How Can New York Knicks Play Better in the Playoffs?


Keith Allison | Wikimedia Commons

Mandeep Karir

The Eastern Conference Semifinals have two series taking place, which will see the Philadelphia 76ers face off the Boston Celtics, and the New York Knicks and Miami Heat battle in a highly anticipated game.

On Saturday, the Heat took the victory in Game 3 on their home court to lead the Knicks 2-1. In the Knicks’ two losses so far, a lot of work needs to be done. How can the New York Knicks right the ship? Here are five ways to do so!

1. The Knicks must tighten up their defense on Jimmy Butler

Every team has their own unstoppable player, and for the Heat it’s Jimmy Butler. Butler suffered an ankle injury in Game 1 last Sunday. While the Knicks did come out on top in Game 2, they showed signs of sloppiness and barely held on in Butler’s absence.

Butler in Game 3 was unstoppable, and the Knicks did not have an answer for him. The Knicks had RJ Barrett and Quentin Grimes on Butler, but it would make more sense for the Knicks to try their luck with the defensive shooting guard Josh Hart, who is known for his tight defense and high energy.

2. Don’t settle for three-pointers

Much of the struggle from the Knicks in Game 3 was the inability to knock down the long-range shot. They shot a horrific 8-for-40 from three-point territory with the rim seemingly having a lid on top.

The key to playing game-winning basketball is by taking the ball straight to the basket and drawing the foul, so the Knicks can shoot free throws and rack up points.

3. Bench players who are not playing well.

There are players on the Knicks who come out every night and play like they want to win. Then, there are other players with less enthusiasm whose court time steals time from other valuable players.

In the Knicks’ Game 3 loss on Sunday afternoon, Julius Randle scored 10 points in 38 minutes, and Isaiah Hartenstein scored zero in 26 minutes. Coach Tom Thibodeau is strict with his arrangements and doesn’t want to change them unless there’s an extreme situation.

Having consistency and a solid game plan is great, but if Plan A is not working, then you need to produce a Plan B and give other players a chance.

4. Give Josh Hart and Obi Toppin more minutes.

Speaking of Plan B, a good backup plan for Coach Thibodeau would be to give Hart and Toppin more minutes. While it’s great to play with your star players, sometimes they might have rough nights as we saw from Julius Randle in Game 3.

Randle played 38 out of the total 48-minute basketball game with zero three-point field goals on five attempts. Meanwhile, Toppin scored five points and made a three-pointer in his 17 minutes of action.

Hart also provided a lift, scoring double digits in his last three games. He has been the Knicks’ most underrated trade acquisition so far and he’s proved it. Toppin and Hart both deserve extra playing time, and in Game 4 it might be needed as Immanuel Quickley is questionable.

5. The nine-man rotation needs to change.

During the regular season, Coach Thibodeau decided to experiment with a lineup rotation that would only play nine players out of the available 12. It proved to work just fine as it helped the Knicks turn a corner during the season and make the playoffs. If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.

While this may be true, the postseason is different from the regular season. Players are playing with more stress on their shoulders and making more mistakes. In a situation where a player isn’t performing well, a backup player should be ready to play.

Overworking players can also lead to injuries, which can hurt a team’s performance and chances of winning. That being said, Derrick Rose and Evan Fournier could be seeing some playing time in spite of Immanuel Quickley’s injury.

Can the Knicks pull themselves out of their 2-1 hole? Let’s see if they can make an adjustment in the upcoming games.