It was a dazzling scene. Roars of applause rained down in Madison Square Garden, the joyous New York Knicks fans collectively rejoicing a historic victory. The cheers were so ear-deafening, they shook the Earth below with such ferocity I felt the ground tremble before my feet, despite my being a good 10 miles away, watching the spectacle at home on my television.
“And the Knicks have done it! They move on to the Eastern Conference Finals after falling behind 3-1 to the Indiana Pacers with three convincing blowouts.”
Mike Breen’s ecstatic voice captured this moment perfectly, you could hear the electricity in his enthused voice.
“Jeff, what did the Knicks do to swing what looked like a lost series in their direction?”
“Well Mike, they went back to what won them fifty games this season. They played at a slow pace and didn’t give away the ball on offense. Anthony was making his open catch-and-shoot looks, while Felton ran unstoppable pick-and-rolls with Tyson Chandler.”
“Speaking of Tyson Chandler, he was a major factor in New York’s comeback.”
“Yes, Chandler returned to his Defensive Player of the Year form, providing an impenetrable inside presence and completely shutting down Roy Hibbert. His defense was so strong the Knicks found no need to double onto the Pacers bigs, even while playing their dominant small ball lineup.”
“You mention their small ball lineup, they ran it to perfection all season long. However Mike Woodson went big in Game 4 of this series to try and counteract their rebounding woes, but it did not work out as they planned. Once he went back to the original starting five in Game 5, what changed for the Knicks?”
“Mike, the greatest of coaches know that the goal is not to adjust to your opponent’s strategy, but to make your opponent adjust. The Pacers have two prototypical bigs up front, and when the Knicks started Kenyon Martin over Pablo Prigioni in Game 4 they played right into Indiana’s hands. New York forced Frank Vogel to have to adjust to the Knicks terrific spacing and ball movement on offense, but he could not find an answer. Adding another big body onto the court won’t solve your rebounding problem, it’s about a collective effort and remembering to box out on every possession. The Knicks did that for three games in a row, and here they are.”
“You brought up Pablo Prigioni. Despite being one of the most reliable players on this team throughout the postseason, he found very little time on the court during this series. How much of an impact did he bring once coach Woodson decided to play him for significant minutes?”
“Well he along with Iman Shumpert have arguably been two of the Knicks most important piece in these Playoffs, yet did not play enough minutes to make a stronger positive impact on the games in the first ten contests of the Knicks’ Playoff run. In these past three wins, Woodson played each for thirty minutes a night. Doing so, he reduced the playing time of the inefficient Jason Kidd and J.R. Smith dramatically, which proved to be a great move. Shumpert was able to discomfort the rising Paul George, while Prigioni remianed his stingy self, forcing turnovers and making the open three. Kidd and Smith have been struggling throughout these Playoffs, unable to get rolling on the offensive end and not doing much better on defense. Woodson also took minutes away from the rusty Amar’e Stoudemire and gave his floor time to rookie Chris Copeland, who provided floor spacing with his knock-down three point shooting.”
“Copeland was certainly a huge help for the Knicks coming off the bench. How much of this do you feel falls on the Indiana Pacers?”
“Well simply put, Indiana is out-matched on paper. Talent wise, the Knicks are better than the Indiana Pacers. However, for the first four games of the series, it was the Pacers who played as a team while the Knicks were scrambling, running isolations to no end and not putting up any effort on the boards. The Knicks played like a team during the regular season, one bent on smart passing and a methodical, slow approach. It was only in Game 5 and beyond when they went back to their winning ways, and once they did the Pacers stood no chance. Their offense has been poor all season long, and once the Knicks figured out their league-best defense – torching the sagging Hibbert on pick-and-rolls, not attacking him head on when driving into the paint and getting Melo lots of space to work one-on-one against defenders that truly had no shot – they were able to run Indiana out of the gym in three straight affairs.”
“And what a three games it was. This has been Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy, thank you for watching. We’ll see you on Monday for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Fina- David!”
“David, come on!”
I closed my eyes firmly for a couple of seconds, opened them again, and suddenly I was facing my ceiling. Wait, what? I was laying down on my bed. How? Wasn’t I just standing a foot away from my TV? I sat up, dripping in sweat.
“David you’re going to be late to school. Oh God, did you have a nightmare?”
It was Mom leaning through my open door. I looked at her, then down at my soaking self, then back at her. Once it finally clicked, I jumped out of my bed and quickly slammed my computer out of sleep mode.
I stared deeply into my screen. There’s no way. It couldn’t be. It had to have happened.
“Pacers Take Game 4, Lead Series 3-1”