The Knicks insist there’s no need to push the panic button after one game, even one as physically draining and demoralizing as Game 1.
Carmelo Anthony said the team isn’t looking at the opening game of their Eastern Conference semifinal matchup with the Pacers as an omen, because everything that went wrong is correctable.
“I don’t want to jump the gun. It was just one game and they outworked us. But I don’t think it’ll happen again,” Anthony said. “We looked at the film and there was nothing that they really did as far as Xs and Os and execution. They just outworked us, and that won’t happen again.”
Anthony gave the rugged Pacers defense credit as they forced him to shoot 10-of-28, and also hammered the Knicks on the boards, 44-30. But he added the adjustments needed to counter those factors aren’t exactly rocket science.
“They’re a tough team and they attack the offensive glass, and they were getting a lot of long rebounds,” Anthony said. “On the offensive end, we have to make shots, because if we don’t make shots, they rebound well and it spreads the margin of rebounding out to make it look like it did yesterday. … But for the most part, everything came down to effort, with [head coach Mike Woodson] saying we didn’t have the effort and those guys did. But in our mind we cannot get outworked like we did yesterday, and that should be the main adjustment for Game 2.”
Making more shots always seems like Anthony’s answer for most of the Knicks’ ills, but he has a point considering the Knicks only shot 43 percent in Game 1 and were still in a two-possession game in the final minute. Had J.R. Smith nailed a 3-pointer during that span, the Knicks would’ve stolen a game they had no business winning.
But Anthony insisted that if the offense gets going, they can diminish the Pacers’ rebounding advantage and play a style of game Indiana — a limited offensive team — wouldn’t feel comfortable playing.
Woodson refused to blame the offense — or Anthony’s and Smith’s sometimes suspect shot selection.
“The second-chance buckets hurt us because we were out of position at times. The ball was bouncing long and they were coming up with it, and we were nowhere to be found,” Woodson said. “But that’s all correctable and must be cleaned up by tomorrow when we step back on the floor.”
Woodson did relent a little, however, and hinted that perhaps his two best offensive players should try to score in other ways to break out of their shooting slumps.
“It helps to get to the free-throw line some and continue to shoot in practice. And when they’re taking shots, they have to take better shots at times. Sometimes those difficult shots that you’re accustomed at making that you’re now not making you have to find a way at getting better shots. I think they can do that, but only time will tell,” said Woodson. “But I don’t blame it all on bad shots. We had our chances. It was our defensive lapses and we kind of took a step back yesterday.”
One adjustment Woodson said he won’t make is starting a more traditional lineup to combat the physical Pacers. Kenyon Martin said following the Game 1 loss that perhaps the Knicks should start a traditional power forward and move Anthony back to his customary small forward position.
Woodson said the thought has never even crossed his mind.
“Not right now, because it’s too early in the series [to panic and make changes]. We were right there. [The loss] had nothing to do with who started at the four [power forward] or five [center],” Woodson said. “Melo has played big guys all year, and the last I checked we’ve been pretty good playing this way with Melo at the four. I don’t see any reason to change that right now.”
“I think K-Mart is coming from a concerned teammate who’s trying to keep me from getting beat up so much, but we’ve been dealing with the same thing all year,” Anthony said. “We looked at the film and all the foul trouble, but I don’t think that [playing power forward] is the cause of things. They just outworked us yesterday. We’ve done all we did this year with me at the four, so I don’t think we need to change that right now. Everything just gets magnified when you don’t make shots. … We’ll redeem ourselves tomorrow. We’ll be a better team tomorrow.”
Knicks notes …
» Amar’e Stoudemire worked out Monday and had a couple of strenuous, full-court 3-on-3 games. The power forward’s offensive game looked just as refined as it did pre-injury, although his conditioning was lacking — which was to be expected. Stoudemire said he’s “still on track” for a Game 3 appearance, barring any setbacks from today’s workouts.
“It feels good to finally be on the court and getting competition. I had a really tough day out there, but it felt good. We have to see how it reacts tomorrow. Obviously when you recover from an injury it takes time to see how it reacts. I’ll have a recovery day tomorrow and then if it feels great, we’ll have another practice the day after that and see if it keeps improving. … It’s all about perseverance and looking past the illusion of injury, and looking forward to the spirit of recovery. Cardio is key. I just want to get in better shape, and I will. And once it gets to where I want it, and my health feels great, I’ll get back out there. … There’s no fear [about re-injury]. Fear is ‘False Evidence Ain’t Real’ and I have no fear at all. … Playing basketball is a natural ability. I was born with it. So, it’s not going anywhere. It’s like riding a bike. Once you learn to play, it never goes away. It’s just a matter of getting in top shape and working on certain skills, and staying sharp and crisp. That takes time.”
Stoudemire added that when he returns, all he can do is play hard and not worry about playing time or role, but added he will definitely try to help on the blocks: “Stay tuned. I have no control over my impact. All I can do is play extremely hard and just display my talents on both ends of the court. … [The low-post emphasis] will still be the same, but I’m just here to do whatever the coaching staff needs me to do. I’ve been saying that all year and that won’t change.”
» Steve Novak (back) worked out on the side and mainly shot jumpers. Woodson said he looked good but doubts Novak will be able to play in Game 2: “I don’t know if he’ll play tomorrow. It was his first day back on the floor. We’ll have to wait to see how he feels after today.”
» Anthony acknowledged his left shoulder is sore and probably won’t get much better banging with the likes of David West and Tyler Hansbrough, but said overall it hasn’t been a hindrance to his shot: “My shoulder is all right. Ray [Felton] and K-Mart are coming from a concerned teammate, but I’m fine. I’ve been beat up all season long, so I can’t worry about that. It’s the playoffs.”
Anthony also wouldn’t take the bait and complain about the officials: “Those guys officiated the game to the best of their ability. But in my mindset I’ll still attack. That’s my goal. … I have to [attack the basket]. That’s what I’ve been doing all season. … [But] I don’t know, I guess I have to earn my respect [with officials]. It gets frustrating sometimes out there but I try not to let the negativity sink in. I’m just playing. I’ll keep attacking and that’s not going to change. They call it if they do, and if not, so be it.”
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.