Posts Tagged ‘Pablo Prigioni’

Knicks Win Again And Hope Floats


VIDEO: Balanced Knicks attack leads to 92-80 win over Dallas

DALLAS — They’re alive! Left for dead, a thumping pulse has been detected in the New York Knicks and the submarining Atlantic Division. Hide your women and children!

In the final days of 2013, the Knicks left Toronto dragging another L around their limp necks, a battered and beaten bunch. A few days later they boarded a plane bound for 2014 and the impossible Texas Triangle road trip that would swallow them up for good. Oh no, not these Knickerbockers, who picked a fine time to reveal a beating heart.

“We have lots of veterans on this team, got a couple of young guys that we depend on, but we don’t have to talk about things, man,” forward Kenyon Martin said. “We know when we’re not playing well, we know when we’re not giving the maximum effort each and every night. That’s what it’s about, man, guys looking in the mirror.”

They stunned the Spurs. Nearly shocked the Rockets, and probably should have. And then on a bone-cold Sunday night in Dallas, the Knicks, even playing without Tyson Chandler, too ill to stay on the court just minutes into the game, went nearly wire-to-wire to trip the Mavericks.

“As far as this trip goes, we have gotten out of that [dark] place,” said Carmelo Anthony, who had 15 points in the first quarter and finished with 19 in the 92-80 victory. “You can see guys doing things that as a team, as individuals we haven’t been doing all season long. It’s showing out there on the basketball court on both ends. Guys are starting to communicate more, talk more and have fun. That’s the most important thing.”

Where has this been the last two months? Don’t ask. The question is can it last?

“It’s a new year man. We’re getting bodies back,” said Martin, who fought through a tender ankle to hit 7-of-8 shots for 14 points and grabbed six boards. “If we can get everybody on the court at once that’d be a great thing.”

Mavs coach Rick Carlisle came away so impressed with the Knicks’ play in Texas that he rose up, unprompted, and strongly backed Mike Woodson and the work he’s done through an injury spat and speculation about his job.

“I marvel at the job he’s doing with this team right now given the circumstances, given all the ridiculous rumors about his job security and all the nonsense that’s being stirred up in the that media cesspool in New York City,” Carlisle said. “This is a man who’s one of the top coaches in the league, and a man of great integrity and substance. He proved that tonight. They easily could have swept this road trip. This is supposedly a team that’s dysfunctional. He’s got a great touch with that team.”

The Knicks even picked up a game on the suddenly smoking Toronto Raptors, who ascended a game above .500 and put a scare into the Heat on Sunday before being turned away. New York’s record remains unsightly, yet the win to get to 11-22 also closed the division gap to 5.5 games and to just 2.5 games behind the reeling Pistons for the final playoff spot.

But they’re not the only Atlantic squad suddenly doing work in 2014. Since the calendar changed, the NBA’s JV division has gone 9-5 with Boston racking up three of the losses. Philadelphia’s 3-0; Brooklyn’s 2-0; New York and Toronto are each 2-1. Collectively this past week they’ve taken down the West’s top three teams — Oklahoma City, San Antonio and Portland. Dallas makes four of the West’s top eight.

The Knicks, still down guards Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni, did it Friday with a collective team effort and good defense, holding Dallas to 41.0 percent shooting. Anthony had five assists, seven rebounds and a hustle block of Mavs forward Shawn Marion. Andrea Bargnani had 13 points and six rebounds. Amar’e Stoudemire had 11 points and seven rebounds. Tim Hardaway Jr. was 4-for-6 from the floor with 10 points. Iman Shumpert, a scoring machine in the first two games of the trip, made life tough on Monta Ellis and saved five of his nine points for crunch time with Dallas trying to make a run. With Anthony being doubled, Shumpert made a pretty drive past Dirk Nowitzki and then canned a big 3-pointer to ice it.

“Right now you can just see the way that guys are responding, playing,” Anthony said. “It seems like guys are having fun. We just want to build on that game by game and see what happens.”

With a tough schedule ahead that includes Miami, Phoenix, Indiana and the Clippers among their next seven games, it won’t take long to find out if the Knicks’ fight will extend beyond an inspiring trip through Texas.

