Statistical Analysis. Humor. Knicks.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A new job for Knick fans: Cheer on Atlanta

As New York looks to close out the Boston Celtics in Game 5 Wednesday night, Indiana and Atlanta have drawn even in their best of seven series. With the respective winners set to face off in the second round, there is plenty of incentive for Knick fans to be rooting their hearts out for the Hawks.

While Knicks swept their season series with the Hawks 3-0 (one being the last game of the year, and a blatant tank job by Atlanta), they needed a late-season win to split with Indiana, 2-2.

In the interest of diving deeper into how the Bockers fared against each squad, I charted New York’s offensive and defensive efficiency, as well as their net ratings against both teams, comparing them to the Knicks’ season averages per NBA Stats:

Screen Shot 2013-04-30 at 12.07.05 PM

Right off the bat, the difference in play is apparent. The stellar play that drove New York to the East’s second seed — and their third ranked offensive efficiency — was halted and suffocated by the Pacers’ league best defense. This is predominantly due to Indiana’s dedication to preventing the long ball, the Knicks’ primary source of offense. When adjusted for pace, the Pacers allowed the second fewest three-point attempts per-48 minutes in the NBA. In games against the Pacers, the Knicks attempted 26 threes per contest, a lower number compared to games played against two-thirds of the association.

Sure, New York’s defense is ahead of their season mark against Indy, but the Pacers run the 19th worst offense in the NBA. Not to discredit the Knicks defense, but Indiana’s not going to beat any team trying to play a barn-burner of a contest. Although the Knicks match up very well against Indiana defensively — Tyson Chandler can more than hold his own against Roy Hibbert, while Iman Shumpert’s savvy perimeter defense could help render All-Star Paul George’s game merely pedestrian — one matchup above all else scares me to death.

That would be Carmelo Anthony checking Indiana’s bulldozer power forward, David West. West’s patented physicality has the potential to drain Melo, why with his overwhelming power down low and consistent doling of punishment to the opposition. That could mean fatigue, hesitance, or — worse yet — bangs and bruises to the Knicks’ best player.

And don’t forget how the Knicks as a whole have succumbed more than once to their own frustration when playing opposite a very physical team, which lead to many an unforced error and infuriating technical fouls.

Meanwhile against the Hawks — a far less physical team — the Knicks have thrived on the offensive end. Carmelo Anthony in particular has beasted, as you can see here:

Screen Shot 2013-04-30 at 12.07.56 PM

Atlanta has been a helpless victim to New York’s small ball approach, unable to match up or adapt to the point of competing. If they go small with their Horford-Smith frontcourt, Chandler should eradicate Horford’s offense, while Anthony should have a field day attacking Smith — a step too slow to keep up — on the offensive end. Hawks head coach Larry Drew’s stubbornness in sticking with “J-Smoove” on Melo led Anthony to a game-winning layup in one meeting and a forty point game in another against Atlanta. If the Hawks go big, say with Petro-Horford-Smith in their frontcourt, the Knicks should look to rain threes on a much slower unit who can’t rotate quick enough to open shooters.

Another key is pace. The Knicks have won games running down the shot clock and not forcing in transition, fancying a slower pace all season long. While Indiana shares a similar devotion to slogging basketball, the Hawks lean towards the middle of the pack in the league. Against Indy the Knicks would ball with the tempo they’re most comfortable with, but against the Hawks, New York might be able to better dictate how they want to play and use this control to their advantage.

With the Knicks one win away from advancing, the optimistic fan will tell you that neither Atlanta nor Indiana stands a chance. Still, one match up in particular would make for a much smoother road to the Conference Finals.

51 comments on “A new job for Knick fans: Cheer on Atlanta

  1. Nick C.

    I hear you, but there is something distasteful about rooting for a particular match-up. I like to think the Knicks can beat anybody out there. The exceptions are Miami, OKC or SA and they beat those teams or played them tight in the regular season, so there really is nothing to fear and this team doesn’t need a fortuitous set of circumstances to win.
    *except I root (without hope) for whoever plays Miami, but I would do that anyway

  2. Brian Cronin

    Yeah, I’m with you, Nick. The fact that Indy has gotten their asses kicked by Atlanta twice sure doesn’t make me worry too much about the Knicks beating them. Yes, Atlanta would be a lot easier to destroy, but I’m not worried about either one of them.

  3. mr.JayP

    I think one fact that is overlooked is the physicality of the Pacers. i would love NYK to face ATL because it would be a lot less demanding on our bigs. no worries of a stray elbow, or a push from behind. You know for a fact hibbert and west are going to try and beat people up.

