Good stuff as always from Grantland’s Zach Lowe (who’s becoming something of the Louis CK of basketball writing, so we await the inevitable backlash, then the backlash to the backlash) on tonight’s Game 5, and seriously this guy is kind of a machine, not quite sure how he pumps out the goods on this regular of a basis, but here’s his take on the Knicks’ offense:
Isolations for Anthony, and for Smith, have generally been very good for New York this season. They’re not going away from those plays, regardless of how cruddy they look. But they’ve been effective in part because Melo has read aggressive help defenses well and struck the proper balance between passing, shooting, and attacking the rim to draw free throws. The Knicks and Mike Woodson have enabled him to strike that balance by putting him in good positions to both see the floor and attack — in the post against smaller defenders, and at the elbows against bigger guys, including Brandon Bass, who has done very well defending Anthony one-on-one in this series. (Anthony has shot just 38 percent with Bass on the floor in this series, and 44 percent when Bass has rested, and the trend was even starker during the regular season, per NBA.com. Bass obviously hasn’t defended Anthony on all those shots, but he shifted in Game 4 to a role as something like Melo’s primary guy, instead of splitting the assignment almost equally with Jeff Green and Pierce.)
And Anthony looked like a beast running the point on a string of crunch-time pick-and-rolls in Game 4. The Knicks get in a little bit of trouble when they stop mixing it up. If they do mix it up tonight, this series will end.
It definitely seems to me that there’s way too much of an almost panic about the Knicks’ isolation game. At the end of the day, they have two excellent isolation players in Smith and Anthony, so using that is to their advantage. Certainly, that doesn’t mean you want to get so heavy with isolation to the detriment of everything else, but establishing those two as one-on-one threats pretty much opens up everything else that they do.
Perhaps I’m drinking some orange and blue Kool-Aid, but I do expect the Knicks to look very good tonight and to put away the Celtics fairly early, though now that I’ve said that out loud I’m instantly gripped with fear.