Recipes For Success: The Ways The Knicks Can Attack The Celts

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Isolation Plays

Let's start with Carmelo Anthony and the isolation game. The Knicks run a ton of action through him on the elbows, either in high post or isolation situations. This is a series where they should continue to do that. According to Synergy (and my nerd-work), the Knicks scored 0.94 points per possession (PPP) in isolation situations against Boston this season. That's an improvement over their seasonal mark of 0.87, which ranks 5th in the NBA. In simple terms, they were really good in isolation versus the Celtics.

Anthony is one of the best one-on-one players in basketball, scoring 0.92 PPP in isolation situations on the season. When Anthony gets the ball at the elbows, the Knicks offense becomes very dangerous. Either the Celtics leave one of the league's premier scorers in a one-on-one situation on a spot on the court he loves -- Anthony has shot 47% from the right elbow and 45% from the left -- or they bring a double team. If the Celtics double -- and the Knicks would openly invite the Celtics to double -- he kicks the ball out and the Knicks swing it around the perimeter.

Though Paul Pierce and Jeff Green grade out well in defending isolations, I feel quite confident Anthony is going to be able to score. I've noticed a tendency in the prior Knicks-Celtics matchups for the Celtics to switch rather easily. With Melo at the 4 creating mismatches, such as Celtic big man Brandon Bass possibly guarding a perimeter player, the Knicks may be able to get super favorable matchups by simply running Anthony through a screen and then isolating him. The same scenarios I've discussed here apply to Melo in the post-up game. He's very good down there and Boston double teams will again trigger a Melo kick out and open threes.

J.R. Smith has also been a good isolation player this season, scoring 0.89 PPP. The Celtics have been toying with lineups lately, and I think one in particular would really benefit the Knicks. They've been experimenting with bigger lineups in which Paul Pierce playing shooting guard, which conceivably would mean he'd guard Smith. If this happens, the Knicks are at a huge advantage. With Smith's newer diversified offensive game and mindset where he's now attacking the rim in addition to shooting jumpshots, he should have no issues with Pierce guarding him. Pierce is either going to sag off and J.R. will be able to shoot over him, or he'll play tight and J.R. will go right by him.