Friday, March 16, 2012

Indiana Pacers vs. New York Knicks Pre-Game News and Notes March 16th

Friday March 16th 7:30 P.M. ET 
Indiana Pacers vs. New York Knicks 

It is amazing what a win can do for the morale of a team and fan base. After dismantling the struggling Portland Trail Blazers (which led to the firing of their head coach Nate McMillan) the whole vibe surrounding the Knicks is different. After firing head coach Mike D’Antoni, the Knicks played one of their most inspired games of the season leading to a 42 point victory, the largest margin of victory for a coach making his debut. Playing a struggling Blazer team is exactly what the doctor ordered for the Knicks, but the schedule gets tougher right away, starting with the home and home against the Indiana Pacers. 

-Ride the Momentum Wave 
The Knicks should be on quite a high after the impressive showing Wednesday night against the Blazers. The confidence developed in that game by virtually the whole team needs to be carried into tonight’s contest against the Pacers and throughout the rest of the season to give the Knicks a chance to finish the this season out as first envisioned when the season started. 

Getting off to a hot start would also be nice to see as a Knicks fan. The problem throughout the losing streak was the Knicks falling behind big from the start and not being able to climb all the way back. It is only one game, but it was nice to see Woodson not being afraid to sub people, using 10 players in the first quarter alone. 

Holding players accountable for what happens on the court will cause them to play harder because they know playing time is on the line. If they are not performing, they will find themselves sitting next to coach Woodson on the bench. 

-Change in Philosophy 

Mike Woodson promised changes as the head coach, and so far he has come through on his promise. The players looked to be enjoying themselves more, smiling and cheering for each other from the bench and on the court. Woodson and former coach Mike D’Antoni run much different systems so the players need to adapt to the changes and so far seem to be buying in. 

Mike Woodson has made it a point to get Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire more involved in the offense, rightfully so. Anthony and Stoudemire are more than capable of carrying this team on the offensive side of the court. Both are supremely talented and have the ability to score 30 points on any given night. Under Coach Woodson, they should have more chances to do so. 

Mike D’Antoni’s system called for more pick-and-rolls and spacing, but he was never able to have players fully buy in and commit to his system. The system took many players out of their comfort zone, namely Carmelo Anthony who is more comfortable between the block and elbow, not the 3 point line spotting up where D’Antoni wanted him. 

Amar’e Stoudemire thrives in a pick-and-roll system, but he was not the main screener on most occasions; that role fell upon Center Tyson Chandler. This resulted in more deep jump shots, one reason Stoudemire, along with Anthony, is having career low shooting numbers. 

Woodson intends to change that, and expects big things from Anthony and Stoudemire to finish out the season. When in Atlanta, Woodson was known for running a lot of isolation sets, which would put Carmelo Anthony back in his comfort zone. The isolation sets, when used correctly like Wednesday against the Blazers, also are more beneficial for Stoudemire, who thrived knocking down his first 7 shots of the game. 

Another change under Woodson is the substitution pattern, which was one problem many people, including myself, had a problem with about D’Antoni. Woodson is not afraid to use his bench, evident from him using 10 players in the first quarter against the Blazers. It was also nice to see him mix and matching players, so the whole team can develop a rapport with each other, not just the starters with the starters and the 2nd unit with the 2nd unit. 

-Bench Play and Lineup Changes 

For the Knicks to beat the Pacers they need to play a complete game. That means on both offense and defense, and both units. The bench has been a strength of the Knicks recently, and if they look to continue their winning ways they will need to come through in a big way against the Pacers. 

You cannot expect the show like Wednesday against the Blazers in which they shot 19-38 from 3 point land, but bringing energy and consistency is a must. Some players have been struggling because they were not sure of their roles on the team, but Woodson seems to have figured some things out to keep everyone happy. 

There have also been rumblings that “Linsanity” may be coming to an end. For now, Woodson is sticking with Lin as his starting PG, but he has to realize the changes he needs to make in his game. 

Under D’Antoni, Lin was shoot first, attacking PG. In Woodson’s system, he has to be more a facilitator, something Baron Davis has played into perfectly. The PG for Woodson needs to get the ball into the scorer’s (Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire) hands and knock down open shots. Lin has struggled mightily with both recently, and for the Knicks to succeed their PG needs to play well. Look for Jeremy Lin’s minutes and stats to start decreasing more and more throughout the remainder of the season. 

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