By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
To watch a defensive possession is to see the result of a process. It's a series of one-on-one matchups, intertwined by whatever switching, shading, trapping or other point-prevention strategy we see take form.
But sometimes what we don't see is just as important to the eventual outcome of possessions and, ultimately, games. To be successful against a team of Indiana's caliber, all five players have to be on the same page. After watching the tape and talking to players and coaches, it's become evident that the Knicks weren't quite able to do this in Game 3.
“We didn’t follow the gameplan at all," said Tyson Chandler following the loss. "We were supposed to trap them, we never got a trap, and so (Roy Hibbert) was able to get loose a little bit. It was the same thing with David West. It’s just poor execution on defense."
Chandler's man, Hibbert, went for 24 points on 18 shots and 12 rebounds, and we find out later that the Knicks weren't able to defend him the way they wanted. Had they not planned to aggressively trap -- a strategy that limited him to seven shots in Game 2 -- perhaps they could have employed other tactics to keep the Pacers' big man from doing such damage.
Chandler explained: "We’re supposed to double. That’s the whole reason why we’re playing the way we’re playing. If we don’t, the defense is vulnerable. If it’s a one-on-one situation, you can deny, front, do all kind of things."
Assistant Coach Jim Todd hinted that in Game 4, they will try to get back to what worked: "We'd like to tighten some of those areas up. You can let Hibbert go off for 24 points. He had an awful lot of touches and he's too good; he’s excellent with his left and right hand. We gotta give some help and we gotta come quickly."
Todd and others spoke about a big-picture belief that holding Indiana to 82 points on their floor should usually be enough to get the job done. But as Chandler -- who became the goat when Hibbert emerged as the player of the game -- can attest, teams that are good enough to make it to the second round of the playoffs will usually punish you if you aren't crisp in executing your defensive assignments.
Fortunately, the Knicks will have had two full days to digest what happened and gear up for Game 4. Chandler says the time off will help because “it allows us to go over things that need to be addressed.”
They've shown they can win playoff games with superior defense. They did it four times against the Celtics and once already against these Pacers. They say that defense doesn't slump, and you can be sure that in Game 4, they'll pay extra attention to that end. They know better than to rely completely on shots falling against the top-rated defense in the NBA.
Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images