NEW YORK — It was clear, at least to Knicks coach Mike Woodson, that his team suffered not having Pablo Prigioni on the court in Game 1, even as the Knicks were able to beat the Celtics. So Woodson and his players were pleased to get Prigioni back for Game 2, the ankle sprain that he suffered a week ago having healed enough for him to return to the court.
As Woodson had said Sunday, “Pablo was definitely missed on both ends of the floor. We went back and charted our offense. We had some slow time where we were very stagnant.”
That didn’t happen in the Knicks’ 87-71 win Tuesday night, with Prigioni managing 18 minutes, getting five assists to lead the team, three in the crucial third quarter.
“Pablo is very aggressive,” Raymond Felton said. “He’s a guy that just bothers you the whole game, stays on top of you, stays in you, always just nags you the whole game. That’s something that’s big for us. He kind of just initiates our whole defense.
“When we see him out there working as hard as he does and playing as hard as he does, it makes us want to play the same.”
With Prigioni in the game, the flow of the offense was better for the Knicks. So too was the flow of the defense. But it wasn’t just Prigioni at the point. It was also Felton, who “changed the game in the third quarter,” Woodson said.
“We’re going to need him to do that,” added Woodson. “I thought in that third quarter we were as good as we’ve been all year in terms of ball movement, pushing it, and making shots.”
Added Woodson, “Raymond did a great job of really pushing it and getting us into something. The ball kind of moved from side to side, and guys were able to get in the seams and draw and kick and make shots. That’s kind of how our offense has flowed all season. We finally hit our stride in the third quarter.”
As for Prigioni, he was heavily involved in the Knicks’ run at the end of the season, when he started 16 of their final 17 games, after starting just two before that stretch. During that time, the Knicks won 13 consecutive games.
“He sets the tone from the defensive standpoint, by getting up the floor, applying pressure,” Woodson said of Prigioni. “Again, it doesn’t hurt the fact that he can run a team. It frees Raymond up, not really having to pound the ball and make plays all the time because he can be on the back end of some of our offensive plays.
“It’s unique having two point guards out there because they both can run the team and they both do a good job in defending.”
The Knicks were not putting too much emphasis on the fact that they took the first two games of the series against the Celtics. After all, both of them were at Madison Square Garden.
As Woodson said, “We did what we were supposed to do from holding home court advantage. That’s what we play for all year to host the first round at home on our floor. We did what we were supposed to do here at home.”
He wasn’t the only one who felt that way.
“All we did was take care of home,” Kenyon Martin said.Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.