As one veteran NBA scout put it, the Knicks brought a "different intensity level" to their Game 5 victory.
"The key to the game was the Knicks got off to a great start," the scout said. "Everyone sacrificed and rebounded the ball. The defense was excellent."
Throughout the game, the Knicks didn't let up their intensity. Big blocks from J.R. Smith and Kenyon Martin and Chandler's hard foul on Lance Stephenson's dunk attempt represented the team's relentless focus and aggressiveness.
From that defensive approach, they were able to shift into a higher gear in the open court -- something they hadn't done in their losses in Games 3 and 4. If the Knicks can control the defensive glass, it will give them a huge advantage against the Pacers.
"Forty-eight minutes of commitment on both ends of the floor," Mike Woodson said Friday, reflecting on Game 5. "[On Thursday night], we were consistent all the way through, and that's how you're going to have to beat this team."
A big takeaway from the Knicks' Game 5 effort was their individual defense and rebounding. They didn't double down on Roy Hibbert as much and "manned up," as Woodson would say. They were more vigilant about boxing out and crashing the boards, especially the guards.
To beat the Pacers, it takes muscle and all five players hustling and doing their part.
"They're finally playing physical basketball," the scout said. "When they play one-on-one defense and allow for the guards to contain their own man, it makes it a lot easier."
But the Knicks' struggling offense still isn't all patched up.
With the team shooting 41.1 percent in the series, you would have thought Steve Novak would see some more playing time by now. He's been on the court for only eight minutes during the series, but he's one of the best shooters in the game.
"Unreal," another NBA scout said, "especially when Kidd doesn't make any shots ever."
Could Game 6 be Novak's big opportunity to help the Knicks force Game 7?
Based on Copeland's presence in Game 5, playing alongside Anthony and Smith, the better spacing forced the Pacers to leave the paint defensively. Copeland will get the call before Novak, as he's a more versatile stretch 4, but Novak could be a factor.
The biggest issue is there are no Pacers players Novak can defend individually, so the Knicks might have to double. But if their rotations are sharp and they can rebound and force turnovers, Novak would be a big boost offensively, especially in transition.
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