When the Knicks take the floor at Bankers Life Fieldhouse for a must-win Game 6 on Saturday night, Chris Copeland figures to once again play a key role off the bench.
And Amar’e Stoudemire and Jason Kidd may have to get comfortable there.
“Those two guys have just gotta be ready to play,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said on a conference call Friday. “At this point it’s about winning. We played a different rotation last night and it worked. We’ll look at that rotation again.”
In the Knicks’ 85-75 victory in Game 5 at Madison Square Garden, Copeland scored 13 points in 19 minutes off the bench, providing a much-needed offensive jolt behind Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith.
With the Knicks facing a 3-2 series deficit, Woodson said Copeland could have an even bigger role in Game 6.
“If he’s playing well and doing the things that’s asked of him on the floor, sure his minutes can grow,” Woodson said. “But if he’s not, I gotta search and find. It could be [Steve] Novak. That’s the beauty of our team. It don’t matter who plays, it’s what you do in the minutes when you get in the ballgame.”
It seems unlikely that Novak would suddenly get more minutes after he played just 35 seconds in Game 5.
“It’s been great,” Woodson said. “All of our coaches have had a hand in dealing with Chris over this season and just his struggles because here was a young man who we didn’t think had a chance to make our ballclub and didn’t think he was physically equipped to play at this level, and just knowing the game at this level.
“It took him a while. He had sat and learned. We played him sparingly here and there, but each time he’s played, he’s been productive on the floor.”
Copeland beamed last night when he was invited to the podium to speak with the media, and credited his teammates for supporting him.
“Those guys have been helpful but the whole team has been great from top to bottom,” Copeland said. “It has been great. It has been a big-time brotherhood. Everyone has looked out to me and teaching me the ropes. I am thankful to be a part of this team because I don’t think that many teams have this many guys that want you to succeed.”
Copeland was presumably including Stoudemire in that group, although he left after Game 5 without speaking to the media.
Stoudemire managed just two points and two rebounds in six minutes and didn’t play at all in the second half.
Kidd went scoreless for a ninth straight postseason game dating to April 23. In the first half, he missed a breakaway layup when it rolled off the rim. He also had zero assists and zero rebounds in five minutes.
“Jason’s going through a tough stretch but again, do I have confidence in Jason and putting him on the basketball floor, absolutely,” Woodson said. “That will never go away….
“Everybody’s so focused in on him making a shot and eventually he’s going to pop loose and make a big one and we’re all going to say, ‘OK, that’s the Jason we know.’ But again the other intangible things that he brings to the table, the leadership, that’s more important to me than making a shot….He’s had his struggles but still I’m not going to be hesitant on putting him in the game to be a part of what we’ve done because he’s done it and he’s done it in a big way.”
Woodson said both Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton “were fine and ready to go.”