  4. PC

    The impetus behind the Knicks wanting to play Atlanta is because they would have all home games. Knick fans would pack the house for every game in Atlanta. This is why the Knicks don’t miss a beat down there.

    And, because Melo drops more buckets in Atlanta than a distressed mom trying to retrieve her son from a well.

  5. stratomatic

    Atlanta is a strange team. I don’t have my spreadsheets with me at work. But the standard deviation of their performance on a nightly basis has to be among the more volatile in the NBA. You never know which team is going to show up. I’d way rather play them than Indiana though. They might blow us out a couple of times but we’d return the favor 4 times.

  6. ess-dog

    Idk, it seems only fitting for the Knicks to have to go through all their old nemeses on the way to the title game: Boston -> Indiana -> Miami.

  7. Juany8

    ess-dog:
    Idk, it seems only fitting for the Knicks to have to go through all their old nemeses on the way to the title game: Boston -> Indiana -> Miami.

    Don’t forget the Spurs in the Finals! (Most likely, although Manu was injured before the playoffs started…)

  8. mcliff05

    ess-dog: Idk, it seems only fitting for the Knicks to have to go through all their old nemeses on the way to the title game: Boston -> Indiana -> Miami.

    Agreed. However the physical toll the Knicks would pay to go through Indiana would make beating the Heat a near Herculean effort. I’ll take a 5 game series through ATL…. but first finish tomorrow!

  9. Juany8

    steveoh:
    You want us to cheer for the Hawks?

    I guess someone in the world has to do it.

    Lol ouch, they have more fans than Charlotte at least right?

  10. Hubert Davis

    I wouldn’t bother cheering for something that won’t happen. I think we all know this series is headed towards home team wins every game.

    When we do face Indiana, I sure hope Copeland sees more time that Woodson’s given him so far. He dominated them in game 82, and I don’t think it was a matter of them just not trying. He’s a tough cover for West/Hibbert.

    I would personally use a lot of Copeland-Anthony-Chandler front lines against them so Melo can guard George. But, given that we’ve seen Melo guard Marc Gasol, it’s highly unlikely Woodson will spare him in this series.

  11. Hubert Davis

    Also guys, don’t forget: the easiest road is not always the best.

    I don’t think the Heat would have won the finals last year if they hadn’t gone to war against Indiana and been pushed to the brink by Boston. The challenge of Indiana, in particular, helped them discover their best lineup. And the Boston series pushed LeBron to a level above Durant.

    Adversity helps a champion. Overcoming the Celtics is a great start. But I think we will need a challenging 2nd round that forces us to make some adjustments if we are to overcome the Heat.

    Just look, for instance, and how ISO-heavy we were in game 4. We’ve been poor this series, but the Celtics haven’t made us pay, so we keep doing the same shit. A team like Miami will tear an ISO offense apart. So if we go in there without having to face a team that forces us to run a plan B, we’re going to be down 2-0 before we know it.

    Paul George and David West will force us to evolve. And we will need to before playing Miami. Because they probably would have beaten us 4-0 if we played them the way we’ve played the Celtics so far.

  12. ruruland

    PC:

    And, because Melo drops more buckets in Atlanta than a distressed mom trying to retrieve her son from a well.

    Nice

  13. mr.JayP

    Hubert Davis:
    I wouldn’t bother cheering for something that won’t happen.I think we all know this series is headed towards home team wins every game.

    When we do face Indiana, I sure hope Copeland sees more time that Woodson’s given him so far.He dominated them in game 82, and I don’t think it was a matter of them just not trying.He’s a tough cover for West/Hibbert.

    I would personally use a lot of Copeland-Anthony-Chandler front lines against them so Melo can guard George.But, given that we’ve seen Melo guard Marc Gasol, it’s highly unlikely Woodson will spare him in this series.

    Good points. Ive been scratching my head why Woody hasnt used cope more in this series. I mean after the last leg of the reg. season, hasnt he earned some burn for the playoffs? he can play the 4, has more offensive weapons than novak, and could have used his minutes in game 4 on the second squad.

    Woody should indeed play him on the 2nd squad with kmart, kidd and Jr. for game 5.

  14. Hubert Davis

    Hubert Davis:

    When we do face Indiana, I sure hope Copeland sees more time that Woodson’s given him so far.He dominated them in game 82, and I don’t think it was a matter of them just not trying.He’s a tough cover for West/Hibbert.

    Sorry, it was game 79. Just felt like a game 82.

