Tuesday night’s games were all about guard play and righting a set of wrongs from Game 1. The Knicks’ guards didn’t do enough to overshadow the strong play of Indiana’s frontcourt, but Pablo Prigioni helped New York rectify that problem during a historic fourth quarter run. And Memphis needed a boost from Mike Conley after a subpar Game 1 performance, and Conley redeemed himself during the Grizzlies’ huge Tuesday night road win. Let’s discuss these themes as part of the StatBox Playoff Breakdown:
Knicks exploit backcourt advantage
At the outset of the series, I wrote that both the Knicks and Pacers have advantages they will need to exploit in order to advance to the conference finals. Indiana’s big men led the team to a big Game 1 road win, but it was New York’s guard play that gave the Knicks a resounding 105-79 Game 2 win on Tuesday night.
While the Knicks had an incredible six turnovers all game as a team, and finally got a relatively efficient shooting night from Carmelo Anthony, the key Indiana trio of Paul George, David West and Roy Hibbert combined for 11 of the team’s 21, seven of them from George himself! The turnovers and dip in production from the Pacers’ best players were key factors in their loss.
|Pacers Frontcourt||FG %||Points||TO||FTA|
The Knicks’ three-guard lineup of Pablo Prigioni, Raymond Felton and Iman Shumpert paid dividends in Game 2, after an average first game. It was Prigioni and Felton who helped key a 30-2 run in the third and fourth quarters to turn this contest into a laugher.
“I think I was trying to make a statement,” said Shumpert. “I just wanted to win this game real bad. We needed this game.”
Besides for the volume-shooting enigma J.R. Smith, Shumpert, Prigioni and Felton were guards who were instrumental in New York’s bounce-back win. Look at what those three did in Game 2 compared to Sunday’s series opener:
|Knicks Key Guards||FG %||3 FG %||Points||Assists||Rebounds||TO|
Since it will be hard to deal with Indiana’s size, the Knicks will have to compensate with top-level play from their starting guards in order to win three more games in this series.
Memphis needs Conley the Conquerer
In the food chain of NBA point guards, there’s no question that Russell Westbrook was the predator to the prey who is Mike Conley. Exit Westbrook and enter Reggie Jackson and a huge advantage for Memphis in this series. If the Grizzlies would get the Alpha Conley in this series, they would have a good chance of winning it. Alpha Conley, or Conley the Conquerer, did not show up in Game 1, but he sure did in Tuesday night’s Game 2 win.
“We needed to have somebody on the perimeter do something,” said Memphis Head Coach Lionel Hollins. He started getting to the basket a little bit and scored some big jump shots late.”
Conley was far from his assertive self in Game One, but really took the intiative in Game 2 and really willed the Grizzlies to a 99-93 win.
“The last game, we didn’t execute down the stretch, didn’t get the stops when we needed them and tonight we did vice-versa,” Conley said. “We got the stops, got the rebounds, made big shots and free throws.”
Conley, whom Tony Allen called a top-five point guard after the game, can talk about the stops and the rebounds all he wants, but it was his assertiveness and overall conquistadorian nature that guided Memphis to an enormous win that could set them up quite well for the duration of this series. If Conley continues,
Shlomo Sprung loves advanced statistics and the way they explain what happens on the court. He is also the web editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. A 2011 graduate of Columbia University’s Journalism School, he has previously worked for the New York Knicks, The Sporting News, Business Insider and other publications. His website is SprungOnSports.com. You can follow him on Twitter.