The scenario for tonight’s Game 5 is very simple, win or go home. With the Knicks on the brink of elimination, a big game is needed from Raymond Felton on both ends of the floor. Being the point guard, it is the responsibility of Felton to make sure the offense runs smoothly. Felton is like a leadoff hitter in baseball; as he goes so does the Knick offense.
On the offensive end, Raymond will have to use his ability to get into the paint and cause havoc for the Pacer defense. When Raymond is effectively and consistently using his penetration to get into the paint, a host of other options open for the Knicks. Felton’s penetration forces the hand of the defense, and causes them to make a decision on the fly. With Ray being a proven finisher at the basket, the Pacer defense will need to respect that, and rotate either a big man over or a perimeter defender to help on the drive. As the defense converges, the options for Felton begin to open. If a big man rotates over on the drive, Felton will have the ability to drop the ball low to Chandler, K-Mart, or Amar’e for an easy dunk.
On the other hand, if a perimeter defender rotates to stop the drive, Felton will be able to kick the ball out to a jump shooter for an easy look. The way the Knicks offense has been going lately, any easy basket will be a huge benefit to them. Also, Felton’s ability to drive and attack the defense could lead to the Pacer big men getting into foul trouble. If Hibbert or West find themselves in foul trouble, it could either lead to a seat on the bench or not having the ability to play as tenacious on the defensive end. Both of these scenarios could be huge assets to the Knicks.
Felton has also proven himself to be a solid pick and roll point guard. In game 5, I’d expect Felton to be working more with Carmelo Anthony in the pick and roll game. With the emergence of Paul George as a lock down perimeter defender, it will be important to get Carmelo Anthony moving more on offense. Allowing Melo to be the screener in the pick and roll could help get Melo some easy shots and boost his confidence on the offensive end. In regards to Felton, if the defense decides not to switch the pick and roll, Felton will be given the option to either pull up for a wide open jumper or attack off the dribble.
On the defensive end, Felton will be given the assignment of guarding George Hill. Hill, who has killed the Knicks all series with timely scores, is by no means an “elite” point guard. I would hesitate to call Hill a point guard at all, as he is more of a hybrid guard. Hill has proven this series that if he is given a wide open look, he has the ability to knock it down. Felton and the Knicks as a whole will need to sure up their defensive scheme and eliminate much of the untimely switches. The untimely switches and double teams have led to a number of open shots for the Pacer offense. I would like to see the Knicks pressure Hill more full court. A little full court pressure may lead to a few turnovers, but more importantly it will take time off the shot clock and make it more difficult for Hill and the Pacers to set up their offense. After all, offense is all about rhythm and defense is all about disrupting that rhythm.
If the Knicks are to force a Game 6 back in Indy, expect a big contribution from Raymond Felton. Felton must out play Pacer guard George Hill and be aggressive on the offensive end. If the Knicks can get productivity out of their back court offensively, it will surely lighten the offensive load for Carmelo Anthony. Ray must also contest George Hill on the defensive side of the ball, making it more difficult on Hill to score at will and run the offense effectively. With their backs against the wall, how will the Knicks Perform? Soon we shall find out.