How the New York Knicks Can Put Down Upstart Celtics Once and for All

Mike BenjaminContributor IMay 2, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 01:  J.R. Smith #8 of the New York Knicks reacts to a foul call against him verses the Boston Celtics during Game five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on May 1, 2013 in New York City.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

Roughly 20,000 people silently marched out of Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night.

The bodies poured into New York's endless railways and yellow cabs, settling in for what would be a long ride back to tight apartments and suburban cul-de-sacs. Chins rested on chests while eyes searched the concrete walkway for minimal glimmers of hope, for some simple reminder that their team was still the best team.

The Garden party was halted by the proud veteran club from New England. The gritty bruisers from Beantown played a perfect road game, with vintage efforts from Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry and The Truth (Paul Pierce), burying the prideful Knicks players in their own funeral garb.

Alas. Thursday May 2nd, the day following Game 5, would not be a day spent reenacting the Patrick Ewing ice slam over Alonzo Mourning from the Knicks' last series-clinching win or measuring this Knicks team against others in this franchise's glorious history.

Instead, only one adjective exists to describe the New York Knicks: Comatose.

Today, as the most aggressive Knicks fans pin "Friday May 3rd" to Pinterest accounts and microwave calendars, we too take a close reading of the suddenly tight Round 1 series.

How can the Knicks triumph over the upstart Boston Celtics once and for all? Do the Knicks have the ingenuity to win one of the next two games and dam the trail of tears currently puddling around New York City?

There's no reason for Knicks fans to hang on suicide watch. Carmelo Anthony is still the best player in the series, and he still wears New York's trademark orange and blue. Carmelo led the NBA in scoring for the first time in his career, and led all playoff scorers heading into Game 5.

To help Melo score more efficiently, however, the Knicks should place him in more pick-and-roll sets. Huffington Post street safety scribe and New York Times hoops writer Beckley Mason put it this way: Carmelo Anthony is the best scorer in the league when his team works the pick-and-roll offense.

Repeat: The Best.

When orchestrating as the pick-and-roll ball handler, Carmelo scores 1.12 points per possession, per Synergy Sports. Comparatively, when thrust into the roll man role, Carmelo’s scoring average jumps to 1.37 points per possession. Combined, this 1.12 points per possession average leads all NBA scorers.

So, why do the Knicks run so much Melo-isolation in game situations? Is Carmelo still uncomfortable with pick-and-roll offense?

According to the Synergy Sports numbers, Carmelo actually turns the ball over less in those scenarios (8.3 percent vs. 9.0 percent), so that can’t be it. The Knicks can’t afford to play basic ball against smart teams like Boston, as they now know how to load up against Carmelo. 

Similarly, there's a reason J.R. Smith was named the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year. All year, J.R. has been the Robin to Carmelo's Batman for Gotham City, averaging career highs in games played (80), points (18.1) and win shares (6.7).

Despite this, most knew J.R. would shoot New York out of at least one playoff game, based on his mercurial history. Heck, even Boston native Bill Simmons echoed as much over at Grantland. With 10 straight missed shots en route to a putrid 3-of-14 shooting night, you can argue Game 5 as the quintessential J.R. Smith bad game.

Lastly, David Stern can no longer send referee Joey Crawford to grandstand. The Game 5 whistle was more one-sided than a presidential nomination convention.

To be honest, it's good to see the Knicks afraid.

Pride led the Knicks to celebrate premature playoff death in an embarrassingly heinous fashion, despite having veterans with hours of playoff experience at their disposal. Pride led J.R. Smith to disavow knowledge of Jason Terry, Game 4's hero and one of the NBA's irrationally confident gunners. Bad pride gave the Knicks that Game 5 loss, but good pride will make them show up for Game 6.

The recipe for postseason success is simple for New York: Don't force feed your forward, brace for the inevitable J.R. Smith fiasco and pray for the good whistle. 

And of course, learn from your mistakes. Let the fear of loss cast out all hubris.