The Knicks are facing elimination Thursday night, trailing three games to one in their playoff series against the Pacers. New York hopes that returning to play at Madison Square Garden, where the team was 31-10 during the regular season, may help them snap out of their offensive funk and force a Game 6 back in Indiana on Saturday.
Hope is not a strategy, as they say, so Knicks head coach Mike Woodson is likely to shuffle his lineups in search of one that can shoot much better than the 35 percent his team showed in its last two losses. He also is approaching the game with a supreme level of confidence.
After today’s morning shootaround at Tarrytown, with do-or-die Game 5 on tap tonight, Woodson sounded very confident the series is heading back to Indianapolis.
“I’m expecting to win tonight,’’ Woodson said. “This has got to be a wakeup now. If we lose, we go home and none of us want to go home. I sure as hell don’t. I think we’re going to show a lot of pride.’’
The Knicks don’t need to show pride, they need to make shots.
New York has been a jump shooting team all year, with Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith both capable of getting hot from outside. The problem in this series against the Pacers has been Indiana’s defense, which has been immaculate at times — both in the way they’ve defended on the ball, and in their rotations and closeouts on the three-point shooters.
Woodson didn’t come close to making one of those silly guarantees, but his “expectation” might be enough if he was able to convey that to his team in time for them to bring an increased level of fortitude into what could potentially be the Knicks’ final game of the season.
Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver
That is the first night of a back-to-back, with former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer and his Atlanta Hawks coming to San Antonio on Saturday. Popovich is saving his two veterans for that game.
Duncan and Ginobili have looked like they found the fountain of youth this season. Duncan is taking on less of the offense but has been very efficient in those moments. Ginobili has the impact he did a few years back in his bench role.
What Gregg Popovich cares about is them playing like that come the postseason. So they will rest on Friday.
Rejecting the tender is a favor to the drafting team, which gets to keep the player’s exclusive rights for a year. If Thornton tries to join the NBA now, he’s stuck negotiating with only the Celtics.
By accepting the tender, the player typically gets one of two outcomes. He either plays on that contract and draws an NBA salary or he gets waived. But even getting waived is better than rejecting the tender, because at least the player becomes a free agent and can negotiate with any team.
Players who reject the tender go to another league and play for less money. In Thornton’s case, that mean Australia.
How’s that going?
(Almost) never reject the required tender as a second-round pick.
Byron Scott says they just have to get Kobe Bryant better looks
Kobe Bryant is averaging 15.2 points a game at age 37. It’s just taking him 16.4 shots per game to get there. After his 1-of-14 shooting performance against the Warriors the other night — with too much isolation and too many plays run just for him — there has been a lot of talk about his shot. With reason, this is his shot chart so far this season.
So what do the Lakers’ do? Get Kobe to shoot less and get the ball in the hands of the young stars they supposed to be developing more? Nah.
“I know his mentality is that he can still play in this league,” Scott said. “And we feel the same way….
“Obviously he’s struggling right now with his shot, and I think everybody can see that,” Scott said. “So it’s trying to get him in better position to be able to have an opportunity to knock those shots down on a consistent basis. That’s No. 1.
“I don’t know if it’s his legs. I don’t think so. Again, our conversations are pretty blunt. … He tells me when he is tired and he tells me when he’s not tired. And the last few days, he said he feels great. So, I don’t think it’s a matter of him being tired or his legs being tired. I think it’s a matter of his timing being a little off.”
Yes, how could it be his legs? It’s not like he’s a 37-year-old with more than 55,000 NBA minutes played, and coming off an Achilles rupture and major knee surgery.
Honestly, I hope the Lakers and Kobe find a balance soon, because they have become just hard to watch. And I don’t want Kobe to go out this way.