Over at the Wall Street Journal, the always excellent Chris Herring gives some well deserved love to Raymond Felton after the Knicks’ Game 2 win over Boston. Of particular note is the effect that Pablo Prigioni being moved into the starting lineup has had on Felton, in a similar fashion to how Jason Kidd’s presence in the starting five helped him earlier in the season. To wit:
Similarly, Felton’s play elevates when he’s playing alongside fellow guard Pablo Prigioni. Felton shot far better, (49% overall and 41% from three, up from 42% and 34%, respectively) and posted a better assist-to-turnover ratio (3:1, up from 2:1) in the 298 regular-season minutes he and the 35-year-old were on the court together, according to Stats LLC.
Without the same ball-handling responsibility, “Raymond can be on the back end of our offensive plays” when Prigioni’s with him, according to coach Mike Woodson, giving Felton more space to survey the floor. Felton scored on such looks three times Tuesday night, diving behind a Tyson Chandler ball-screen en route to the basket.
I’m not going to give all the credit to Pablo Prigioni, but there’s just no denying that the Knicks have had their best success with a unit relying on two point guards, whether that be Felton and Prigioni, or Felton and Kidd. Late in the season, the ability to use Prigioni an Kidd somewhat interchangeably has been of great convenience and advantage, even if the Pabson Kidgioni nickname has yet to take hold.
Prigioni made his first start in a win over Utah on March 18th, a victory that propelled the Knicks on the red-hot stretch that has them up 2-0 in the first round of the postseason. During this time, it’s been J.R. Smith whose improvement has generated the most buzz, and for good reason. Smith’s transformation was from solid role player to damn near superstar in a matter of weeks. It was rightly praised.
But Felton’s game perked up right about the same time, with both Felton and Smith shooting over 50% from the field after that change to the lineup. The advance metrics tell a similar tale, with all the relevant numbers during this stretch looking as appealing as 8008135 in a sixth-grader’s calculator.
It’s no coincidence that if you look at the season’s of Felton and Smith, they mirror the fortune of the team writ large, with hot starts cooling to a so-so middle, before a similarly strong finish. Felton’s injuries played some part in that, as well as J.R. simply having to be J.R. for at least a little while, but there’s no doubt that as these two have gone, so have the Knicks.
All the talk surrounding the Knicks this postseason is about whether Carmelo Anthony can prove something. Prove his doubters wrong. Erase his playoff history. Or whatever all that stuff is folks are constantly prattling on about. But to me — and this is a point I’ve made a few different times — this postseason is less about the legacy of Melo, as it is a study in just how good these two rascals are, a fact I’m getting more comfortable with as this march progresses.