  15. ruruland

    Hubert:
    I definitely agree with your contention that these playoff reps. are important for advancing in the next rounds.

    However, I believe Boston with Garnett probably has the best defensive personnel the Knicks will face in the playoffs.

    Garnett is still the best big man hedger in the game, and while the Knicks have been very efficient with the pick and rolls that have ended up on the box-score, they’ve had plenty of pick and rolls that were thwarted and turned into isolations.

    Whenever someone talks about the Knicks going iso, remember that it’s typically the fall-back plan after a failed pnr. The Knicks will run some isolation sets, but they rarely turn into pick and roll (they could with Amar’e).

    So that discrepancy really shouldn’t be talked about as a strategy mistake. It’s the Celtics who are turning the Knicks into an isolation team because of KG’s hedging and then their switching where they have a lot of versatility.

    The Knicks, for example, also limit the number of opponent’s pick and roll attempts by switching.

    Secondly, the Celtics probably have the best non-Lebron match-up for Melo in Bass, who has given Lebron problems the last two seasons in the playoffs. Melo is getting his first step on Bass, but cannot get ahead of him with his shoulder because of Bass’s size and strength.

    On lighter players, that first step for Melo is getting him near the basket.

    But look at the other teams.

    Indiana is going to have match-up nightmares. One, Melo is way too strong for George. The Pacers don’t have the bigs to contain the high pick and roll. And they will get eaten alive if the try to switch.

    Whoever David West guards is going to have a huge advantage, whether it’s Shumpert, Melo or JR.

    I think they’ll try to put West on Kidd of Prigioni, which will really open up the offensive rebound game for Chandler, Melo and the guards.

    And a healthy Pacers team might be worse offensively than what we’ve seen…

  16. ruruland

    The Pacers are a team you really want to spread out and use momentum to attack their bigs.

    Miami is a team you want to squeeze and overpower, limit their speed.

    That’s why Amar’e is going to be so important. they don’t have anyone who can guard him, and he will cause a lot of inside help, which will open up the offensive glass for bigger lineups.

    I’d go really small against Indiana, and really big against Miami.

  17. mcliff05

    I think there is more is to be lost than gained by a lengthy, chippy series with Indiana. Basketball is all about matchups. I dont think the Heat played better against the Thunder becuase of the Boston and Indiana series, they just matched up better against a young team werent quite ready for the spotlight.

    By your (Hubert) assertion you would rather the Heat play the Nets becuase the Bulls will give them a tougher time which will better prepare them for the Knicks? I dont really agree with this logic.

    Momentum is crucial but I dont think it really translates from series to series.

  18. stratomatic

    I heard on the Alan Hahn show that Copeland hasn’t been playing because he has a lot of pain in his shoulder.

  19. mcliff05

    I’d rather be rested and healthy than battle tested and bruised. Even if it comes at the expense of a rusty game 1.

  20. Hubert Davis

    RuRu you’re right about Garnett but their offense is so inept that we haven’t really had to adjust. The ISO as fall back to the PnR thing is a crutch, and frankly I think Miami is going to have an easy time with that.

    I guess that you’re saying they won’t be able to defend the pick & roll as well bc they don’t have Garnett so we won’t be forced to go to that crutch as much. I don’t know, they seem to be able to defend just about anything.

    We need to have the ISO-as-fall-back-to-the-PnR start costing us games so we develop a better strategy. Patience is the key to unlocking defenses. If one PnR fails, kick it out and start another one.

    If we ever have a 4Q like we did Sunday vs Miami, they will go on a 16-0 run.

  21. Hubert Davis

    Also, you keep saying Miami doesn’t have anyone who can guard him, but I seem to recall Bosh being very effective against Amar’e. I don’t have synergy numbers or anything to back this up. Just fallible memory.

  22. ruruland

    Hubert Davis:
    RuRu you’re right about Garnett but their offense is so inept that we haven’t really had to adjust.The ISO as fall back to the PnR thing is a crutch, and frankly I think Miami is going to have an easy time with that.

    I guess that you’re saying they won’t be able to defend the pick & roll as well bc they don’t have Garnett so we won’t be forced to go to that crutch as much.I don’t know, they seem to be able to defend just about anything.

    We need to have the ISO-as-fall-back-to-the-PnR start costing us games so we develop a better strategy.Patience is the key to unlocking defenses.If one PnR fails, kick it out and start another one.

    If we ever have a 4Q like we did Sunday vs Miami, they will go on a 16-0 run.

    Well, there are only so many ways to generate shots when you have two guys who can get below the free throw line with the ball.

