Knicks 'zzone

Newsday's Al Iannazzone takes you inside the Knicks.

Knicks can learn from Pacers

Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony looks to get past

Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony looks to get past Indiana Pacers forward Paul George during the first quarter of Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinal. (May 18, 2013) (Credit: AP)

The Pacers visit the Garden Wednesday in the first meeting between the two teams since Indiana ended the Knicks’ season in the conference semifinals. The way the Knicks have played they would be extremely lucky to get that far again.

They don’t have the chemistry they had last season, aren’t playing as cohesively and certainly not with the same effort defensively. Not having Tyson Chandler impacts that, but it can’t keep being used as an excuse or crutch.

The Bulls got to the basket and scored points last season without their best player Derrick Rose. They also won their first-round series. Chandler is the Knicks’ anchor inside, but they have to find a way to overcome his loss.

Andrea Bargnani has lifted his game recently, and showed Thursday against Dwight Howard and the Rockets he could defend when he wants. The Knicks need that every night from Bargnani, in addition to the scoring he’s provided.

But the Knicks’ biggest defensive problems are up top.

Their pick-and-roll and overall perimeter defense have been abysmal. Raymond Felton is getting beaten repeatedly. So are Iman Shumpert – who hasn’t been as locked in defensively as his past two years – and rookie Tim Hardaway Jr.

Mike Woodson called the pick-and-roll defense “awful” following Wednesday’s win in Atlanta. (The big men aren’t absolved from this). And after the Houston loss, Woodson said “defend off the dribble was where we struggled the most.”

Bad defense up top is leading to easy forays to the basket, and no one back there to clean things up. As a result, the Knicks allowed 110 points in their last four home games before Saturday – all losses. Being out of position also has led to a high-number of fouls, as opponents shot 38.5 free throws per in those four games.

It’s been a different story for the Pacers. They began Saturday the NBA’s only undefeated team at 9-0, and were allowing the fewest points and lowest field goal percentage.

They took the Heat to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals and have improved. The Knicks lost in Game 6 to the Pacers and thought they improved, but they haven’t.

That series was brought up repeatedly in training camp – sometimes unsolicited. Woodson lamented letting “Game 1 get away,” at home, calling it “the difference in the series because we couldn’t get one on the road.”

Many Knicks said the series left a bitter taste and motivated them heading into this season. But it hasn’t carried over.

Losing Chandler has had an impact, but some of the Knicks bigger issues defensively have to do with their some of their smaller players.

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