The Knicks executed something on Thursday night in Boston they had rarely done all season: a 3-2 zone defense, and it turned out to be very effective.
Out of the Celtics' 83 total offensive plays, they ran 53 percent of them against the Knicks' zone, and 47 percent against their man-to-man defense. And the Celtics struggled against the zone, shooting only 36.4 percent (43.3 percent vs. man).
The Knicks, in fact, had only went into a zone formation in 27 possessions all season entering Thursday night. But against the Celtics, they did it on 44 possessions.
There were four main reason for the change:
2. To prevent Rajon Rondo from penetrating easily off pick-and-rolls in halfcourt sets.
3. To force the Celtics, the fourth-worst team in the NBA in 3-point percentage (33.4), to shoot more.
4. To help Amar'e Stoudemire, a defensive liability, protect the basket better against a bigger front line. The zone helped him finish with nine rebounds and two blocks.
If Marcus Camby and Rasheed Wallace were in uniform, Woodson may not have called for the zone as much, but the defensive switch paid off -- and it's something that could continue. While Woodson doesn't like to use the zone, like many coaches throughout the league, he may favor it a bit more, especially with his second unit in the absence of Camby and Wallace.
Depending on what shapes up in the next few months with the Knicks' frontcourt, Woodson discovered a defensive strategy he can build upon in practice. If you recall, the zone helped put away the Heat in the 2011 Finals.
PLAN B: While Camby could return in about two weeks from a left foot injury -- based on his initial two-to-four-week timetable -- Wallace's health is more uncertain. As one league source said the other day, "It's not looking good."
The Knicks have not commented on any possible moves, but their frontcourt needs depth, and they've already explored adding Kenyon Martin. But according to another league source, "Martin might want more than the minimum and remember, too, that the agent and the Knicks denied talking. I will bet you it doesn't happen unless Wallace walks away from the game."
So that brings up this question: If not Martin, who is the top defensive-minded interior free agent, then who if Wallace possibly decides to retire? One interesting option is Henry Sims, who is currently playing for the Knicks' D-League team, the Erie BayHawks. During the preseason, Sims was a Knicks' front office favorite for his interior defense.
Of course, those names are somewhat serviceable. The Knicks would prefer to "unload Amar'e, but there won't be takers," according to another league source. The best player for the Knicks would be Pau Gasol, who's not being utilized well in Los Angeles and completely out of his element. With the Knicks, he'd fit right in down low. Imagine Gasol and Chandler finishing games together. But the biggest hurdles for the Knicks, as always, are Stoudemire's two surgically-repaired knees and uninsured contract.
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