How the Knicks can bounce back
by Sean Highkin, USA TODAY Sports
The second round of the playoffs did not start off as planned for the New York Knicks. They were outworked at both ends of the floor by the Indiana Pacers, ultimately losing 102-95.
There are many things that could be blamed for this. As USA TODAY Sports’ Sam Amick wrote Sunday, Carmelo Anthony had an extremely poor shooting night. So did J.R. Smith. Roy Hibbert was a brick wall in the paint, denying the Knicks at the rim from beginning to end.
However, one thing stands above the rest as something the Knicks will have to correct.
It’s difficult to win a playoff game while being outrebounded by 20.
The Pacers, led by Hibbert, Lance Stephenson and George Hill, won the battle of the boards 44-24. Anthony collected 11 rebounds, but no other Knick had more than five. Starting center Tyson Chandler had three. Bench enforcer Kenyon Martin, whose primary responsibility is rebounding, had two.
Make no mistake: despite this series-opening loss at home, the Knicks are certainly talented enough to beat the Pacers. When Anthony and Chandler run the pick-and-roll, New York’s offense is very difficult to stop. The Pacers have the toughest defense in the NBA, and Hibbert and Paul George did an outstanding job denying Anthony of the shots he likes best.
Figuring out a way around Indiana’s lockdown defense is the ultimate key to the Knicks winning this series. A start will be staying competitive on the glass. Judging from Sunday’s performance, they have a long way to go before they get there.
KD goes off: Slowly but surely, Kevin Durant is adjusting to being the focal point of an offense without Russell Westbrook. The Oklahoma City Thunder were outplayed for much of Sunday’s game by the Memphis Grizzlies, but Durant’s 35 points and a game-winning floater with 11 seconds remaining sealed a 93-91 series-opening victory.
LeBron’s big day: To the surprise of absolutely no one, LeBron James won his fourth MVP award on Sunday. He came within one vote of becoming the first-ever unanimous MVP selection (we still don’t know where the lone vote for Carmelo … [For more on Playoff Putbacks: How the Knicks can bounce back, click here.]