Preview: Knicks can shoot their way out of 2-1 hole to Pacers

12 Comments

The Knicks have fundamental problems against the Pacers, primarily rebounding. It’s virtually impossible for New York to re-invent itself this deep into the playoffs, and consequently, a big and physical Indiana team will likely continue holding an advantage on the glass. But that doesn’t mean the Knicks are doomed, and there’s a simple way form them to overcome their deficiency:

Make shots.

More specifically, make 2-point shots.

The Knicks bombed their way to the NBA’s third-best regular-season offense on the strength of their 3-point shooting. New York scored 33 percent of its points on 3-pointers, the league’s top mark.

In Game 3, the Knicks’ biggest problem 3-point problem was generating attempts. The Pacers don’t help much on defense, so New York’s shooters couldn’t get open, and the Knicks shot just 3-for-11 from beyond the arc. That was the first time this season they didn’t take at least 18 3-pointers.

The solution might be more mid-range shots.

NBA teams have mostly realized shots at the rim and 3-pointers are more efficient than any other area of the court. So, teams are tilting their defenses to cover shots at the rim and 3-pointers. At some point, teams will go so far with that defensive approach that they vacate the area between the paint and arc, making mid-range shots efficient. We’re not there yet league-wide – and probably not even close – but maybe the Knicks have reached that point in this series. The Pacers have just defended 3-pointers and shots at the rim so well.

It also helps the Knicks have a couple players comfortable in the mid-range, Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith. No team had two players with as many mid-range makes as Melo and Smith.

Of course, there’s a difference between isolation mid-range shots and mid-range shots that come from pick-and-rolls and good ball movement, and New York should look for the latter.

The Knicks turned the ball over least in the NBA during the regular season, and they’re turning it over even less against the Pacers. That’s partially because Indiana focuses on causing misses and rebounding them rather than forcing turnovers, but it’s also because New York hasn’t taken enough strategic risks in moving the ball.

If the Knicks pass well and make their mid-range shots, maybe Roy Hibbert will have to pay a little more attention outside the paint on pick-and-rolls. That could open lobs for Tyson Chandler, putbacks for Kenyon Martin and more.

But it all starts with making shots.

After Zion Williamson injury, Donovan Mitchell notes risk without reward

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Hype for rival North Carolina visiting Duke on Wednesday night was near an all-time high — secondary ticket prices were pushing Super Bowl prices. It was on national television. A lot of people were making money off of this, starting with the two universities.

Then Duke star and lock No. 1 pick Zion Williamson had to leave the game with a knee injury (later described as a knee sprain).

Utah Jazz wing Donovan Mitchell wanted to remind everyone Williamson was not among the people making money.

Luka Doncic then reminded everyone there is another path.

The NCAA makes its money off the archaic notion of amateurism, that myth fuels the profits major universities rake in off their revenue sports. Keeping that myth alive creates the underground market where players are bribed with shoe money or by boosters (or coaches) to come play at specific universities. It’s that myth that needs to die for the system to change. The issue of paying players is not a simple one — college softball players spend just as much time perfecting their sport and face the same restrictions, shouldn’t they be compensated as well? That said, there’s enough money for everyone if done right. A first step might be to allow Williamson and other stars to be able to profit from their name and likeness while in college without losing their eligibility.

Or, more basketball players may just start choosing Europe or other paths.

76ers coach Brett Brown says he doesn’t expect rookie Zhaire Smith to play in NBA this season

Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons.

Zhaire Smith?

A few recent 76ers first-round picks missed their entire first professional season due to injury. Smith, the No. 16 pick in last year’s draft could join them.

Smith has missed the entire season so far with a broken foot then allergic reaction. He just returned to practicing with the 76ers, but maybe not in time to play for them this season.

Keith Pompey of The Inquirer:

If the 76ers clinch their playoff seed before the regular season ends, I wouldn’t be surprised if Smith plays for them. But meaningful minutes seem unlikely.

Philadelphia is trying to win now, and a rookie who entered the NBA relatively raw then missed so much time is unlikely to help.

That said, backup wings James Ennis and Jonathon Simmons aren’t exactly reliable options. If everything breaks right for Smith – essentially the opposite of his season to date – maybe, just maybe, he plays for the 76ers this season.

Warriors vs. Bucks or Raptors betting favorite to be NBA Finals matchup

Getty Images
3 Comments

Who will we see in the NBA Finals come June?

The West looks cut and dried — if the Warriors are healthy, it’s hard to imagine any other team in that conference giving them too much trouble.

The East? That’s wide open. A good case can be made for Boston, Toronto, Philadelphia, or Milwaukee finding their way in. (For a more detailed breakdown, listen to the latest PBT Podcast where Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports and myself break down the East in more detail.)

The bookmakers over at BetOnline put together these odds on potential Finals matchups, and after the first four options the odds get pretty long.

Milwaukee Bucks vs Golden State Warriors 9/2
Toronto Raptors vs Golden State Warriors 9/2
Boston Celtics vs Golden State Warriors 5/1
Philadelphia 76ers vs Golden State Warriors 5/1
Indiana Pacers vs Golden State Warriors 28/1
Brooklyn Nets vs Golden State Warriors 33/1
Boston Celtics vs Houston Rockets 40/1
Milwaukee Bucks vs Houston Rockets 40/1
Philadelphia 76ers vs Houston Rockets 40/1
Toronto Raptors vs Houston Rockets 40/1
Charlotte Hornets vs Golden State Warriors 50/1
Detroit Pistons vs Golden State Warriors 50/1
Miami Heat vs Golden State Warriors 50/1
Orlando Magic vs Golden State Warriors 66/1
Washington Wizards vs Golden State Warriors 66/1
Boston Celtics vs Oklahoma City Thunder 80/1
Milwaukee Bucks vs Oklahoma City Thunder 80/1
Philadelphia 76ers vs Oklahoma City Thunder 80/1
Toronto Raptors vs Oklahoma City Thunder 80/1

A few quick thoughts on that list:

• Interesting that the Sixers and Celtics are just a little behind the Bucks and Raptors in the minds of the bookmakers.

• I don’t know that I’d have Houston in front of Oklahoma City as the second-best option in the West. Not this season. The Thunder have the defense and star power to do playoff damage.

• If you’re thinking about putting money on Washington or Orlando to make the Finals — against anyone — just donate that money to charity instead. That way it will do some good.

Likely No. 1 pick Zion Williamson leaves Duke-North Carolina game with knee injury

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
9 Comments

Zion Williamson will probably be the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft.

He’s a generationally good prospect. The rest of this draft also looks relatively weak.

In fact, Williamson has such a stranglehold on the top pick, some have suggested he sit out the rest of his freshman season.

His injury during Duke’s game against North Carolina tonight will only heighten those calls.

Duke:

Hopefully, Williamson is OK.

And hopefully, the system changes. The NCAA is a cartel in which schools conspire to cap compensation for athletes at a scholarship plus some expenses. In a free market, Williamson would earn far more.

Unfortunately, it probably can’t be both. If Williamson escapes this without major injury, the status quo will likely endure.

But, if this injury even allows him to play again this season, it might be a warning shot that causes him to sit until he can enter the NBA draft.

Again, I hope he’s healthy enough to make that decision for himself.