GREENBURGH, N.Y. (AP) — The New York Knicks will not concede they have a “big” problem — yet.
They know the Indiana Pacers have a size advantage, realize that Carmelo Anthony is going to get beat up banging against a bulkier body, and understand that a change to a lineup with a conventional power forward may become necessary.
Not now, but check back if they lose Game 2 on Tuesday night.
“I’m not saying I won’t do that. But I’m just saying right now we’ve only got one game under our belt. … The small lineup that we started didn’t cost us,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said Monday. “And I don’t consider Melo a small. You guys might, but I don’t.”
He is, though, when it comes to his matchup against the Pacers.
Listed at 6-foot-8 and 235 pounds, Anthony has a quickness advantage playing against power forwards, and he’s big enough to defend many of them. But Indiana’s David West is 6-9 and 250, playing his natural position he’s been an All-Star at, and he’s one of the toughest competitors around.
The Pacers outrebounded the Knicks 44-30 on Sunday in their 102-95 victory in the opener of the second-round series.
“We’re a big, physical team,” Pacers center Roy Hibbert said. “Their specialty is their offensive firepower and we’ve got guys that could hold down the paint and the perimeter, too. So we just try to make everything as hard as possible for those guys and use our length and athleticism.”
Anthony was in foul trouble and shot only 10 of 28, and a couple of his teammates even expressed concern about the pounding he took. But Anthony offers no excuses and his coach makes no concessions, saying the guys who started weren’t the problem since the Knicks led after the first quarter.
“I thought we came out, we held our own the start of the game, had nothing to do with who started at the 4 or the 5,” Woodson said.
“Melo’s played big guys all year. Last I checked, statistics-wise we’ve been pretty damn good this year with Melo playing at the 4 spot, so I don’t see any reason to change at this point right now.”
But something is affecting Anthony. The NBA’s leading scorer has made just 35 of 110 shots over his last four games and his shooting percentage for the postseason is down to 38 percent overall and 26 percent from 3-point range.
Point guard Raymond Felton wondered if the Pacers were targeting Anthony’s sore left shoulder that he wore a strap over in Game 1 to keep in place. Teammate Kenyon Martin said he didn’t think Anthony should have to “wrestle and tussle” with West and that perhaps the Knicks should start a bigger lineup. (He would be the obvious candidate to start).
“I think K-Mart is coming from a concerned standpoint as a teammate from me getting beat up so much, but we’ve been going through and dealing with the same thing all year long,” Anthony said.
“I’m fine. I’ve been bruised up, beat up all year long, so as far as them guys targeting the shoulder, I can’t worry about that.”
Martin is only an inch taller and weighs less than Anthony, who shifted from his normal small forward spot to the power forward last season when Amare Stoudemire was injured and stayed there this season when Stoudemire remained out. The Knicks flourished with the small lineup and an emphasis on 3-point shooting.
“Kenyon is no bigger than Melo, that’s kind of how I look at it,” Woodson said. “We’ll just gauge it and see how it goes tomorrow and if we’ve got to make that adjustment, I’ll be the one to make that call.”
Stoudemire could become an option to get big man minutes later in the series if he’s cleared to return from right knee surgery. He took part in 3-on-3 scrimmages Monday, looking winded but expecting to practice Thursday and be in uniform Saturday.
“Game 1 was tough for us, but we’re going to retaliate in Game 2 and see how that goes, and then from that game we’ll see what type of adjustments we need to make. And then if I’m able to play, then I will,” Stoudemire said.
The Knicks said most of their problems stemmed from being outworked, but they’ve got other issues. Hibbert (14 points, 8 rebounds, 5 blocks) dominated his matchup with Tyson Chandler (4 points, 3 rebounds, 2 blocks, 6 fouls), and Sixth Man of the Year J.R. Smith continued his shooting woes by going 4 of 15.
“I thought both teams played extremely physical. It’s going to be that kind of series,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “I don’t think we’ve won that physicality battle or anything like that. I think they played extremely hard and physical, and so did we.”
With the Knicks unable to hit from the perimeter, they were forced to drive at Hibbert and other big defenders, which plays into the Pacers’ hands. But Anthony said he’ll keep doing it, insisting again the Knicks’ effort was more of a problem than the Pacers’ execution.
“For the most part, everything came down to effort yesterday,” he said. “In our minds, we cannot get outworked like we did yesterday and that will be the adjustment.”
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