Report: Knicks’ Dolan In No Hurry To Make Trades, Change Coaches


VIDEO: Knicks coach Mike Woodson: ‘I’m pushing our team to win our division’

By sticking with the status quo, New York Knicks chairman James Dolan is betting on anything but from his beleaguered basketball team.

According to a report from ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, Dolan gathered the troops, a number of them sidelined by injury, before the first practice following the embarrassing Christmas Day blowout by the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder. The message Dolan sent: Coach Mike Woodson will not be fired, so get behind him and turn this still-salvageable season around.

Stein reports:

Knicks chairman James Dolan told New York players in a meeting Thursday that there are no trades or changes to the coaching staff forthcoming, ESPN.com has learned.

Sources close to the situation told ESPN.com that Dolan gathered the team before the first practice in the wake of New York’s embarrassing 29-point home loss to Oklahoma City on Christmas Day largely in an attempt to hush the growing speculation about coach Mike Woodson’s job security following the Knicks’ 9-19 start.

It’s believed Dolan took the step in an attempt to persuade Woodson’s players to band together and throw their full support behind the embattled coach to help dig New York out of the sizable hole it finds itself with essentially one-third of the regular season in the books, the sources said.

Despite its 9-19 record, accrued in no small part by a devastating number of injuries, the Knicks remain in the thick of the Atlantic Division race, just three games behind leader-by-default Toronto (11-15) and 2 1/2 games behind second-place Boston (12-17).

Ground can be quickly made up (or lost) starting tonight when the Knicks begin a home-and-home series with the Raptors at Madison Square Garden (7:30 ET, League Pass), where New York is just 4-11. Saturday night the teams will meet in Canada.

When Woodson spoke with reporters after Thursday’s practice, the first after the 29-point beat down by the Thunder, the coach said he still believes his team can reverse its fortunes and overtake the division:

“We won it last year, and I expect us to win it this year. The beauty about all of this that we’re going through is nobody’s running away with it in our division and I’m pushing our team to win our division still. … Eventually we’ll get healthy, and we’ll see how it all plays out.”

A significant push in the health department would include the return of leading scorer Carmelo Anthony, who missed the OKC game with a left sprained ankle suffered in Monday’s win over Orlando. He remains day-to-day heading into tonight’s game.

Starting point guard Raymond Felton (groin) does not look good to play in the next two games and possibly beyond. Pablo Prigioni (fractured right big toe) announced after Thursday’s practice that he’s still not ready to go.

Without their best players, the Knicks might not stand much of a change no matter who is coaching the team. How critical is the two-game set against Toronto? After it, the Knicks hit the road for three games: at San Antonio (Jan. 2), Houston (Jan. 3) and Dallas (Jan. 5). Those squads are a combined 28 games over .500 and 26-6 against the Eastern Conference.

Then the Knicks return home to face Detroit (Jan. 7) and Miami (Jan. 9).

Hot Matthews Huge To Blazers’ Start


VIDEO: LaMarcus Aldridge had a 30-21 game as the Trail Blazers beat the Warriors

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – A number of reasons are emerging to explain the Portland Trail Blazers’ 12-2 start. Camaraderie shown in another comeback win Saturday over Golden State following a second-half dust-up seems just as strong of one as LaMarcus Aldridge‘s monstrous start that included 30 points and 21 rebounds against the Warriors for Portland’s 10th consecutive victory.

Second-year point guard Damian Lillard is scintillating and it sure seems that the new starting center Robin Lopez and a bolstered bench spearheaded by Mo Williams have quickly meshed with the remaining cast, and that all involved are all-in with second-year coach Terry Stotts.

“That inspired us,” said Wesley Matthews, one of three players, along with Williams, ejected after Saturday night’s shoving match. At the time, the Blazers trailed by 10 and then outscored Golden State 42-20 for the 113-101 win. “We got better from it, we got stronger from it. Mo and I were continuing to cheer. They couldn’t hear us, but we were continuing to cheer.”

Need an overlooked reason for Portland’s inspiring start to a hope-filled season? Look at Matthews, the fifth-year shooting guard. If you haven’t noticed, Matthews is shooting the lights out.

