The NBA Playoffs are the third or fourth most exciting time of the year for most rabid NBA fans, and it is that way for me as well.
It was a beautiful sunny day here in New York City as I gazed out the window at the various urban flora and fauna. On a day like that, a nice, tall, refreshing glass of red-flavored Kool Aid is sure to do the trick to quench my spring-time thirst.
As I reached into the refrigerator to pull out the sweet red liquid and place the container to my lips, I remembered someone once advising me: "Don't drink the Kool Aid" in regard to prognosticating on the New York Knicks' success in the NBA Playoffs in 2013.
What exactly is in red Kool Aid? Could be cherry-flavored, or strawberry-flavored, but it's always filled with lots of additives and preservatives one would not otherwise ingest if they weren't included in Kool Aid. The concoction is then sweetened to the palate for consumption. It's sometimes refreshing, but often leaves me with a sugar rush and a disastrous sugar crash later on.
Then it struck me! "The Knicks offense is red Kool Aid."
On paper the hoopers in blue and orange shorts are the better team and the more explosive team, and the New York Knicks are supposed to be closer to the Indiana Pacers defensively than the Pacers are to them offensively.
While we're supposing, Tyson Chandler was supposed to neutralize, or at least break even with, Roy Hibbert on the offensive glass and on defense. J.R. Smith should have exploded for at least one 30-point game by now, but he would finish with nine points, one rebound and one assist in the Knicks' 91-82 loss against Indiana.
The Knicks are also supposed to be shooting the three-point shot at a clip closer to their regular-season mark of 37 percent instead of the abysmal 32 percent they're currently shooting in the postseason.
If the Knicks are Kool Aid, then the Pacers have to be freshly squeezed orange juice.
They play a brand of basketball that is delicious to coach Frank Vogel and nutritious for team harmony and on-court camaraderie. They share the ball with reckless abandon and also swap the role of second-half closer among three different players. One night it might be small forward Paul George, another it might be Roy Hibbert. In the Pacers' 93-82 victory over the Knicks it was George Hill who represented in the second half at Bank Life Fieldhouse with 26 points on 9-14 shooting, scoring 12 in the third quarter.
The Knicks in turn didn't get that second-half spark they desperately needed to overcome the 14-point halftime deficit.
Carmelo Anthony started off shooting at a very efficient rate for most of the game, but the seemingly endless wave of Indy defenders eventually took its toll on Melo. He finished with 21 points on 6-16 shooting. With frustration on his face, Anthony would pick up his fifth foul with one minute and 48 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
Though Paul George didn't have an exceptional shooting night (14 points on 4-17 shooting) he continues to show us why he has been the best all-around player in this series and prove his production is not solely predicated upon his shooting touch. He has played great defense on Carmelo Anthony and also grabbed eight rebounds and dished out eight assists in registering what I would call a quasi-triple double. Look for more of the same in Game 5.
There was a Steve Novak citing, but it was likely not an indicator of things to come. He has played a total of eight minutes in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. There was also an Amar'e Stoudemire citing as well, but he still looks like a shadow of his former self on offense (four points, four rebounds) and his timing off as well. STAT stumbled and tripped his way to four fouls in 11 minutes of playing time.
The offensive ineptitude displayed by the Knicks' supporting cast is disappointing and, thanks in part to the "rock 'em, sock 'em" Indiana Pacers' defense, is a primary reason why the Knicks are down 3-1 in this best-of-seven series and facing elimination. New York is getting nothing from J.R. Smith, nothing from Jason Kidd (Hasn't scored in eight games and also has been something of a defensive liability in this series.), nothing from Novak, or anyone sitting close enough to smell coach Mike Woodson's aftershave.
Perhaps more minutes for backup SF Chris Copeland? He's a streaky shooter who can fill it up when he gets going. There are concerns about his defense, however.
Also, if he and Carmelo are on the floor at the same time that likely means Melo will have to play power forward. Though Carmelo is about as muscular as any small forwards not named LeBron James but he is no match on defense for a skilled veteran 4-man like David West.
In addition, defending power forward is an energy drain on the Knicks' only All-Star caliber scorer, and scoring is a primary concern for NY.
I love Carmelo Anthony's game. However, it's one-dimensional. If the shooters aren't knocking down their shots, then it's "Dogpile on Melo" for the Indiana defense once again.
Melo is being Melo, and doing a pretty good job at it while averaging 26 points per game on 40 percent shooting and nearly nine boards per game. Unfortunately, the Knicks can't expect for the league's scoring champion to turn over a new leaf in the middle of the playoffs, can they?
It would be nice to see him with more pinpoint passes out of double-teams or in pick-and-roll situations, but we all know Melo is not a very good passer. He's average at best. That's not to say he cannot pass. He just does not pass (1.5 assists in the Conference Semifinals).
The other Knicks have to score the basketball to keep the Pacers honest, and I don't see that happening.
While we're on the subject of passing, perhaps we'll see more minutes for Pablo Prigioni as well. Jason Kidd is a future Hall of Fame point guard, but Springfield, Massachusetts, is as far away from Indianapolis as Kidd is from finding his jump shot. Somebody else has to get real hot, real fast. If that doesn't happen soon, then it's lights out in the Big Apple until next NBA season.
J.R. Smith was quoted by ESPN.com as saying:
"I have to play more efficient. I have to rebound the ball. One rebound, two rebounds is not enough. Paul George is out there getting 13, 14 rebounds. As a wing player like myself, it's pretty much unacceptable."
Yes, it is pretty much unacceptable for George to be killing on the boards in the manner that he has, but that problem is not all Smith's fault. He is correct in questioning his own level of efficiency, though. With him being off, Indiana can afford to double- and triple-team Carmelo Anthony to their hearts' desire and simply leave Smith to dutifully shoot the Knicks' out of the playoffs, and he has obliged them to this point in the series.
The Pacers appear to have found their shooting touch at Bank Life Fieldhouse during Game 4. That trend cannot continue in Game 5 for obvious reasons.
Knicks win Game 5 by six points.