- Knicks vs. Pacers: Series Hub
NEW YORK — Amar’e Stoudemire is ready to play again. And that can either be a good or bad thing for the New York Knicks.
The timing couldn’t be much worse. The Knicks are heading to Indiana for Game 3 on Saturday (8 p.m. ET, ABC) with the conference semifinals tied 1-1. The margin for error is basically nil, because the Pacers are a very good team, the next two games are at Bankers Life Fieldhouse and the Knicks obviously don’t want to go down 3-1.
So, as coach Mike Woodson decides how and for how long to use Stoudemire going forward, he obviously has to be careful, knowing that there’s a decent chance that Stoudemire will hurt his team more than he helps it.
First of all, Stoudemire will be about 10 times rustier than the Heat were in Game 1 against the Bulls on Monday. He hasn’t played since March 7 and will have played minimal five-on-five in practice by the time Game 3 begins. He’s probably not going to be stroking those elbow jumpers of his or beating his defender in the low post right away, especially against the No. 1 defense in the league. He shot 5-for-16 in his two regular season appearances against Indiana.
Secondly, Stoudemire is a defensive liability. He’ll block the occasional shot, but even when he’s healthy, he doesn’t move very well defensively. The Knicks ranked 17th defensively this season, but allowed 105.1 points per 100 possessions with Stoudemire on the floor, a rate that would rank 22nd. If the Pacers are smart (and they are), they’ll run pick-and-rolls at Stoudemire at every opportunity.
Thirdly, coincidence or not, the Knicks had their best stretches this season when Stoudemire was out. They went 18-5 to start the season and 16-2 to end it. He was healthy from Jan. 1 and March 7, the middle of a three-month stretch in which they were basically treading water. They went 16-13 in the 29 games he played.
And of course, it’s been well documented that Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony are a bad mix. If you need a refresher course …
Knicks efficiency with Anthony and Stoudemire on the floor
|2010-11 Reg. Season||24||672||110.7||110.9||-0.2||+3|
|2011-12 Reg. Season||39||976||99.1||102.7||-3.6||-48|
|2012-13 Reg. Season||26||432||107.0||110.6||-3.6||-29|
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
Terrible defense has been the theme in the 2,312 minutes Anthony and Stoudemire have been on the floor together, with the exception of last season. That season, Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler helped make up for the deficiencies of his frontcourt-mates and the offensive end of the floor was the real problem.
Either way, it makes for a tough situation when two guys getting paid $20 million each can’t coexist on the court. And it’s a problem that’s not going away, with both Anthony and Stoudemire under contract for another two seasons after this one. For now, Woodson just needs to figure out what to do with Stoudemire against the Pacers.
The coach said Thursday that Stoudemire will be limited to 10-15 minutes on Saturday, and we know that Anthony is going to play about 40. So there should be some overlap. And if there is, it would help if Chandler is on the floor with them, because his presence has made a huge difference — more on offense than defense, interestingly — in how well the Knicks have played with Anthony and Stoudemire this season.
Knicks efficiency with Anthony and Stoudemire on the floor, 2012-13
|Chandler on/off floor||MIN||OffRtg||DefRtg||NetRtg||+/-|
|Chandler on floor||222||115.5||107.6||+7.9||+36|
|Chandler off floor||210||98.2||113.7||-15.5||-65|
More than 200 minutes for both sets of combinations is a decent sample size, but it’s also against a variety opponents. The Knicks have just one opponent to worry about now and Anthony and Stoudemire were a minus-12 in 15 minutes together against Indiana this season. Whether Stoudemire has more value in this series vs. any other is in the eye of the beholder.
“We could really use him right now,” Chandler said of Stoudemire on Thursday. “We’re playing against a big team, big lineups. It’s a great opportunity.”
New York has played big (with both Chandler and Kenyon Martin on the floor) for just 10 minutes in this series, and Anthony has been on the floor (at small forward instead of power forward) for less than four of those 10 minutes. Sixty-seven of his 71 minutes have been played at the four.
In the regular season, the Knicks were generally better defensively and worse offensively with two bigs on the floor. But when one of those two bigs was Stoudemire, they were excellent offensively.
And that’s the hope. Though they seemingly broke out in the final 15 minutes of Game 2, the Knicks have had a rough time offensively against the Celtics and Pacers. New York was the third best offensive team in the regular season, but it ranks 12th offensively in the playoffs (last among teams still alive), barely scoring a point per possession. Anthony, J.R. Smith and Jason Kidd have all been struggling, and whether or not New York can maintain the ball and player movement that helped it win Game 2 is probably the biggest question for Game 3. In that regard, Pablo Prigioni‘s minutes are more important than Stoudemire’s.
Stoudemire might be able help the Knicks put some points on the board in this series. He might also help the Pacers do the same.