Pacers-Knicks Preview

The New York Knicks will not concede they have a ”big” problem
– yet.

They know the Indiana Pacers have a size advantage, realize that
Carmelo Anthony is going to get beat up banging against a bulkier
body, and understand that a change to a lineup with a conventional
power forward may become necessary.

Not now, but check back if they lose Game 2 on Tuesday
night.

”I’m not saying I won’t do that. But I’m just saying right now
we’ve only got one game under our belt. … The small lineup that
we started didn’t cost us,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said Monday.
”And I don’t consider Melo a small. You guys might, but I
don’t.”

He is, though, when it comes to his matchup against the
Pacers.

Listed at 6-foot-8 and 235 pounds, Anthony has a quickness
advantage playing against power forwards, and he’s big enough to
defend many of them. But Indiana’s David West is 6-9 and 250,
playing his natural position he’s been an All-Star at, and he’s one
of the toughest competitors around.

The Pacers outrebounded the Knicks 44-30 on Sunday in their
102-95 victory in the opener of the second-round series.

”We’re a big, physical team,” Pacers center Roy Hibbert said.
”Their specialty is their offensive firepower and we’ve got guys
that could hold down the paint and the perimeter, too. So we just
try to make everything as hard as possible for those guys and use
our length and athleticism.”

Anthony was in foul trouble and shot only 10 of 28, and a couple
of his teammates even expressed concern about the pounding he took.
But Anthony offers no excuses and his coach makes no concessions,
saying the guys who started weren’t the problem since the Knicks
led after the first quarter.

”I thought we came out, we held our own the start of the game,
had nothing to do with who started at the 4 or the 5,” Woodson
said.

”Melo’s played big guys all year. Last I checked,
statistics-wise we’ve been pretty damn good this year with Melo
playing at the 4 spot, so I don’t see any reason to change at this
point right now.”

But something is affecting Anthony. The NBA’s leading scorer has
made just 35 of 110 shots over his last four games and his shooting
percentage for the postseason is down to 38 percent overall and 26
percent from 3-point range.

Point guard Raymond Felton wondered if the Pacers were targeting
Anthony’s sore left shoulder that he wore a strap over in Game 1 to
keep in place. Teammate Kenyon Martin said he didn’t think Anthony
should have to ”wrestle and tussle” with West and that perhaps
the Knicks should start a bigger lineup. (He would be the obvious
candidate to start).

”I think K-Mart is coming from a concerned standpoint as a
teammate from me getting beat up so much, but we’ve been going
through and dealing with the same thing all year long,” Anthony
said.

”I’m fine. I’ve been bruised up, beat up all year long, so as
far as them guys targeting the shoulder, I can’t worry about
that.”

Martin is only an inch taller and weighs less than Anthony, who
shifted from his normal small forward spot to the power forward
last season when Amare Stoudemire was injured and stayed there this
season when Stoudemire remained out. The Knicks flourished with the
small lineup and an emphasis on 3-point shooting.

”Kenyon is no bigger than Melo, that’s kind of how I look at
it,” Woodson said. ”We’ll just gauge it and see how it goes
tomorrow and if we’ve got to make that adjustment, I’ll be the one
to make that call.”

Stoudemire could become an option to get big man minutes later
in the series if he’s cleared to return from right knee surgery. He
took part in 3-on-3 scrimmages Monday, looking winded but expecting
to practice Thursday and be in uniform Saturday.

”Game 1 was tough for us, but we’re going to retaliate in Game
2 and see how that goes, and then from that game we’ll see what
type of adjustments we need to make. And then if I’m able to play,
then I will,” Stoudemire said.

The Knicks said most of their problems stemmed from being
outworked, but they’ve got other issues. Hibbert (14 points, 8
rebounds, 5 blocks) dominated his matchup with Tyson Chandler (4
points, 3 rebounds, 2 blocks, 6 fouls), and Sixth Man of the Year
J.R. Smith continued his shooting woes by going 4 of 15.

”I thought both teams played extremely physical. It’s going to
be that kind of series,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. ”I don’t
think we’ve won that physicality battle or anything like that. I
think they played extremely hard and physical, and so did we.”

With the Knicks unable to hit from the perimeter, they were
forced to drive at Hibbert and other big defenders, which plays
into the Pacers’ hands. But Anthony said he’ll keep doing it,
insisting again the Knicks’ effort was more of a problem than the
Pacers’ execution.

”For the most part, everything came down to effort yesterday,”
he said. ”In our minds, we cannot get outworked like we did
yesterday and that will be the adjustment.”

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