My friend and excellent mom Jess has a great analytical basketball mind. She wrote this guest post this morning.
Discuss - George or Melo? Oh, that's easy. And this is coming from a person who's dog is named Melo. I'm considering changing it to George. Just the ring of it is getting to me. Here George, here Georgie! Hmm....
Paul George has been a playoff beast so far, notching a spot as the fifth most effective player in the post-season, only behind names such as Durant, Lebron, Curry, and Paul. You have to jump all the way down to #27 to find Carmelo Anthony (right under Hibbert's name), the first Knick to make the top 50. These teams split their season series 2-2, with the home team winning each match up. Carmelo missed one game, but in the three he played, Paul George held him to 22 points a game on 38% shooting. Melo is hands down the Knicks best player, but also a selfish, one-dimensional player, highlighted by his 1.8 assist average so far during the playoffs.
The Knicks have been winning all season by going with small lineups, and primarily using Melo at the 4 spot. This could be an issue against the Pacers, as they have two workhorses in Hibbert and West to contain on the front lines. In the three games Melo played this season, West had great games, shooting over 50% from the field and averaging in double figures. West is a relentless brute physical beast, and with Melo already ailing with a shoulder injury, putting him on West would have a negative impact on his offensive game (which is his only game). The one game West struggled in this season was when the Knicks started a frontcourt of Chandler and Camby. So, the Knicks may be forced to remove one of their guards from the lineup, play Melo at 3 and bring in a larger body on West. Of course, the fact that Melo played zero minutes with both Martin and Chandler in the lineup together during the regular season, and only one minute during the playoffs could mean a struggle to develop good chemistry - something that will be difficult against a good Pacer's defense.
Felton has looked great during the Celtics series, but I think this was largely due to a complete meltdown by Bradley. Coming into this series, I expected a lot from Bradley as he has been a great defender all season. Bradley let Felton go right whenever he wanted, which is Felton's only move - seriously puzzling. I don't expect this will happen in this series, with the superb defense played by every player on the Pacer's roster. The Pacers have stressed the importance of containing the pick n' roll, which is the Knicks best and most used play in their book. The Pacers should be up to the task, as they limited the Hawks to just .73 ppp on this play, a great average. The Knicks game is built around three things: 3 pointers, Felton's ability to drive and dish, and Melo's isolation game. I expect Felton and Melo to be way more neutralized in this series, and by the way - the Pacers were the #1 team in defending the three point line this season.
To sum it up, the Knicks basically rely on statistically terrible shots. In their defense, they are really good at making them. Melo and Smith are probably in the top five in the league at terrible shots taken. This leaves them vulnerable to lose at any given time. Melo was just 18 of 59 in games 4 and 5, and Smith was just 3 of 14 in game 5. I'm not even going to go into the Pacers offense, which I think will be fine, because they pass the ball well and have so many different weapons. This series is about defense, and the better TEAM.
Actually, on second thought, I'm going to keep my dog's name as Melo. After all, he is a moron who can't multi-task and runs around thinking he is the best dog in the world, when really I have other dogs that are way better than him. Sounds about right.
The Pacers win this series.