We know exactly what we are going to get from the Boston Celtics in Game 6 Friday night — they are going to defend hard, Kevin Garnett is going to crash the boards and get his points, Paul Pierce will create looks for himself. They will scrap, that’s what champions on the verge of elimination do.
What are we going to get from the Knicks on offense?
That is the simple question of this series. It’s not about wearing black or what anybody said about Carmelo Anthony’s wife. That’s the sideshow the Knick’s can’t get caught up in (but have).
New York was strong on offense in the regular season, an offensive rating of 106.6 points per 100 possessions; they shared the ball well and especially during their late-season winning streak moved the ball from strong to weak beautifully.
Boston’s stout defense was always going to be a challenge, but the Knicks have averaged 96.3 points per 100 possessions in the playoffs.
The reason is they have fallen back in love with isolation basketball — which is what the Celtics defense is set up to stop.
In the regular season, the Knicks averaged 15 isolation sets a game (well above the league average of 10), but in this series they have averaged 26 a game (stats via ESPN).
By the time you get to the playoffs against a good defensive team, they are going to take away your first option — whatever the primary goal of your offensive set is will not be easy to get. Nor will the second by the time you are five games into a series — the other team has studied and seen what you want to run. You need to beat good teams with your third, your fourth options.
But the Knicks offense has broken down when it gets past the first couple options, so they throw the ball to Carmelo Anthony or J.R. Smith and ask them to create something. That’s hard to do against Boston.
This is not to say Boston has no say in the outcome tonight — at home they could get a big night from Jeff Green or Jason Terry, giving them enough scoring to overwhelm the Knicks for a night.
But New York has to win one of two to advance. New York is the better team, but it has to be the best version of itself to advance. It has to live up to its promise and not revert to isolation basketball.
We’ll see if they can do that Friday night.