Interesting, informative article.
Wrap your looking vessels around it and let's talk KO business.
Engorge yourself on this.
HOOPSWORLD executive editor Jason Fleming inadvertently stumbled upon the main topic for today’s NBA PM when he tweeted, “Playing with ESPN’s NBA playoff predictor and the Knicks upset the Bulls disturbingly often.”
ESPN’s Playoff Simulator is a fun little toy where you can run different playoff scenarios, and Jason was right. It’s somewhat peculiar how often the Knicks—who are currently seeded eighth in the Eastern Conference Playoff picture—upset the would-be top-seeded Bulls. The two teams are separated by 14 and a half games in the standings, after all.
The simulator may not be accounting for Knicks forward Amar’e Stoudemire’s back injury, which will keep him out indefinitely and may require surgery. It also may omit the fact that Jeremy Lin has a bad knee, which has left him day to day. But all that doesn’t mean the simulator is wrong.
In truth, this is a topic that I’ve been considering in one form or another for some time and now, with Jason’s accidental prompting, I’m happy to delve into further.
Remember the Memphis Grizzlies’ upset of the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs in last year’s playoffs? Lionel Hollins’ team was thought to be overmatched as it was playing without injured small forward Rudy Gay against a San Antonio team that was coming off a 61-win season.
Well there are quite a few similarities between that six-game series and the theoretical one the Bulls and Knicks would take part in if the standings stay constant through the regular season’s final month.
Here are a few things to keep in mind about a potential Bulls-Knicks series:
The most-recent development is the injury to Stoudemire and that’s nothing to take lightly. Under no circumstances is that an advantage for the Knicks just as losing Gay wasn’t an advantage for the Grizzlies. But what makes New York a dangerous underdog is the efficient way interim coach Mike Woodson can adjust the offense. Just as Hollins turned to Zach Randolph, who made 50% of his field goals in the Spurs series, Woodson can move Carmelo Anthony to the post where he’s a far more efficient player.
Don’t believe me?
Before Woodson moved Anthony to power forward in Stoudemire’s absence in Monday’s win over the Bucks, the All-Star had attempted just seven free throws over his previous three games (he also made just 16 of 42 field goals during that stretch, mostly relying on perimeter shots). But playing closer to the basket on offense against Milwaukee allowed Anthony to make 8 of 20 field goals and get to the line where he made all 12 free throw attempts. The result was arguably Anthony’s best game since joining the Knicks: 28 points, 12 boards, one block, one steal.
And Anthony’s move to the post wasn’t just about Stoudemire’s absence. It was really Woodson’s effort to get Anthony to play to his strengths.
“Tonight, and even last game, for me, I wanted to get stuff close to the basket,” said Anthony, who last scored over 20 points in a game back on Jan. 20th. “My shot hasn’t been falling as of late, get some easy baskets, get to the post, get fouled, get to the foul line and then start working inside out. That’s something I’ve been doing, you know, my whole career. I just started back doing that these last couple of games.”
Another connection between this year’s Knicks team and last season’s Grizzlies is the brand of defense they play. New York currently ranks fifth in the NBA in defensive efficiency and the team has gotten only stingier since Woodson’s promotion (it ranked seventh when former coach Mike D’Antoni stepped down). Memphis ranked eighth in defensive efficiency a year ago and with Gay out of the lineup against the Spurs, Hollins turned to a more defensive rotation, giving significant minutes to Sam Young, Tony Allen, Shane Battier and Greivis Vasquez (who, at 6-6, is a decent defensive point guard for his size alone).
The Knicks’ defense has relied on center Tyson Chandler and injured forward Jared Jeffries, but Woodson has also gotten players like Anthony and J.R. Smith—who were never thought of as great defenders—to give full effort on that end of the floor.
New York also has a special defensive advantage over Chicago.
Since the Bulls never added a threat at shooting guard—geriatric Richard Hamilton (who is battling a shoulder injury) averages 11.3 PPG, but has his lowest Player Efficiency Rating (12.78) since his first years in the league—the Knicks won’t be punished for keeping perimeter defensive ace Iman Shumpert on reigning MVP Derrick Rose. Lin can guard Hamilton or Ronnie Brewer without fear of giving up too much while the 6-6 Shumpert can focus his talents on Rose.
Remember, Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel gave the league a blueprint for defending Rose in the first round of last year’s playoffs when he put 6-9 swingman Paul George on the All-Star. Rose finished the series shooting 37.1 percent from the field. He still scored 27.6 PPG and the Bulls won in five games, but Rose had to take 21 shots per game to get to that average and a better all-around team than last season’s Indiana squad likely would have made Chicago pay for its overreliance on Rose.
The Knicks didn’t really implement that strategy in their two losses to the Bulls so far this season, but that was an eternity ago for this team. New York is 7-1 since Woodson’s promotion and has played far more efficiently on both sides of the floor in the last few weeks.
One similarity these Bulls have with last year’s Spurs is age. The 34-year-old Hamilton and 30-year-old Carlos Boozer have each logged between 25 and 30 minutes per game this season and it’s not difficult to envision them slowing down in a seven-game series just as Tim Duncan (12.7 PPG, 62.5% from the line, 47.8% from the field in that series) and Antonio McDyess (5.7 PPG, 41.7% from the field) did against Randolph (21.5 PPG, 9.2 rpg) and Marc Gasol (14.2 PPG, 12.3 RPG, 53.3% from the field) last April.
Lastly, these Knicks are built like last season’s Grizzlies. Both teams had a lot of depth, which kept them fresher for the postseason. New York relies heavily on backups Smith, Shumpert, Jeffries and Baron Davis. Assuming Davis (who has a hamstring issue) and Jeffries (knee) can still play in May, this unit poses a definite threat to any opponent in a best-of-seven series.
