One of the challenges for a head coach is to maximize the talent on the floor even when his players share similar attributes and excel at the same type of play.
On Tuesday night in Cleveland, the Knicks faced serious adversity, on the road, on a back-to-back, after a loss to the Heat, and down by 22 in the second quarter. Oh, and without their leading scorer, Carmelo Anthony, who left to the New York locker room with the team trailing 52-30.
The Knicks executed on several possessions and ramped up the defense to turn the tides in Cleveland. With that said, let’s focus on a slight adjustment to the pick-and-roll. Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler are excellent pick-and-roll big men that thrive when rolling or slipping a screen at the top of the arc. Woodson and the crew found a way to utilize both players while dismantling the Cavaliers defense in their biggest comeback win since 2004.
New York was finding its rhythm at the 7:58 mark of the third quarter but still trailed 61-57. Stoudemire passed to Raymond Felton at the top of the 3-point line and Chandler quickly moved towards him for the screen. Felton split the two defenders off the perfect pick from Chandler. Stoudemire patiently waited on the left side of the floor near the baseline as Felton streaked down the paint and the two Cavs defenders had to make a decision, whether to leave Iman Shumpert in the corner for a 3-pointer, collapse on Felton, or leave Stoudemire. With plenty of open space, Stoudemire shifted to the paint and Felton hit him for a two-handed reverse jam.
“The way they were showing out and the way they were trying to be aggressive on the screen and roll, once you got past those two guys, the baseline was wide open. Once that guy stepped up, you hit STAT with a bounce pass or pass and he is dunking it every single time. So, once we got in the teeth of the defense and that was the pass,” Felton explained.
The second example of the Knicks utilizing Stoudemire on the baseline and Chandler as the decoy occurred at the 3:56 mark of the fourth quarter. This time, New York owned a 92-89 lead and clearly seized the momentum. The Knicks flipped the play to the right as opposed to the left side of the court. Chandler ran high for the screen, Felton quickly split again when the defender was out of position, and Stoudemire caught a beautiful no-look bounce pass for the two-handed dunk.
Stoudemire finished with a team-high 22 points on an incredibly efficient night (10-of-15) from the field in the win over Cleveland. We know Stoudemire can flourish on the pick-and-roll, strictly with a point guard at the top of the 3-point line. However, New York may have found a new wrinkle and a devastating way to feature both Stoudemire and Chandler in pick-and-roll sets.