Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert smiles while running down court after a Pacers score during the second half of an NBA Eastern Conference second round playoff basketball game versus the New York Knicks in Indianapolis

How do the Knicks rebound from this?

76 Comments

Tyson Chandler slowed to let a potential defensive rebound bounce in front of him. Seeing an opportunity, Tyler Hansbrough surged from behind and knocked the ball off Stoudemire as Hansbrough fell out of bounds. The ball bounced off Chandler and over the baseline, and though it next hit the knee of Hansbrough, who was then out of bounds, the officials gave the Pacers the ball.

Before New York could protest, the Pacers had another offensive rebound, Roy Hibbert made a left-handed hook shot, and Indiana took a 2-1 series lead with its 82-71 win tonight.

Whether the Knicks know it or not, this series is getting away from them.

Teams shooting 35 percent or worse from the field had been 2-81 since the beginning of this season, but the Pacers became the third team to win in those circumstances for one big reason (REBOUNDING) and two smaller reasons (3-pointers and the Knicks’ offense being nearly as abysmal).

Indiana outrebounded New York, 53-40, allowing the Pacers to turn the ball over more than the Knicks and still attempt nine more shots. Hibbert (24 points and 12 rebounds) came up big, but it was really a total team effort. Rank the starters by rebounds, and the Pacers have the top two spots and five of the top six, and the Knicks have the bottom four.

1. Pacers (Roy Hibbert, 12)

1. Pacers (David West, 12)

3. Knicks (Iman Shumpert, 9)

4. Pacers (Paul George, 8)

5. Pacers (Lance Stephenson, 7)

6. Pacers (George Hill, 6)

7. Knicks (Tyson Chandler, 5)

7. Knicks (Carmelo Anthony, 5)

9. Knicks (Raymond Felton, 3)

10. Knicks (Pablo Prigioni, 0)

New York’s starters played more than Indiana’s but that underscores the point: The Pacers – big, physical and aggressive on the glass – have a stronger identity than the Knicks right now. New York is still tinkering, which is a dangerous state this deep into the playoffs.

The Knicks were an OK rebounding team during the regular season – ranking 19th in offensive rebounding, 4th in defensive rebounding and 18th overall – but Indiana (fourth offensively, sixth defensively and first overall) has exposed New York’s relative size deficiencies.

The Knicks’ latest adjustment, giving Amar’e Stoudemire nine minutes, didn’t go so hot. With him on the floor, Indiana had more offensive rebounds than New York had defensive rebounds.

Another key for for the Pacers was 3-point shooting. Although they shot just 30.3 percent from beyond the arc, a mark that would have ranked last in the league during the regular season, they made seven more 3s than New York. That’s because the Knicks crowded the paint, allowing Indiana to take 22 more 3-point attempts than New York. Even at a below-average clip, 3-pointers are very valuable due to being worth 50 percent more points than other shots, and the Knicks erred by strategically allowing so many 3s.

Staying on the Pacers’ 3-point shooters will be a relatively easy adjustment for New York going to Game 4, but how do they fix the rebounding? And there’s the Knicks’ offense.

New York looked looked especially horrid offensively at times tonight, but in their lowest moments, the Knicks found the most unlikely saviors.

Their only points on their first seven possessions came on a 20-foot Chandler jumper, his longest made field goal as a Knick.

In the final 6:47 of the third quarter, J.R. Smith was the only Knick to make a shot – and it’s not like he was lighting it up, shooting 2-for-5 in that span – until Stoudemire made a tip-in with six seconds left (a basket that didn’t count until a replay review between the third and fourth quarters overruled a shot clock violation called prior to the basket) and then made his first 3-pointer since Jan. 21, 2012.

Otherwise, Carmelo Anthony (21 points on 6-of-16 shooting) kept them afloat . No other Knick scored double digits.

But the patchwork offense eventually ripped at the seems. The Knicks made only one shot in the first 9:58 of the fourth quarter, and by then, the Pacers’ lead had swelled to 16.

On the other hand, Paul George made his mark while producing shooting just 4-of-17 and committing five turnovers. He had eight rebounds, eight assists (a difficult feat in a game when his teammates shot just 38 percent) and five steals while playing quality defense on Melo.

This isn’t the tidy series the Knicks need, and that’s why the Pacers’ leg up seems even bigger than their 2-1 series lead.

Watch Kyle Lowry’s tip-pass alley-oop to Jimmy Butler in USA win

1 Comment

There were a lot of ugly things for Team USA in its exhibition win over Venezuela — the 4-of-25 shooting from three comes to mind. There was more, it was not a strong offensive performance from Team USA.

But like usual, we can overwhelm teams with athleticism, and that means wins and highlights. Like Kyle Lowry‘s tip-pass alley-oop to Jimmy Butler.

Or DeMar DeRozan‘s late-game windmill dunk.

