One player in particular who needs to step up is Tyson Chandler, who, due to injury and illness, hasn't been the All-Star center we know him as so far in the postseason.
While Chandler's poor play is understandable, at this point, the Knicks need him to step up and raise his game. The season is on the line, and they won't survive without their defensive anchor playing at his best.
So far in the playoffs, Chandler is averaging only six points and 7.5 rebounds per game. And, at times, Mike Woodson has had to defer to Kenyon Martin at center in crunch time. While Martin is a great defender, his lack of height puts him at a disadvantage when defending the rim.
Roy Hibbert has been having a fantastic series to this point, contributing on both ends of the floor with his shot-blocking and improved post game. Chandler is the only player who has the height to shut down Hibbert, and he'll need to do that over the course of the next two games.
The Pacers offense really isn't all that great, but if Chandler returns to his Defensive Player of the Year form, the Knicks should continue to hold the Pacers to a reasonable total in the remaining two games.
New York's real problem this series has come on the offensive end. Though he's one of the team's most limited offensive players, Chandler has a big role to play on that end of the floor.
He can't shoot and has no go-to post moves, but Chandler's work in the pick-and-roll and off lob passes with Raymond Felton has made him a dangerous part of the offense. Chandler brings what Erik Spoelstra likes to call "vertical spacing," which gives him the opportunity to go up and get easy baskets if he sets a good screen and the defense focuses on Felton.
While Chandler averaged only 10.8 points in the regular season, his work in the pick-and-roll helped Felton to penetrate and forced defenses to collapse, which really opened things up for this three-point-heavy offense.
The offense as a whole just hasn't been the same this postseason, and in order to regain form, it will need Chandler to do his work in the pick-and-roll.
More important to the offense, however, is Chandler's rebounding. He grabbed 4.1 offensive boards per game in the regular season, consistently giving his shooters second chances. His patented tip-out was huge for keeping plays alive, and it's very tough to stop a team as talented as the Knicks in two straight possessions.
If Chandler is healthy enough to play major minutes, he'll need to make bigger contributions in every category. He needs to score more, rebound more and defend the rim a lot better if the Knicks are to make it to the conference finals.
Let's not forget, this is a player making $14 million per year, and his postseason play hasn't been worthy of that big a contract. When you're a relatively one-dimensional player like Chandler is, you need to do the few things that you do perfectly, but he hasn't been doing that so far.
Chandler has a ring for a reason, and a player with his passion for the game is bound to get back on track at some point. But with the Knicks on the verge of elimination, it's now or never for Chandler to get going.
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