I honestly thought the Knicks overcame the poor coaching of Mike Woodson to beat Boston in six games in a series that should have been over in four or five games max. There was no over-coming his poor coaching last night as the Indiana Pacers beat the New Yorkers 106-99 to win the series four games to two.
Woodson’s biggest gaffe in my opinion was sitting Iman Shumpert in the second half way too long. Shumpert had 19 points including 15 of these on five three-pointers. I have no idea why Woodson chose to keep him on the pine as long as he did. Shumpert had become the perfect compliment to Carmelo Anthony who scored 39 points and had seven rebounds in the losing effort.
The Knicks at times get into offensive dead zones where the ball movement is zero and four guys stand around and watch Anthony go one-on-one. Woodson obviously did something right this season in getting the Knicks to an Atlantic title and 54 wins, but I thought he was badly out-coached by Frank Vogel and to a certain degree even Doc Rivers in the opening round. The way teams hire and fire coaches in the NBA these days, I wouldn’t be shocked one bit if Woodson was sent packing but I don’t think that will happen.
Western Conference Finals
Memphis at San Antonio (series 0-0) – Once Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook was lost for the season with his knee injury, this match-up became almost too inevitable. It’s a classic series pitting the grizzled veteran Spurs against the young Grizzlies. Much of this series will no doubt center around the big men for each team. Memphis will rely heavily on Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol while future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan will be asked for one more great performance in an effort to get the Spurs back to the finals.
(Season series was 2-2)
In my mind, that will certainly be a huge part of this series but it may in fact come down to the guards. Tony Parker either had big games or big moments for San Antonio during their series’ victory over Golden State. His counterpart for Memphis is Mike Conley who also came up huge for his team. Whoever gets the better of this match-up could ultimately tip the balance of the series.
Prediction: Grizzlies in six. Youth, size and speed will send the Spurs home disappointed.
Eastern Conference Finals
Indiana at Miami (series 0-0) – People forget that last year in the playoffs Indiana led the eventual champion Miami Heat two games to one before losing the series in six games. I fully expect this series to be every bit the battle that one was. Pacers’ big man Roy Hibbert dominated the big guys from the Knicks and will need to do the same against Miami.
League MVP LeBron James was not what I would call ‘outstanding’ in the second round series against Chicago but he played well when he needed. Part of LeBron’s lesser than stellar series against the Bulls had to be the physicality used on him and I expect the Pacers will go a similar route.
(Pacers won season series 2-1)
This series, like the Western Conference Finals, could hinge on guard play. How healthy is Dwyane Wade and is George Hill 100% from his concussion? The Heat have seen Norris Cole be an extremely effective weapon for them in the playoffs to this point and they’ll need that to continue.
Prediction: Heat in seven. It honestly would not shock me one bit to see the defensive-minded Pacers behind Paul George win this series, but I just can’t go against LeBron and the Heat.