With no Amare Stoudemire (for a while) and no Jeremy Lin (for a night), there were the two things we said the Knicks needed if they were going to make the playoffs (and, in a dream scenario, make a run to the top of the Atlantic division).
First, a whole lot of Carmelo Anthony on offense. Second, really good team defense.
The Knicks got both of those things Wednesday night, and with them a blueprint of what they need to do from here on out. They also got an easy 108-86 win over the Magic. It certainly helped that Orlando pretty much rolled up into the fetal position and let the Knicks take the win, but still the blueprint is still there.
Anthony had 25 points and six assists, but it was how he got them that was key. With no Lin the Knicks largely went away from the pick-and-roll — they only had 9 shots by the ball-handler or roll man in that set. Instead they used Anthony more in the post and good ball movement (34 shots came on spot ups, 20 in isolations). Anthony in the post drew fouls, hit some turnaround jumpers and made smart kickouts. He made the offense go.
Defensively, the Knicks have the personnel to follow the book on the Magic — single cover Dwight Howard and stay home on the shooters. With Tyson Chandler on him Howard had just 12 points on 7 shots. Orlando’s game plan is to make you double inside and them beat you with deep shots, but the Knicks could stay home on the shooters and the Magic never got in a rhythm.
The Knicks got some other good play as well — Iman Shumpert had 25 points and played good defense.
It’s not always going to be that easy for the Knicks because most teams won’t roll over like that (it’s games like this that make you think the Magic will not impress in the plaoff. But the blueprint is there. And the Knicks are now 2.5 games ahead of the Bucks and solidly in the playoffs — and just 2.5 games out of the division lead.
The Rockets were feeling it the first half in Game 6.
Playing with an energy the Warriors lacked at least in the first quarter), Houston defended well, pushed the ball in transition, and then they just drained three after three after three.
Eric Gordon started 4-of-4 from three and the team was 11-of-22 in the first half, which made up for the 11 turnovers and had them up 17 at one point and ahead by 10 after the first half.
Steve Kerr has been searching for a couple of games now for his fifth guy.
With Andre Iguodala out there is no Death/Hamptons 5 lineup and Kerr is looking for a fifth guy to partner with his four All-Stars. Kevon Looney is starting, Jordan Bell is showing potential but also makes some rookie plays, Nick Young has been bad enough that Kerr trusted Quin Cook more at the end of the last game (and Cook missed his looks).
Kerr is going to have to keep searching for a guy in Game 6 because Iguodala is out again.
The Warriors are not the team heading into Game 6 with the most significant injury woes, the Rockets are without Chris Paul. That and the fact the Warriors’ backs are against the wall is the reason they are heavy favorites in Game 6.
However, the Warriors have not been the same without Iguodala. He is a playmaker who can control the ball and settle things down, makes the right decision, get the player and ball movement the Warriors have strayed too much from back, plus is one of their best defenders on James Harden. Nobody else on the roster can do that.
And if Game 6 gets tight late, the Warriors are going to miss those skills. As they have in the last two games.
Game 7s are not pretty basketball. Everyone is tight, shots clank off the front of the rim, and players tend to think rather than just react, sucking the flow out of the game. It’s a game for grinders.
Marcus Smart is good with that, and he told Chris Forsberg of ESPN the team is preparing for this style.
“It’s not going to be pretty. You got to be able to get down and get dirty. You can’t go out and try to look pretty. You have to be ready for a dogfight. We got to be ready to come up with our nose bloodied. We got to be ready to come out with our mouth bloodied. We have to come out ready to fight.”
If Boston is going to win this game, they will do so with the physical, smart, and unrelenting defense that carried them all season. That’s their grit. Without Kevin Love (out with a concussion) the Celtics have one less scorer to worry about, but things do not necessarily get dramatically easier — LeBron James is going to get his buckets, but can the Celtics keep George Hill, Kyle Korver, J.R. Smith and the rest of the role players from helping out with big nights of their own.
Which one of these teams is better positioned to win a grinding, sloppy game? Who is willing to dive on the floor and give that little extra effort? A case can be made either way, but Sunday night will decide it.
We haven’t seen Golden State’s Patrick McCaw on an NBA court since March 31, when he was undercut by Sacramento’s Vince Carter and took an ugly, nasty spill.
McCaw is finally cleared by the team doctors and will be active on Saturday night for Game 6 against Houston, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.
The Golden State Warriors are planning to activate swingman Patrick McCaw for Game 6 of the Western Conference finals against the Houston Rockets on Saturday night, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
McCaw, on paper, would help the Warriors — he’s a 6’5″ switchable defender who can provide some offense in transition. That’s especially true if Andre Iguodala is out for Game 6 (his status is a game-time decision). McCaw played about 17 minutes a night for the Warriors during the regular season.
However, the idea of taking a second-year player who has not been on a court in six weeks and throwing him into Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals — a win-or-go-fishing game for Golden State — is risky, at best. Don’t expect him to get on the court unless this is a blowout.