By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Carmelo Anthony said after the win that he "wanted to get off to a good start, to take make things easier for everybody else." He started off 4-for-4 from the field and it looked like he might carry his team to the win, regardless of how his teammates produced. But when his shot stopped falling, things got tricky; he shot 2-for-11 for the rest of the first half and at times, the offense stalled.
The Knicks are so talented offensively that they can score in isolation, but everyone knows that moving the ball makes the defense work harder and often leads to open looks. With gifted 1-on-1 scorers like Melo and J.R. Smith, a smart gameplan can take advantage of such matchups. But against the Celtics, whose help-side defense is rarely out of position, doing so puts a lot of pressure on the individual by asking them to beat not one, but often two or three people off the dribble.
On Saturday, the Knicks had only 13 assists as a team; they averaged over 19 a game during the regular season. While the Knicks scored enough to win, their 85 points were well below their season average (100 points per game) and they only shot 40.5% from the floor. As Doc Rivers said after the game, if you told him those would be the numbers, he'd have been optimistic about his team's chances.
The Knicks had only seven secondary assists -- also known as "hockey assists" or the pass that leads to the pass that leads to the score -- and those are the ones that I believe can make life easier in Game 2. Even though they possess some favorable matchups, especially on the wings, the offense could be far more efficient by maximizing their collective abilities, rather than trying to win the game with individual talent.
J.R Smith said after the game that "everybody pretty much know that we're going to Melo, but we have to make everybody else at least look like a threat." This is the key for Game 2. Melo can score 36 and they can even get away with him shooting it 30 times, but simply swinging the ball around the perimeter and having others touch it will open things up.
Smith noted that Boston frequently sent two or even three guys to blitz the pick-and-roll, a tactic they might not have used if they felt vulnerable to quick ball movement. The solution? Easy passes to open guys to get everybody into a rhythm.
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