Before getting tossed Saturday night, Matthews had dropped five 3-pointers and was 8-for-9 from the floor for 23 points in 26 minutes. It was his sixth 20-point effort in the first 14 games, already one-third of the 18 he had last season in 69 games played.

Not bad for a guy who wasn’t even included on the All-Star ballot. Wesley called the omission “ridiculous,” and he’s certainly making it look that way.

Matthews is making defenses pay for their choices. Left open on the weak side, the 6-foot-5 shooting guard is beating scrambling close-outs and knocking down shot after shot, and at career levels. He’s averaging career highs in scoring average (17.3 ppg), field-goal percentage (56.8) and 3-point percentage (52.5). He’s also averaging a career-best 4.6 rpg, nearly two more a game than last season.

Matthews has helped to super-boost a Blazers offense that is averaging 104.0 ppg, up from 97.5 ppg last season. A year ago they finished 15th in the league in offensive rating (102.9 points scored per 100 possessions).  This season they’ve surged to fifth at 107.1. When Matthews is on the floor, Portland’s offensive rating is 108.2.

Interestingly, Matthews’ usage (percentage of a team’s offensive possessions that a player is used) has dipped from last season (19.1 percent to 17.2 percent, ranking 69th among guards) as his shooting percentages have soared.

His effective field-goal percentage (adjusted for made 3-pointers being more valuable than 2-pointers) is an astounding 70.3 percent, second in the league among guards behind New York’s Pablo Prigioni, who plays 18 mpg compared to Matthews’ 34.0 mpg. Last season, Matthews’ eFG% was a mediocre 54.0 percent.

No guard in the league boasts a higher true shooting percentage (adjusted to include the value of 3-pointers and free throws). Matthews is at a whopping 71.4 percent, up from 57.4 percent last season.

The Blazers’ teamwork and tenacity are proving that their win streak is no fluke. Matthews might not be able to keep up his scorching start to such a degree, but if he remains anywhere close, Portland is going to continue to be a team that leaves defenses scrambling for cover and searching for answers.

No Love For The Knicks?





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The ending was a bitter pill to swallow for fans of the New York Knicks last season. Falling to the Indiana Pacers the way they did in the Eastern Conference semifinals, getting pushed around and basically overwhelmed by a healthier and more defensively sound team, exposed the weaknesses that were there all along.

That crash landing in the playoffs might explain the lack of buzz surrounding these Knicks as the start of 2013-14 season nears. As we get closer to tip-off of the regular season, you hear about the Pacers, Chicago Bulls and even the Brooklyn Nets as teams the Heat need to worry about before anyone mentions the Knicks.

There’s no love for the Knicks these days and you have wonder: Why?

The reasons for the lukewarm interest in the Knicks are varied. There was no free agent splash over the summer (sorry Metta World Peace). There was no miraculous recovery for Amar’e Stoudemire. Carmelo Anthony needed time to heal his battered body in an attempt to recover from the pounding he took last season. J.R. Smith didn’t exactly distinguish himself in the offseason either with a five-game suspension looming at the start of the regular season.

It’s a lesson plenty of would-be contenders learn when their results don’t match the expectations. And for a time last season, the Knicks, not the Pacers, looked like the team that would challenge the Miami Heat for that trip to The Finals.

Everyone seems to have forgotten all of the positive work the Knicks did last year, finishing with a 54-28 record, winning their first playoff series in over a decade and coach Mike Woodson finishing third in Coach of the Year voting.

Woodson’s teams in Atlanta got progressively better in each of his six seasons without the Hawks ever making the sort of free agent splash that usually spurs a dramatic rise in a team’s fortunes. Woodson, despite a legion of vocal critics, is one of a handful of coaches in the league with a proven track record of taking a disjointed group and making sure they compete at a high level.

And disjointed might be a kind word for the group the Knicks will suit up this season. The Raymond Felton-Pablo Prigioni backcourt tandem is interesting, to say the least, and the Iman Shumpert-Smith battle at shooting guard promises to deliver plenty of drama (and potentially headaches for Woodson) throughout the season.

(Shumpert insists he’s playing with a “chip on his shoulder” that could help fuel the Knicks early on, and that’s a good thing.)

