were a hell of a lot of bad ISOs.
Even in the rare instances they did pick and roll, the Knicks were generally unsuccessful. This was largely a function of the immobilized Tyson Chandler, his usually zealous rolls to the hoop nonexistent. But even then, the ball handlers were strangely apathetic, hesitant in attacking the basket post-pick, which idled movement and led to more late in the shot clock, offense suffocating isolations.
Unless New York cleans some things up on the offensive end, this series will not go their way despite the final result they achieved Saturday. Injury hobbling the defense-drawing Chandler aside, going away from literally everything that made the Knicks good during the regular season is, well, dumb, and could lead to a surprisingly quick elimination for the ‘Bockers if they don’t get back to what makes their offense click.
Pick and rolling and getting Melo space to operate off the catch or against on the move defenders will generate better looks for both Melo and his teammates than if they let the Boston defense key in on a predictable ISO.