By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Not unrelated to the matchup dynamic that we just discussed has been the Knicks’ ability to force Indiana into committing turnovers. They have 37 through the first two games.
In sharp contrast to the way they like to defend, the Pacers have proven to be vulnerable to pressure. They are a team that depends heavily on their starting unit, and yet none of them are particularly skilled decision-makers on the fly.
So, like they did in the Boston series against Paul Pierce, Jeff Green and Brandon Bass, the Knicks have decided to blitz the Pacers when they get the ball, rotate, and hope to force mistakes.
In Game 2, it worked. The play that keeps coming to mind was at the 5:37 mark of the first quarter, when after some weakside action, David West takes an entry pass in the short corner. Iman Shumpert, who is guarding the passer (Paul George), immediately dives from the wing to double hard on West. As George releases the pass, he begins to drift to about five feet past the three-point line, out of position to be a threat to shoot.
The pressure comes fast, so West has to turn and survey the floor to get rid of it before he finds himself trapped in the corner. But in that split second, Raymond Felton successfully slides in front of George, eliminating that immediate outlet as an option. Roy Hibbert is covered in the lane, so West looks to the opposite wing and decides to attempt a swing pass across his body. Right on cue, J.R. Smith is streaking up to rotate onto Felton’s man, and West’s pass sails right into his hands as he glides to a fastbreak.
The strategy is clear, and unless Indiana adjusts, it could be the crucial element of success for the Knicks. An elite offensive team during the season, the Knicks know that they could be in for ups and downs against a defense as stout as Indy’s. But if they can keep the heat on the Pacers when they have the ball, they could see the same results they saw in the Boston series.
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