Call me crazy, but I think World Peace is going to be a fit and rookie swingman Tim Hardaway Jr. is certainly going to be a factor. The only glaring question for me is if Andrea Bargnani can revive his career as the floor-spacing stretch-4 the Knicks need to free everyone else up to play to their specific strengths?

You never know what you’re going to get with Amar’e because of his injury issues and even with an offseason worth of work on his jump shot it’s hard to lean too hard on Tyson Chandler for the offensive help Bargnani should be able to provide immediately.

Ultimately, the pieces are in place for the Knicks to battle for a top four spot in the Eastern Conference playoff chase. That’s just a fact, even if no one outside of the Knicks’ locker room believes it.


World Peace Will Help Knicks’ D

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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – It feels like Metta World Peace, a Queens native, was just meant to play for the New York Knicks. He’ll do just that after agreeing to a two-year deal with New York, on Monday, a move first reported by Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski. World Peace’s arena football career will apparently have to wait.

MWP and J.R. Smith in the same locker room has the potential for fireworks, but if he can keep his personality in check, the enigma formerly known as Ron Artest gives the Knicks something they need on the floor: a strong defender who can spell Carmelo Anthony and allow the league’s leading scorer to play minutes at power forward, where he’s most potent.

The defense is more important. The Knicks had the third best offense in the league last season, but only three teams — Philadelphia, New Orleans and Chicago — regressed more defensively. New York ranked 17th on that end of the floor after ranking fifth in the 2011-12 season. But the Knicks could now have a strong defensive unit with Pablo Prigioni, Iman Shumpert, World Peace, Anthony and Tyson Chandler on the floor.

Potential New York rotation
PG: Felton, ?
SG: Prigioni, Smith, Hardaway
SF: Shumpert, World Peace
PF: Anthony, Bargnani
C: Chandler, Stoudemire

If Anthony is now back to being more of a four than a three though, New York has two back-up bigs – Andrea Bargnani and Amar’e Stoudemire – who will make more than $32 million next season and really hurt the team defensively. If Mike Woodson dares to play the two together, his goatee will be gray by December.

New York also needs to find a third point guard to give Woodson the option of playing Prigioni at the two, a key to the team’s success at the end of last season. Furthermore, World Peace – whose effective field goal percentage (47.0 percent) and true shooting percentage (49.7 percent) over the last three seasons are both well below the league average – adds to the Knicks’ list of one-way players.

If they’re going to truly contend in the improved Eastern Conference next season, New York will need Chandler to play more like he did in ’11-12 than he did in ’12-13. He clearly regressed last season, failing to make the defensive impact that he made when he was voted Defensive Player of the Year.

There are still some questions to be answered, but New York is certainly a better defensive team now than they were 24 hours ago. And they’re certainly a lot more interesting.

Knicks Had No Choice But To Re-Sign Smith

 

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The New York Knicks have three free agents – J.R. Smith, Pablo Prigioni and Chris Copeland – that can be offered more money by other teams than they can by the Knicks, a result of their limited time in New York and that the Knicks are over the luxury tax threshold.

At the same time, if any of the three got away, the Knicks had limited means to replace them with equal talent. All they have to offer is the tax-payer’s (mini) mid-level exception and veteran’s minimum contracts. And they would have to eat into the mini mid-level if they were to re-sign Prigioni or Copeland for more than the minimum.

But with the market for shooting guards drying up, Smith agreed to a new four-year deal with the Knicks Thursday morning, according to multiple reports. The contract will pay Smith the maximum allowed under the Early Bird exception, about $24.5 million over the four years. The fourth year is a player option.

Smith was the Knicks’ second-leading scorer last season and was voted Sixth Man of the Year. With his one-on-one scoring ability, he was able to make something out of nothing on countless possessions last season.

But he often stopped the Knicks’ offense and went iso too early in the shot clock. And after he got ejected (and suspended a game) for an elbow to Jason Terry‘s head in Game 4 of the first round, he proceeded to shoot a miserable 34-for-117 (29 percent) over the Knicks’ final eight games.

(By the way, the Smith-Terry dynamic adds another layer to the Knicks-Nets rivalry.)

