INDIANAPOLIS - NBA playoff basketball is supposed to be about matchups, and that means Knicks center Tyson Chandler can't duck his share of responsibility for the way Indiana center Roy Hibbert dominated in the Pacers' two victories in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Even Knicks coach Mike Woodson called Hibbert "the best player on the floor'' in the Knicks' Game 3 loss Saturday night.
But Chandler made it clear after the game and again Sunday that he shouldn't be in that foxhole by himself. Woodson's strategy is to trap Hibbert and the Pacers' other big men in the hope of forcing a turnover that will generate transition offense for the Knicks. But Chandler suggested in the strongest terms that his teammates haven't been on the same page defensively.
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Asked if he felt some responsibility for Hibbert's 24-point, 12-rebound effort in Game 3, Chandler said: "Absolutely, absolutely. My job is to slow him down regardless. I would like to see us execute the game plan a little better, but him having a game like that is unacceptable. He had a great game. You've got to make sure it doesn't happen again.''
According to Chandler, the touchy topic of help defense was addressed Sunday. He explained it this way: "The thing is we're supposed to double. If we don't, the defense is vulnerable.
"If it's a one-on-one situation, you could deny the front and do all kinds of things. It's supposed to be us trapping to generate a faster pace. If we're not trapping, then we're in a tough spot.''
Last season, Chandler was the NBA's defensive player of the year, so the results Hibbert is getting are that much more galling. But Chandler also is conscious of rotating to help other teammates. When he does, a teammate has to rotate to cover Chandler's responsibility.
That's been hit or miss, mostly miss.
"I think Hibbert may have scored on maybe three or four post-up moves,'' Chandler said. Referring to Hibbert's eight offensive rebounds, some of which led to easy second-chance points, he added, "A lot of it was putbacks, and that's rotations.
"It can't be one or two guys out there. It has to be an entire team, and that's where we're falling short right now. That's the reason why they're getting a lot of easy buckets around the basket.''
Forward Amar'e Stoudemire, who played nine minutes in his first game back from a knee operation, banged with Hibbert and gave up four points to the 7-2 center. He said Woodson has gone over the coverages repeatedly.
"We should have mastered that by now,'' Stoudemire said. "But it seems to be that we didn't quite pass the class [Saturday] night. We've got to make sure we come out Tuesday with the focus and determination of being able to execute those plans.''
Chandler would say "amen'' to that.