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Chris Copeland Adds New Dimension To Knicks’ Offense

The frontcourt of the Indiana Pacers overmatched the New York Knicks inside by +42 rebounding margin (186-144) through the first four games of the series.

In Game 5, Chris Copeland added a new dimension to the Knicks’ offense and helped to largely neutralize the effectiveness of Roy Hibbert and David West.

“I wouldn’t call it a mismatch, but I think I can help us spread the floor and get those guys away from the basket,” said Copeland. “I’m just trying to make spacing better by being out there on the wing, give Carmelo (Anthony) his opportunities on the wings, and give J.R. (Smith) more free space to roam and attack.”

Copeland’s presence helped the Knicks cut the rebounding deficit (43-40) by pulling Hibbert and West away from the basket on pick-and-roll plays and by roaming along the three-point line along the wings in Game 5.

With Hibbert and West drawn away from the basket, it opened up space for Tyson Chandler to tap the ball out for second chance opportunities.

Raymond Felton was also able to navigate through the lane for loose rebounds and grabbed four offensive rebounds in Game 5.

Copeland has shot the ball well from beyond the arc in the playoffs (.571) and has provided a constant offensive threat when on the court.

“I think we had great spacing tonight,” said Copeland after Game 5. “We moved the ball really well.”

Coming into the series, Frank Vogel highlighted Copeland on the scouting report as a possible threat.

“We thought we’d see him in the series and we know he’s a terrific offensive player, a good player all the way around, and you have to honor him at the three-point line,” said Vogel.

After watching Copeland make three three-pointers, the Pacers must adjust to defending the stretch forward heading into Game 6.

“You can’t allow the attempt with him, he’s that good of a shooter,” said Vogel.

With Jason Kidd remaining scoreless since April 23rd, and Amar'e Stoudemire and Steve Novak limited due to injuries, Copeland knows his offense will be needed to help New York win Game 6 on the road.

“I’m going to stay aggressive, my teammates want me to stay aggressive, the coaching staff as well,” said Copeland.

“I think (Chris) Copeland did an unbelievable job,” said J.R. Smith. “He’s got a whole lot of talent and we have a whole lot of confidence in him. For him to be a rookie and come in and step up as big as he did is huge for us.”

Copeland is confident the bench can provide a repeat performance in Game 6 after combining to score 35 of the Knicks' 85 points.

“It’s going to take a team effort for us to get over this hump and get out of this hole,” said Copeland. “I think everybody knows what we have to do when we get out on the floor. It’s going to take more than the first five for sure. The guys on the sidelines are staying ready and going out and helping when we can.” 

Knicks Maximizing Value Of Prigioni

Pablo Prigioni is not your typical NBA rookie point guard. At 35, Prigioni excels when orchestrating the offense in pick-and-roll sets as a pass-first point guard with the ability to make three-pointers if left open on defensive switches.

In a league where point guards have increasingly become scoring playmakers, Prigioni is a throwback to earlier generations, preferring to put his teammates in position to score and play hard-nosed on-the-ball defense.

In fact, Prigioni has drawn groans from fans at Madison Square Garden for passing up potential shots.

However, fans and teammates praised Prigioni for sparking the New York Knicks' runaway victory over the Indiana Pacers in Game 2 after replacing an injured Raymond Felton.

Thunderous chants of “Pablo” broke out in honor of Prigioni’s gritty defensive play and offensive efficiency.

Jason Kidd, considered one of the greatest floor generals in basketball history, spoke glowingly of his backcourt mate.

“The fans are great here, they’re very knowledgeable, and they knew who got us going and that was Pablo,” said Kidd. “He put guys in position to be successful and that’s what point guards do.”

Prigioni has become an x-factor for the Knicks in the playoffs.

In seven playoff games, Prigioni has averaged a +16 plus/minus in four wins and a -6.6 in three losses.

Woodson expressed confidence in Prigioni against the Boston Celtics, recording five assists in Game 2, nine points and five steals in Game 3, and 14 points and five rebounds in Game 6.

When Raymond Felton injured his ankle in Game 2 against the Pacers, Woodson summoned Prigioni without hesitation to provide a jolt.

“I didn’t forget Game 6 in Boston,” said Woodson. “Pablo was big in that game and this was a big game for our ball club that we had to win. We didn’t want to go to Indianapolis down two. That was my thinking, I had flashbacks of Boston, I went with him and he came up big for us.”

Despite being a rookie, Prigioni is accustomed to playing under pressure.

Since beginning his professional career in 1995 in Argentina and Spain, Prigioni won the 2006 Spanish Cup MVP and won a bronze medal in the 2008 Summer Olympics and a gold medal in the 2011 FIBA Americas Championship for Argentina.

