Felton, Shumpert preparing for big tests
April, 22, 2013
By Ian Begley and Jared Zwerling | ESPNNewYork.com
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images Iman Shumpert, the Knicks' defensive specialist, will take on another key assignment in Game 2.GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Some Knicks fans might be worried about Raymond Felton's Game 2 defensive assignment. But Mike Woodson isn't.
The coach is confident that Felton can guard Paul Pierce, a plan if Pablo Prigioni plays.
Prigioni missed Game 1 with a sprained right ankle and he's probable for Game 2. If he returns to the starting lineup, he'd be matched up with Avery Bradley. That would leave Felton to guard Pierce.
"Ray's guarded a little bit of everybody all year," Woodson said. "Our team does that. It's OK. He'll be fine."
Pierce, the Celtics' top offensive threat, could have his way against Felton, who is six inches shorter and 30 pounds lighter. Pierce led the Celtics in scoring at 18.6 points per game during the regular season. He had 21 points on 6-for-15 shooting in Game 1 when he was guarded initially by Iman Shumpert.
Woodson said on Monday that he's comfortable with Felton guarding Pierce because the Knicks point guard matched up against the future Hall of Famer in the Knicks' last two regular-season games against Boston -- both wins for New York.
"It's nothing new," the coach said.
It will be interesting to see how Felton handles Pierce. The Knicks might need to send a help defender to slow Pierce, which could lead to uncovered shooters on the perimeter or open lanes in the paint for the Celts.
Woodson, again, isn't worried.
"He's got to be tough. That's all I can tell you," he said when asked about the height difference between Felton and Pierce. "Good luck. He's got to play."
FROM PIERCE TO ...: Jeff Green. That's who Shumpert will match up with on Tuesday -- the second game in a row the defensive specialist will guard a Celtics' main scorer.
Shumpert held his own in Game 1 against Pierce, who was 40 percent from the field. Shumpert's biggest challenge was working around pick-and-rolls with Pierce facilitating and Kevin Garnett setting screens. The additional size was something the Knick wasn't used to. But in several face-up situations, Shumpert's strong base enabled him to keep his footing and get up into Pierce.
There were a few times Pierce beat Shumpert to the basket and got fouled, but a few of those breakdowns were inevitable with the size disadvantage. While Shumpert is 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, Pierce is 6-foot-7, 235 pounds.
Green is two inches taller, and he's more athletic and a better low-post player than Pierce.
"Not only is he long and able to stretch out to make a lot of buckets, he's also very athletic, bouncy and making more and more shots as the season goes on," Shumpert said.
Green also excels in the open court. He occasionally acts as the point forward off of defensive rebounds to give the Celtics a quick scoring threat, which they miss in Rajon Rondo.
"He's great in isolation and he's great working the post, so a lot of different rotations, a lot of different schemes you've got to throw at him," Shumpert said. "But all in all, we've got to play Knick basketball and make sure we communicate and make sure rebound the ball."
Shumpert is appreciative of a difficult defensive assignment once again.
"It give me a load of confidence, especially going to the other end of the court, getting that big stop and especially playing at home guarding those players," he said.
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