Kyrie Irving helps USA to ugly 80-45 win over Venezuela

OAKLAND, CA - JULY 26:  Kyrie Irving #10 of the United States Men's National Team looks to make a move with the ball against the China Men's National Team during the first half of a USA Basketball showcase exhibition game at ORACLE Arena on July 26, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

CHICAGO (AP) — Kyrie Irving scored 13 points, DeMarcus Cousins powered a dominant performance in the paint, and the United States pulled away from Venezuela for an ugly 80-45 exhibition victory Friday night.

Coming off three straight flashy victories in Las Vegas and California, the United States shot 42.4 percent from the field and committed 13 turnovers in by far its worst offensive performance of its five-city tour in preparation for next week’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics. But the Americans used their superior athleticism to limit Venezuela to 24 percent shooting and owned the interior with a 54-29 rebounding advantage.

Returning to Chicago for the first time with the U.S. national team, Bulls star Jimmy Butler was cheered every time he was announced at the United Center. He had four points and eight rebounds in 21 minutes in his first start with Team USA.

Butler had one of the few electric plays for the U.S. when he ran out on the break and dunked Kyle Lowry‘s tip pass in the fourth quarter. DeAndre Jordan also had a vicious dunk off a lob from Kevin Durant, and DeMar DeRozan drew chants of “USA! USA!” with a windmill jam in the final minutes.

Klay Thompson also scored 13 points, and Cousins finished with seven points and 12 rebounds. Durant had nine points of 3-of-9 shooting.

John Cox scored 14 points for Venezuela, which will play the U.S. again on Aug. 8 in the Olympics.

Irving and company were greeted with a round of hearty cheers when they came out for pregame warmups. Fans lined the side of the court where the Americans had their layup line, and Anthony and Durant posed for pictures with a couple of eager boys.

Before Butler’s introduction drew the most applause of the night, former Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau received a thunderous ovation when he was announced with the U.S. coaching staff. Thibodeau took a year off after he was fired by the Bulls in May 2015, and then was hired as Minnesota’s coach and president of basketball operations in April.

The star power also extended to the sideline near the U.S. bench, where former Olympians Scottie Pippen and Dwyane Wade watched the action attentively. Wade was joined by his wife, actress Gabriel Union, hours after he held his introductory press conference for his new contract with his hometown Bulls.

Pippen played on the 1992 Dream Team that rolled to gold in Barcelona, and also helped the U.S. win gold in 1996. Wade was on the Americans’ gold medal-winning teams at each of the last two Olympics.

Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap

Monty Williams is back coaching with Team USA, ready to get back on NBA sidelines

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 18:  Draymond Green #14 of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team drives against assistant coach Monty Williams of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team during a practice session at the Mendenhall Center on July 18, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Getty Images
3 Comments

Watching Monty Williams back on the court at the USA basketball camp/practices in Las Vegas, you could see he was at home. He’s easily the best 44-year-old defender on the planet — he went toe-to-toe with Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, and the rest, was physical, and made them work for buckets. Then he’d instruct. He’s just a natural.

Back in February, Williams’ wife was killed in an auto accident. It devastated the devout family man, in ways it’s hard for us to understand who have never experienced it. He walked away from coaching the rest of the NBA season with the Thunder, and nobody questioned it for a second.

Now, after getting his feet wet with Team USA (where he is an assistant to Mike Krzyzewski), he told Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman he is ready to get back on the sidelines.

“I wouldn’t even think that if I didn’t know, one, my wife would want me to; my kids talk about it all the time. And there have been some things that have happened in my life lately that have allowed me to get that back. I’m so juiced up and ready to get back into it again.”

He is one of the better respected assistant coaches in the league, and a guy who will get another shot at a top spot someday. Soon. Can’t wait to see him back on the sidelines.

Ben Simmons says he plans to work on shooting, handles, getting stronger before camp

Philadelphia 76ers' Ben Simmons cheers from the bunch during the first half of the team's NBA summer league basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Thursday, July 14, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Associated Press
9 Comments

The leap from college — even high-level college programs — to the NBA can be hard to describe. Now everybody is bigger, longer, and far more athletic — the guy at the end of the bench barely getting any burn was one of the best players on his college team.

Players get their first taste of that at Summer League. The Sixers’ No. 1 pick Ben Simmons looked pretty good when he got that taste, but you can see the development that needs to go on as well.

He’s spending the time between now and the start of training camp working on his shooting and getting stronger, among other things, he told Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com.

“I think just getting in the gym and making sure I’m getting reps up, shooting-wise, dribbling,” Simmons said earlier this week after an appearance at Sixers Camp in Wayne, Pennsylvania. “The weight room as well, making sure I get my strength back and my weight up.”

All good things. Handles and shooting in particular — he’s about to start seeing much better defenders nightly. It’s going to take time, and we’ll see how far he can go, but Simmons unquestionably brings a lot of skill and potential to the table. That he’s putting in the work is a good sign — that was one of the concerns about him heading into the draft.

New GM Bryan Colangelo is going to benefit from Sam Hinkie’s process. So long as he doesn’t screw it up.