Melo on Knicks' small ball: 'Can't beat that'

BOSTON -- It wasn't until Game 3 when Celtics coach Doc Rivers decided to alter his starting five, replacing Brandon Bass with Jason Terry to match up with the Knicks' point guard backcourt.

"Our thinking was, they start with the two small guards, so it's a good matchup for us," Rivers said after the Knicks' Friday night win.

But Terry and Avery Bradley together didn't make any difference for the Celtics. In fact, the team played worse on both ends of the floor in the first half.

The Knicks not only start two point guards -- Pablo Prigioni and Raymond Felton -- but Iman Shumpert also has a floor general's mentality in half-court sets and pushes the ball off of stops and rebounds. Throughout the series, all three guards -- including J.R. Smith -- have blown by the Celtics in pick-and-rolls and got deep into the paint consistently, collapsing the Celtics' defense on nearly every possession.

"Sometimes if Pablo, Raymond and Jason Kidd are out there with me, and I'm at the 4, you can’t beat that," Carmelo Anthony said on Saturday. "One of those guys will make something happen on the offensive end, and it gets us moving around and scrambling on the defensive end. Going small, we get a chance to double team a lot. We're rotating so quick; it makes it that much more fun."

The Knicks' extra speed and quick hands have overwhelmed the bigger Celtics. The Knicks' pace attacking lanes and passing the ball has been faster than the Celtics, leading to more open shots. In addition, the heavy guard play has given Tyson Chandler more opportunities to screen and roll offensively, and keep his defensive position down low.

"Absolutely, because we can keep the pace up, get the ball moving," the starting center said. "The point guards make good decisions, and then on the other end, they're just scrappy. It gives me a chance to anchor the defense and protect the rim, and on the other end, we get out and run."

On the flip side, the Celtics have slowly moved the ball around the perimeter, a credit to the aggressiveness and reaction time of the Knicks' guards. That defensive awareness has rubbed off on their teammates, including Anthony.

"I have to, I have to," he said. "My mentality is to try to do it all, do whatever it takes. Pablo is out there giving us a lift ... so everybody is playing his part. We're feeding off of each other. The momentum we have is growing and growing."

PRIGIONI'S PHYSICAL PLAY IMPRESSES COACH: When Mike Woodson watched Prigioni in person during last summer's Olympics, he liked the point guard's defense, demeanor and ability to run the Argentine national team.

But Woodson didn't know how Prigioni would perform against the physical and athletic nature of the NBA. That's what most impressed him during Prigioni's rookie year.

"He had never played in the league, and I didn't know physically if he could really withstand the physicalness of our league and how the pace is so much different," he said. "He's adjusted and grown with the league as the season has gone by. He's really helped our ball club, man."

Woodson said that he never considered starting Prigioni until moving Kidd to the bench. The coach wanted to keep the two point-guard backcourt in tact. Since Prigioni's call-up on March 18, the Knicks have only lost two games.

"He's set the tone big time," Woodson said.

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