Smith is the ultimate feast or famine player and the Knicks would be better off if they could replace him with a better defender or a more disciplined and consistent scorer, especially since they’re adding another no-D, tunnel-vision scorer in Andrea Bargnani. Looking up and down the Knicks’ roster, it’s becoming more difficult to find teammates who complement each other’s skill set.

But again, there was no way to replace Smith’s points and minutes with someone of equal value had the Knicks just let him walk. And his contract is reasonable enough that he could eventually be traded.

That may be the Knicks’ ultimate plan. They couldn’t sign a new player for full mid-level ($5 million per year) money, but they could sign Smith and then eventually trade him for a guy (presumably a a better fit) making mid-level money.

That’s exactly what the Brooklyn Nets did with Kris Humphries. When Humphries was a free agent last year, the Nets didn’t necessarily want to bring him back. But they had his Bird rights and couldn’t spend the same amount of money on another team’s free agent. So they signed Humphries to a two-year, $24 million contract, with the idea that they could eventually trade him for another player making similar money.

The plan worked, with the Nets using Humphries’ contract (set to expire after this season) in the deal that will bring Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn. If they had let Humphries sign elsewhere last summer, that trade couldn’t happen.

Is that the Knicks’ plan with Smith? Time will tell. As an Early Bird signee, he won’t be eligible to be traded until Jan. 15, 2014.

Knicks Deal For Raptors’ Bargnani

Andrea Bargnani

Andrea Bargnani played in just 35 games last season for the Raptors.


HANG TIME NEW JERSEY –
The Toronto Raptors have found a taker for Andrea Bargnani, further evidence that no contract is untradeable.

For some reason, the New York Knicks are willing to take on the remaining two years and $22 million left on Bargnani’s deal. The trade, first reported by Howard Beck of the New York Times, was not approved by the league Sunday night. So the original swap — which had Marcus Camby, Steve Novak and the Knicks’ 2016 first-round pick going to Toronto — will have to be tweaked, and nothing can become official until the free-agency moratorium period ends on July 10.

Because Bargnani’s salary goes up on July 1, while both Camby’s and Novak’s salaries go down, more salary will need to go in Toronto’s direction. That can happen if New York works out a sign-and-trade deal with Earl Barron, Kenyon Martin, Quentin Richardson or Pablo Prigioni. Barron and Richardson are the most likely candidates.

As long as the deal goes through, it’s new Raptors GM Masai Ujiri working his magic once again, getting something in return for Bargnani’s burdensome contract. In fact, you have to wonder how the Draft pick isn’t going in the other direction.

Not only do the Raps get a pick and get rid of Bargnani, but Novak is a useful piece for a team that ranked 26th in 3-point percentage last season and has two starting wings — DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay — that don’t shoot particularly well.

Bargnani has shot well at certain points in his career, but has really struggled over the last two seasons, shooting 42 percent from the field and 30 percent from 3-point range. He has tunnel vision when he gets the ball, unable to make plays for others. And even if he finds his shot at Madison Square Garden, he’s a serious defensive liability.

Really, you have to wonder why the Knicks want Bargnani. Though they struggled against the Pacers’ top-ranked defense in the conference semifinals, they ranked third offensively in the regular season, scoring a potent 108.6 points per 100 possessions. More than anything, they need help on defense, where they ranked 16th. You need to be ranked in the top 10 defensively if you have dreams of making The Finals, and Bargnani isn’t going to help them get there.

One of the Knicks’ biggest issues over the last few seasons has been their lack of two-way players. They’ve had some great offensive players and a few good defenders, but not enough guys who can get the job done on both ends of the floor. And Bargnani obviously isn’t that. Could you imagine how awful New York’s defense would be with Bargnani and Amar’e Stoudemire on the floor together?

Furthermore, the Knicks will now have four guys — Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, Bargnani and Stoudemire — making more than $10 million a year. Three of the four play power forward or center full-time, and the fourth (Anthony) is at his best playing the four.

Capped out, a trade is the only way the Knicks can really upgrade their roster. And though they’re not really giving up much value, this just doesn’t seem like the trade to do it.

Pacers Up 3-1, But Knicks Still Dangerous

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NEW YORK – The Miami Heat are waiting.