    Again, Amar’e is so important.

  23. Hubert Davis

    mcliff05:
    By your (Hubert) assertion you would rather the Heat play the Nets becuase the Bulls will give them a tougher time which will better prepare them for the Knicks?I dont really agree with this logic.

    No, I wouldn’t apply it to Miami. It’s not a steadfast rule. I just think some teams need to overcome adversity to find themselves, and I think we may be one of those teams. Miami, IMO, definitely was one of those teams. The experience of coming back vs Indiana and Boston definitely made them what they are today.

  24. mr.JayP

    Hubert Davis:
    Also, you keep saying Miami doesn’t have anyone who can guard him, but I seem to recall Bosh being very effective against Amar’e.I don’t have synergy numbers or anything to back this up.Just fallible memory.

    Birdman’s length might be a problem if he is tasked with guarding amare…

  25. ruruland

    Hubert Davis:
    Also, you keep saying Miami doesn’t have anyone who can guard him, but I seem to recall Bosh being very effective against Amar’e.I don’t have synergy numbers or anything to back this up.Just fallible memory.

    He was 5-7 generated 4 ft in just 21 minutes in only game this season.

    Before his post-up game his numbers were merely average.

  26. nicos

    Hubert Davis:
    Also, you keep saying Miami doesn’t have anyone who can guard him, but I seem to recall Bosh being very effective against Amar’e.I don’t have synergy numbers or anything to back this up.Just fallible memory.

    Amar’e's averaged 22.3 ppg shooting with a fg% of .560 and getting to the line 6.6 times a game in 14 games against Bosh so you figure his TS% should be solidly north of .600. He had a TS% of .631 in the playoffs last year on pretty much nothing but iso’s. He did have a high TO% but he played two games with one hand so no, I don’t think he struggles at all against Bosh.

  27. nicos

    I’d agree that Anderson would do a better job on Amar’e but mostly because he’d be better at denying him the ball- He’s not strong enough to deal with Amar’e once Amar’e gets the ball in the deep post. Still if you get Anderson fronting or 3/4ing, the Knicks now have guards that can deal with that- how many lobs has Kidd thrown to Melo for easy layups against fronting defenses? And the same goes for Battier fronting Melo- the Knicks should be much better positioned to attack Miami’s overplaying this year.

  28. mcliff05

    Hubert Davis: No, I wouldn’t apply it to Miami. It’s not a steadfast rule. I just think some teams need to overcome adversity to find themselves, and I think we may be one of those teams. Miami, IMO, definitely was one of those teams. The experience of coming back vs Indiana and Boston definitely made them what they are today.

    Fair enough. I still think each series is independent of each other and the outcome is largely dependent on matchups. Although I guess you could argue that series momentum is just another way of saying intra-year playoff experience. And as we know playoff exerience is very much a tangible and desired commodity.

  29. The Honorable Cock Jowles

    mcliff05: And as we know playoff exerience is very much a tangible and desired commodity.

    Wait. How do we know that?

  30. Brian Cronin

    Such a big game for Memphis/LA tonight. The winner gets OKC and OKC is very beatable right now, so this Game 5 will be yooooooooge.

  31. MeloDrama

    ruruland:
    Hubert:
    I definitely agree with your contention that these playoff reps. are important for advancing in the next rounds.

    However, I believe Boston with Garnett probably has the best defensive personnel the Knicks will face in the playoffs.

    Garnett is still the best big man hedger in the game, and while the Knicks have been very efficient with the pick and rolls that have ended up on the box-score, they’ve had plenty of pick and rolls that were thwarted and turned into isolations.

    Whenever someone talks about the Knicks going iso, remember that it’s typically the fall-back plan after a failed pnr. The Knicks will run some isolation sets, but they rarely turn into pick and roll (they could with Amar’e).

    So that discrepancy really shouldn’t be talked about as a strategy mistake. It’s the Celtics who are turning the Knicks into an isolation team because of KG’s hedging and then their switching where they have a lot of versatility.

    The Knicks, for example, also limit the number of opponent’s pick and roll attempts by switching.

    - I agree with this assessment. I’d go even further and say Melo dominating the shot attempts is actually optimal this series because – aside from last game, which was an extreme outlier – Melo usually can be counted on to get up a shot with no turnover. Boston can’t create offense unless it comes from its defense.

  32. ruruland

    MeloDrama: – I agree with this assessment. I’d go even further and say Melo dominating the shot attempts is actually optimal this series because – aside from last game, which was an extreme outlier – Melo usually can be counted on to get up a shot with no turnover. Boston can’t create offense unless it comes from its defense.

