The Knicks failed to sweep the Celtics with a win in game four in Boston. Instead, the number two-seed team in the Eastern Conference suffered a 97-90 loss in Beantown, effectively bringing the series back to the Big Apple for game five.
Such a loss was suffered on the heels of one of Carmelo Anthony’s most inefficient offensive performances of the year (the forward scored 36 points, but only did so on 10 of 35 from the field. He missed all seven of his attempts from deep and committed seven turnovers), and of course, the absence of J.R. Smith.
A rejuvenated Anthony, a returning Smith, and home-court advantage should all do wonders for the Knicks on Wednesday evening as they look to finally put Boston away for good. But despite New York’s overall success in the series, one has to wonder if Coach Mike Woodson’s playoff rotations as of late have been best for the team.
Of course, Woodson has been riding his starters the most. This makes sense, given that you want your best players out of the court when it matters most. Similar thinking has been employed, assumedly, with regard to playing the likes of Jason Kidd and Kenyon Martin so often this series. Frankly, this also makes sense at this given time. New York made sure to rest up its veterans and preserve their minutes throughout the season. It’s the playoffs, and it’s the most ideal time to unleash the veterans and let them loose.
But what about every else down the line? A player like Steve Novak hasn’t seen many minutes in this series, and Chris Copeland even received a DNP-CD in game four, after starting the first game.
Unfortunately for he and the Knicks, Novak has struggled in the postseason for the second straight season. It may be a confidence issue and/or some sort of mental block at this time of year, but the fact remains Novak isn’t very mobile on the court. He fails to keep it moving in order to get open looks. When he’s hesitant and/or uncertain, he fails to deliver and provide the Knicks with what earns him his money: his long range prowess.
Coach Woodson has acknowledged how difficult it is to play both Novak and Copeland and find appropriate minutes for each one. That said, without Smith in game four, Cope’s offensive prowess could have provided that necessarily boost off the bench.
Perhaps it’s time to give Copeland even more of a shot, literally. Though he’s an NBA rookie, there’s no doubt the forward is as bold as they come. Whereas Novak may be a bit hesitant, Copeland is fearless with regard to shot-selection. Sometimes it’s good to be conservative, but as the Knicks look for that spark, they could benefit from Copeland’s aggressiveness. As the squad knows quite well, if the shots continue to go up, eventually they will fall.