In a first round series where neither team has reached the century mark in five games, offensive adjustments are especially important heading into another elimination contest. There’s no doubt that the Knicks own the more potent offense in this matchup but Boston is a masterful defensive unit with a knack of suffocating opposing stars.
Through the first three games, the Celtics seemed to float multiple defenders at Carmelo Anthony while fronting him on the initial entry pass into the post. Boston placed Brandon Bass on Anthony in games 4 and 5, which resulted in victories for the No. 7 seed. Bass has a big frame to defend Anthony in the post and when he does not front early in the possession, Anthony tends to see an opening to work in isolation. When this occurs, the Celtics will send long defenders to double team whether it’s Jeff Green or Kevin Garnett.
The Knicks may look to execute some 4-5 pick-and-rolls with Anthony and Tyson Chandler and/or Kenyon Martin. This will generate movement for Anthony to attack the paint or find open space for a jumper near his sweet spot. Additionally, Anthony can attract the defenders to him like magnets and then ship out passes around the perimeter to open shooters. Avoiding contested shots from downtown will certainly help New York as it only connected on 5-of-22 3-pointers in the Game 5 defeat. Rub screens, deep post position and off ball movement are all options to get Anthony going again as well.
Speaking of pick-and-roll sets, expect a heavy dose of Raymond Felton after another solid playoff outing. Felton has damaged the Celtics defensive front in a multitude of ways, primarily through high screens near the arc where he can blast past Boston’s bigs.
Another aspect to watch is the tempo in Game 6. Head coach Mike Woodson, Jason Kidd, and Felton all expressed the importance of initiating the offense earlier in the shot clock. The Knicks will not necessarily become a fast break squad but they are focused on controlling the game through their floor generals – Felton and Pablo Prigioni.
Felton reiterated this point, “We have to move the ball better, push the pace, and just go back to the way we were playing in the first 3 games.” He added, “I will just continue to be aggressive, continue to get in the paint and get easy baskets for my teammates and myself.”