A question coming out of New York prior to the Knicks vs. Pacers Series Game 2 is whether or not the Knicks need to shy away from their small-ball ways of the 2012-13 season and try to match up with the Pacers strong front-court, including Roy Hibbert, David West, and Tyler Hansbrough.
What could help the Knicks more is a return to mid-season form from their leader and starting center, Tyson Chandler.
A thought that Kenyon Martin, or even Marcus Camby should be given more time has been floated, but do not seem possible. Martin, against the players the Pacers have cannot possibly play more minutes without being fatigued, or worse, in foul trouble for most of the game.
Camby, is almost an afterthought this season. Despite a long-term contract signed this year, Camby has only appeared in 24 games for the Knicks – only 11 of those games were for more than 10 minutes – and has seen no more than 2 minutes per game during any game action this post-season.
The best, and probably only chance the Knicks have in this series is to do what they have done all year – Melo at Power Forward being the scoring superstar, J.R. Smith playing well inside and out, Felton and Kidd and Prigioni keeping the ball movement going, hitting 3’s and letting Tyson Chandler control the inside.
Except since his injury and subsequent time lost after April 7th, Chandler has been a shell of himself.
Slowly raising his minutes per game since returning, Chandler finally got over 30 per game during Game 4 of the Celtics series.
But while he reached that number, his all-around game has not returned.
It took him 3 weeks, but on April 28th, he finally got back to double-digit rebounds in a game. That said, he was not able to do much defensively, only accumulating 1 block. In the series closing game vs. the Celtics, he finally was able to find a bit of his usual magic, pulling down 12 boards, with 3 blocks and adding 9 points.
But once he got to the fearsome front-court of the Pacers, he took a massive step back. Chandler fouled out after only 28 minutes with a line of 4 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 blocks.
That is not going to cut it for an under-sized Knicks team.
Even if we forget the points – Chandler has only scored 10+ points in 2 games since February – the Knicks cannot escape this series without Chandler playing at his best, injury or not.
The return of Amare Stoudemire on Saturday will help out with the missing front-court points and will give the Knicks a little size they are missing, but no big man on the Knicks can give the minutes and the intangibles Chandler can on the defensive end.
For all we talk about Melo and J.R. Smith getting back on track, the Knicks big man is next on that list and an important part of the picture going forward.