    Melo wouldn’t be doing his job if he wasn’t attacking single teams.

  33. ruruland

    nicos:
    I’d agree that Anderson would do a better job on Amar’e but mostly because he’d be better at denying him the ball- He’s not strong enough to deal with Amar’e once Amar’e gets the ball in the deep post.Still if you get Anderson fronting or 3/4ing, the Knicks now have guards that can deal with that- how many lobs has Kidd thrown to Melo for easy layups against fronting defenses? And the same goes for Battier fronting Melo- the Knicks should be much better positioned to attack Miami’s overplaying this year.

    Having watched most of Andersen’s pro career, he really is a poor on ball defender, both in isolation and certainly in the post. He can be consistently overpowered.

    He’s a good pick and roll defender, incredible transition chase-down guy, and will get some blocks in the half-court, sometimes at the detriment of the team defense.

    Amar’e can eat Andersen alive, just as the Lakers and Jazz bigs did to him in the playoffs in years past (though some of this was injury related, he was absolutely manhandled in 2010 against Milsap, Kyle Fesenko and Boozer).

    He will still be a net positive impact in the next two series because he makes hustle plays and finishes and he’s the Heat’s lone true big , but he is not on the caliber of the Knicks or Bulls/nets interior players by a long shot…..

  34. mcliff05

    The Honorable Cock Jowles: Wait. How do we know that?

    Really, you’re going to challenge that experience in the playoffs matters? I give up.

    Unfortunately someone hasn’t compiled an advanced metric that quantifies playoff experience.

  35. Juany8

    Draymond Green is playing center for the Warriors. Harrison Barnes is playing power forward. So I guess we can discount this game because Mark jackson is coaching stupid.

  36. Juany8

    Brian Cronin:
    How many flagrant fouls are we going to have this game?

    Refs have kind of marred the game. Rhythm is totally off right now both ways, they have to let them play somewhat.

  37. Brian Cronin

    NO lead is safe in these playoffs it seems. Spurs and Heat excluded.

    Right? It’s insane. Third quarters in particular are nuts every other game, trailing teams winning the quarter by 8-12 points.

  38. Brian Cronin

    I must say, seeing Mark Jackson screaming at the refs gives me good flashbacks to the 1994 playoffs.

  39. Brian Cronin

    I hate it when teams concede losses like this. Was Golden State going to win this one? Likely no, but if they continually foul Denver, who knows what would happen? Down seven with 24 seconds left is not time to quit, like Golden State did.

  40. BigBlueAL

    Brian Cronin:
    I must say, seeing Mark Jackson screaming at the refs gives me good flashbacks to the 1994 playoffs.

    Hate to nitpick but he wasnt on the Pacers in 1994 :-)

  41. yellowboy90

    The Ezeli turnover and the quick jacks by Curry and Thompson when the lead was just 5 points late really hurt. I was surprised Bogut was not in late.

    I don’t know why but I still think Denver can win the season. I don’t really think they’re that great but it’s just a feeling.

  42. er

    so, if CP3 loses this series, he will have 2 career playoff series victories. I doubt he will get the level of criticism that melo has gotten for the funny fact that melo is PENALIZED for making the playoffs every year of his career lol

  43. Brian Cronin

    Hate to nitpick but he wasnt on the Pacers in 1994 :-)

    Ha! Not a nitpick at all. So when did Jax end up in Indy? He wasn’t there in 99, was he?

  44. BigBlueAL

    Brian Cronin: Ha! Not a nitpick at all. So when did Jax end up in Indy? He wasn’t there in 99, was he?

    He played with them vs the Knicks in 1995 and from 1998-2000.

  45. ruruland

    anthony:
    Love to hear Knickerblogger’s assessment of this Beckley Mason piece:

    http://hoopspeak.com/2013/04/will-we-see-more-melo-pick-and-rolls/

    This is what happens when Synergy gets into the wrong hands.

    The Knicks are trying to run a lot of pick and roll with Melo. But Guess what? Garnett is almost always guarding the player screening for Melo, and he’s a great pick and roll defender!!

    When the Celtics switch on the pick and roll, it turns from a pick and roll play into an isolation.

    What Mason should have talked about was using Melo as the screener in the pick and roll, which worked to great effect in game two.

    I’m not sure I can effort many more posts trying to explain why there’s such a disproportionate amount of post-ups to isolations for the Knicks in this series.

    In this instance, bad job by Mason.

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