Felton knew Prigioni would be a vital contributor for New York after competing against him often in training camp.

“I heard about him for sure, he played with the Olympic team,” said Felton. “I didn’t know much about him, but at the same time, I knew he was tough and that’s all I heard about him. I found it out in training camp playing against him for sure.”

Despite his advanced age, Prigioni’s energy has become infectious throughout the team.

“Pablo is a guy that we feed off defensively,” said Felton. “He’s really aggressive, gets into the ball, picks up guys full court, and we feed off that.”

Prigioni ranked 11th in steals percentage (2.92) this season.

As New York travels to Indiana for the next two games of the series, Prigioni believes ball movement will be the key to victory.

“We had patience on offense, we took better shots, and we moved the ball,” said Prigioni following Game 2. “Everything was much easier.”

After finishing the season ranked Top-30 in true shooting percentage (.595) and effective field goal percentage (.575), Prigioni has continued his efficient shooting during the playoffs.

Prigioni has converted 10 of his 21 three-point attempts (.476) and may see more playing time with J.R. Smith mired in a shooting slump since his Game 4 suspension for elbowing Jason Terry.

Smith has shot a woeful 15-for-57 (.263) from the field since returning from suspension in Game 5 against Boston.

Chemistry, Consistency Key To Future Of The Nets

With Mikhail Prokhorov moving the Nets to Brooklyn, he vowed to challenge the New York Knicks for supremacy locally and the rest of the NBA for a title.

Prokhorov spared no expense to validate his proclamations last offseason by collecting over $300 million in guaranteed contracts. However, despite Billy King’s roster overhaul and an in-season coaching change, the Nets were unable to advance out of the first round of the playoffs.

Money couldn’t buy chemistry or consistency; something Brooklyn’s veteran core feels will improve next season.

“We were learning on the fly this season,” said Brook Lopez. “I think we learned a lot and we have a lot of offseason to really get to work out together, hammer a lot of things out that we didn’t do well this season and come back next year, learn some more together, and get some more wins.” 

Lopez and his teammates will have more learning to do once training camp begins. King announced the Nets would not retain interim coach P.J. Carlesimo, which will have the Nets playing under their third coach in less than 12 months.

After obtaining the fourth seed and homecourt advantage in the first round against the Chicago Bulls, Lopez believes losing Game 7 at home will give Brooklyn extra motivation heading into the summer.

“It’s something for us to look at this offseason, a feeling to remember as we work out in the offseason,” said Lopez.

Despite spending much of the season developing chemistry, leading to subsequent consistency lapses, Deron Williams is encouraged by the glimpses Brooklyn showed of being a contender when clicking on all cylinders.

“We had a lot of ups and downs, a lot of turmoil and things to fight through, but we still had fun doing it,” said Williams. “I think this experience is going to make us tougher as a group. It’s a learning experience for all of us together, this being our first year together. We still have got a ways to go. We can be good and we’ve shown glimpses of being a really good team. I think the main thing is we were inconsistent as a group starting from the beginning of the season.”

Williams also noted that the Nets must become mentally tougher, but believes the current roster is capable.

“I think we have a great group of guys in the locker room,” said Williams. “We talked about the word inconsistency all season. I just think we need to find a way to be more consistent, especially mentally.”

After losing Game 3 by three points and losing Game 4 in triple overtime, Joe Johnson believes the Nets showed fight.

“We overcame a lot,” said Johnson. “Being down 3-1 in the series and being able to come back to send it to a Game 7 here on our home floor, we felt really good about it and we just came up short.”

With Brooklyn’s veteran core in tact, the Nets must hire a new coach capable of utilizing Williams’ strength in pick-and-roll sets, Johnson’s shooting ability, and Lopez’s expanding offensive repertoire on the block and in pick-and-pop sets.

While the Nets' core is secured contractually for the foreseeable future, the same cannot be said for the bench.

King’s main trade chips are Kris Humphries and MarShon Brooks. Humphries enters the final year of his contract at $12 million and Brooks’ potential remains under control for two seasons on his rookie deal.

C.J. Watson has a player option for next season, while Andray Blatche, Keith Bogans and Jerry Stackhouse are unrestricted free agents.

With Brooklyn over the salary cap threshold, King may lose two of his most productive bench players. Blatche, Brooklyn’s only double-figure scorer off the bench, is expected to be too costly for the Nets to re-sign.

Watson, who often played alongside Williams, may use his opt-out clause in his deal for a long-term deal elsewhere.

It is imperative for the Nets to sustain the chemistry they developed this season and translate it into consistency next season to fulfill Prokhorov’s goals. 

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