The Indiana Pacers know they have what it takes to challenge the defending champs. In Paul George, they have a guy to guard LeBron James. In Roy Hibbert, they have a guy to protect the rim. They have the size to take advantage of the Heat on the glass. They won the season series, 2-1.

But the Pacers have to take care of business against the New York Knicks first. Only eight teams in NBA history have come back from a 3-1 deficit to win a series, but the Knicks might not be an easy opponent to keep down.

As bad as things have looked for New York over the last two games — and they’ve looked really bad — this is a dangerous team. The Knicks ranked third in offensive efficiency in the regular season and we saw a glimpse of their potency in Game 2.

At the same time, we saw how bad the Pacers can look offensively. Turnovers, bad spacing, missed shots. It was all there. Over the course of the four games thus far, the Knicks (who were a below-average defensive team) have held them under a point per possession.

The Pacers’ defense has been terrific in this series, particularly in Game 4, when the Knicks tried to throw the kitchen sink at them. But it’s been terrific because there’s been no let-up. It takes both effort and focus to defend on that level, and it would be easy to think a Game 6 at home allows Indy to not bring their best in Game 5 on Thursday (8 p.m. ET, TNT).

Written on the board in the Knicks’ locker room after Game 4 was, “Win one, change everything.” And that might be right. New York is desperately searching for answers right now, but if they can find them on Thursday, it could get the ball rolling.

All you have to do is look back to mid-March, when the Knicks had lost four straight and 10 of their last 16 games. Their offense was in a funk, having scored less than 90 points per 100 possessions during the four-game losing streak. Carmelo Anthony was out and J.R. Smith was struggling.

Then, in Utah, Mike Woodson made a lineup change. The Knicks broke out of their slump, won 13 straight games and pulled ahead of the Pacers in the standings.

Woodson is likely to go back to the lineup that sparked that run — with Pablo Prigioni in the backcourt — after going away from it in Game 4. Nothing will come easy against the Pacers’ defense, nothing looks good when the shots don’t go in and the Knicks must find a way to keep Indiana off the glass. But small-ball is how the Knicks won 54 games this season and how they got past the Boston Celtics in the first round.

If they’re going to send this series back to Indiana, the Knicks must remember how they got here.

If they’re going to finish it in five, the Pacers need to do the same.

Woodson Searches For Answers, Comes Up Empty

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INDIANAPOLIS –
One of the most interesting things about playoff basketball is a team changing gears and abandoning something — a lineup or a style of play — that worked all season because it’s outmatched in a series.

The New York Knicks went there in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Tuesday. And it didn’t work.

With his team down 2-1 to the Indiana Pacers and shooting blanks offensively against the league’s best defense, Knicks coach Mike Woodson abandoned the starting lineup that had sparked the Knicks to 13 straight wins late in the season. It hadn’t performed poorly (plus-1 in 22 minutes) in the first two games of the series, but did struggle (minus-7 in 13 minutes) in Game 3. The new starting lineup, meanwhile, had never played together.

Woodson abandoned more than a lineup. He abandoned his team’s whole small-ball, two-point-guard, Melo-and-shooters mantra that was so critical to the Knicks’ success. Out was point guard Pablo Prigioni and in was big man Kenyon Martin, sliding Carmelo Anthony to small forward, where he had played just six minutes through the first three games.

It was a sign of desperation, and the hope was that an extra big on the floor would keep the Knicks from getting crushed on the boards like they did in Games 1 and 3. It would also allow them to run secondary pick-and-rolls (instead of isolations) on the weak side of the floor after the Pacers stopped the primary one.

The Knicks did run more pick-and-rolls, they ran more of them with Anthony as the ball handler, and they got the ball up the floor and into their offense more quickly. But the result — a 93-82 Indiana victory — was basically the same as Game 3 three nights earlier. New York got off to a slow start, trailed by 14 at halftime, shot 36 percent, scored less than a point per possession and got crushed on the glass again.

“I thought our offensive flow wasn’t bad tonight,” Woodson said. “I thought the ball movement was a little bit better, but we couldn’t make shots.”