The Knicks depth is one reason they have a +2.3 point differential this season. Often times eighth seeds come in with negative differentials or differentials of less than a point. But just as Memphis had last season (+2.3) this Knicks team outscored its opponents by a significant amount this year. Yes, they had a few losing streaks (just as the 2010-2011 Grizzlies had) but on average, Woodson’s squad is particularly potent—especially for an eighth seed.
Could the Knicks Get Deeper?
MSG analyst and former Newsday beat writer Alan Hahn made a bold suggestion that warrants mentioning. If the Knicks are worried about depth without Stoudemire, they could sign Rasheed Wallace who is rumored to be on the verge of a comeback and looked to be in good shape at several recent charity games.
Wallace and Woodson worked together in Detroit when Woodson was an assistant under Larry Brown.
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All season long, every fan, player, and analysist knew what the Knicks were capable of. It's almost like having a room full of people looking over at the bear in the room, only the bear doesn't know what the f|_|ck it's doing yet. But once that bear finds out, those people are probably better off getting out of there immediately, bears don't like to be confined to small rooms, especially with strangers around.
Maybe that analogy went too in depth, I got carried away there.
But what I was getting at is that the Knicks were always in the playoff picture up until the downfall of D'Antoni. Now that they have eliminated that issue, Woodson has the team playing better than ever, which is frightening. There's so much depth that Woodson most likely has trouble deciding who gets the garbage minutes (jokes on Jordan and Douglas, because you know, they know their place on this team).
Yeah, the Knicks can go far. That was always a possibility, now it appears as if they realized it themselves.
Doubt the Knicks can take the Bulls in the first round, but it's a possibility. The Bulls just play too well together and Derrick has amazing heart.
Regardless if Shumpert plays Rose, Rose will get his 25+ PPG. That's what he does. I feel a key to the victory would be to make sure Boozer doesn't get any action. The paint needs to be protected. They like to drive and cut in a lot. Boozer and Noah have some fantastic chemistry. Deng could go off at any moment though and the Bulls also play phenomenal D.
We can possibly win though. I really trust in Woodson. We'll get a better idea when the Knicks play the bulls twice in a row.
Not a chance, Bulls even without Rose are better than every team in NBA maybe except Spurs. Their defence is just too good people say that we lost by 4pts and 5pts so we have a chance which is flawed logic. It doesn't matter if you lose by 20 or 5 loss is a loss. Bulls will step up their D even more in playoffs. I would be happy If we could steal 1 game since we haven't won playoff game since 2001 which is really embarrasing for this proud franchise.
Everyone talks about Bulls and Heat, but I feel the Celtics would give us serious problems in the playoffs as well. We just struggle with that team. Maybe it'll be different under Woodson. We'll see
IIRC.....the last time we had a shortened season in the NBA, the Knicks (8th seed) upset the Heat (1st seed) with the Houston running jumper.......that was an EPIC SERIES!!!
I know its fun talking about us upsetting them but i just can't see it, maybe if we get on a major hot streak going into the playoffs but the Bulls can beat us in so many ways, mainly with defense but in second thought our defense has been lockdown with Woody and if it comes down to a 75-85 scoring game, i think we have the better firepower to pull out the victory but that is yet to be seen.
While Amare's injury is a horrible thing for us, there is a silver lining there. Playing time.
Ramping up Shumpert to a 35 minute per game player will be necessary for him to be capable of running after D Rose for an entire series.
Getting Baron involved in the offense more will allow him much more continuity when he comes in to replace Lin.
Right now the Bulls are superior to us on the inside and probably slightly weaker on the outside. When Amare is back and playing as well as he did 10 days ago, we are pretty even on the inside.
The Bulls might be 6-2 in their current stretch without Rose but they win EVERY game with defense. If we can defend up to their standards we could easily upset the odds.
I don't wanna play the Bulls in the first round. Plain and simple.
I want Miami and knock them out!
Or atleast suck enough energy out of them so the Bulls can beat them in the Conference Finals.
As long as we're not good enough to win a championship ourselves, the main mission is to prevent thos ****ing Heat from getting one.
without Lin and Amare....with Jeffries and Davis on a thin thread...I dont expect an upset
Only an upset if we were actually healthy.
But who knows, this season has been so unpredictable.
"The Knicks are back" - Amare
If Amare and Jeffries come back in good shape and Melo continues to play like Melo then I wouldn't be surprised if NY upsets Chicago.
In a playoff series we look at the record of win and losses during the regular season, Chicago is up. Then we look into the match ups in different positions. It's kind of hard to tell, the Knicks look to have a better team and yet the Knicks are in the eighth seed. Tom Thibodeau is one hell of a coach, he is definitely coach of the year. In the end the Bulls are the better team, the chances are low.
I honestly am looking into the Knicks chances to lead the division. This would match us up against the Pacers, who the Knicks blew out twice. The Knicks are 3 games back behind Boston, with the Knicks' improved defense the number 4 spot is reachable. April is not the easiest schedule, but the Knicks look to have things figured out on defense. On the 17th the Knicks play Boston, might be the most important game. 76ers are also a threat.
Knicks need to win the Atlantic Division.
Last edited by serendipity10; Apr 01, 2012 at 09:55.
I don't see it happening. For Knicks (assume they are the 8th seed) to upset the top seed, a few things have to happen first:
1. Knicks peak entering the playoff.
2. A healthy roster.
3. Multi-dimensional offense
Timing is everything. We HAD all that. If the playoff started 2 weeks ago, Knicks wouldve had great chance to upset the Bulls. Stat, Jeffries, Lin were all healthy and the bench was Mob Deep.