Credit the Indiana defense. It was phenomenal for the second straight game. While the Knicks looked somewhat crisper offensively, they still couldn’t get to the basket. When they looked to attack off the dribble, Roy Hibbert and the Pacers simply shut off the paint, where New York shot a miserable 13-for-34.

“Our effort was just off the charts,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said afterward. “I couldn’t be more proud of our defensive effort, our rebounding effort, and our willingness to share the ball offensively.”

The Knicks got some decent looks at the basket and shot decently (10-for-25) from mid-range, but you can’t win with mid-range shots. They got more 3-point attempts off then they did in Game 3, but many of them were rushed or contested.

Truly, the Knicks are in a funk, having lost five of their last seven games. Anthony and J.R. Smith have combined to shoot 33 percent in that stretch. Jason Kidd has missed his last 17 shots, his last basket coming three weeks ago. And Tyson Chandler looks nothing like the inside force that won Defensive Player of the Year last season.

It’s a bad time to be playing so poorly. And you can’t blame Woodson for trying something different. But he didn’t quite reach all the way down into his bag of tricks.

Kidd still played 16 minutes off the bench, even though his two misses looked awful and took place in the first 7:20 he was on the floor. Meanwhile, two guys who could have provided an offensive spark, Chris Copeland and Steve Novak, rode the pine until late in the third quarter and the final minute, respectively. The Knicks outscored the Pacers by 12 points in Copeland’s 12 minutes, and he and Novak combined to shoot 3-for-4 from 3-point range.

There was also the curious case of Prigioni’s playing time. The numbers have shown that the Knicks are better both offensively and defensively with the 35-year-old rookie on the floor, a phenomenon that Woodson has acknowledged often and as recently as Game 2 of this series. But Prigioni played less than 3 1/2 minutes on Tuesday, and Woodson didn’t have much of an explanation.

“Right now,” Woodson said, “I’m reaching, trying to find combinations that will work.”

Nothing has. And the bottom line is that the Pacers are the better team. The best player in the series hasn’t been Anthony, but rather Paul George. And while Woodson can’t find anyone who can make a shot, the Pacers have someone new step up every night. On Tuesday, it was George Hill, who led all scorers with 26 points on 9-for-14 shooting.

The Pacers can now close the series out in New York on Thursday (8 p.m. ET, TNT). Woodson will still be searching for answers.

Knicks’ Smith Questionable For Game 3

INDIANAPOLIS – J.R. Smith hasn’t played well since he elbowed Jason Terry in Game 3 of the first round. In Game 3 of the conference semifinals, Smith might not play at all.

Under the weather with a 102-degree fever, the Sixth Man of the Year missed the Knicks’ shootaround Saturday morning and is questionable for Game 3 Saturday night (8 p.m. ET, ABC).

“I don’t know if he’s going to play tonight,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. “If he don’t, somebody else has got to step up and help us win.”

The Knicks will have Amar’e Stoudemire for the first time in two months, which gives them the ability to play big for more than the five minutes they have in each of the first two games. But they also have the backcourt depth to deal with Smith’s potential absence and stay small. Raymond Felton, Pablo Prigioni and Iman Shumpert have all been playing well, and Jason Kidd, though he’s missed his last 14 shots, is still a critical part of this team’s success.

“I feel really good now about how Iman’s moving, jumping, and all that,” Woodson said. “So he could pick up some extra minutes, along with Pablo. Raymond’s already playing big minutes and I’m not going to forget about Kidd, because you’ve got three days of rest.”

If Smith doesn’t play, or if he plays and is ineffective, it will be important that Carmelo Anthony doesn’t try too much. When Smith was suspended for Game 4 of the first round, Anthony may have thought he had to beat the Boston Celtics by himself. He shot 10-for-35 in what was the Knicks’ worst offensive game of the postseason.

“I don’t want to put that pressure on myself to say that I have to do more out there,” Anthony said of Smith’s possible absence. “We gotta figure it out. We’ll see how the game goes, see the course of the game, see where it takes us.”

Of course, Anthony seemed confident that Smith would play in Game 3, even though he didn’t know the details of Smith’s condition.

“J.R. gonna play tonight,” Anthony said. “We can get him right. That’s what we have team doctors for, as far as medicine and things like that. He’ll be all right … hopefully.”