X’s and O’s Breakdowns

Felton Elevator Doors Play (Video)

From tonight’s win over Charlotte…

I’ve always been a fan of teams running the “elevator doors” play, where a shooter will run between two screeners who then close the gap, like a set of elevator doors. Plenty of teams around the league run a variation of the play. Golden State is probably the team that has popularized the play most. Dating back to last season, the Knicks have used the play to get Raymond Felton open looks. I believe we’d already seen it once or twice over the first few games, and we saw it tonight. They ran it on their 2nd offensive possession of the game. Felton missed the shot, but it was a good look and it’s a good play.

The Three is the Key for the Knicks to Beat Miami

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Though their first 55 games played, the Knicks have attempted more threes per game than any team in basketball. They’re quite good at it as well, checking in with the league’s 5th best three point percentage at 37.1% per the NBA.com stats database. While old traditionalists of the game shoot down the offensive philosophy of hoisting up three after three after three as a gimmick, the Knicks have embraced it and have been successful doing so, running the league’s third most efficient offense.

Coming into this season, and the last two before that, the goal has been simple for the Knicks: Beat the Heat. Since Miami’s ‘Big Three’ came together in the summer of 2010, the Heat have had a target on their back. The entire Eastern Conference has been unsuccessful in hitting that target, as Miami has made it to the finals in both years that the James/Wade/Bosh trio has been together. Only the 2010 Dallas Mavericks have been successful in defeating Miami in a playoff series. New York had an opportunity last season, but were beaten soundly in five games.

The construct of this Knick team parallels much of that 2010 Dallas squad. They’ve got Tyson Chandler anchoring the middle of the defense, an unstoppable offensive force at power forward and they shoot a ton of threes. Currently the Knicks look far from a championship caliber team, having gone 17-15 after starting 18-5, but there are similarities between them and that Dallas team.

In the first two Knicks-Heat match-ups, New York was able to defeat Miami behind incredibly hot three point shooting. They hit 52% (19-36) of their threes in the first matchup and and 40.9% (18-44) in the second. Shooting a ton of threes, and more importantly making a ton of threes seems to be the forumla behind offensive success against the Heat. Granted, this could be said about playing offense against any defense on any given night. However, Miami isn’t just any other defense. When locked in, the Heat are one of the most disruptive defenses in the league. Having ridiculous speed and athleticism along the perimeter allows Miami to attack opposing ball handlers. In the pick and roll, the Heat love to put a hard trap on the ball handler, trusting that their rotations will do what they need to do on the back end. By simple arithmetic, trapping the ball handler with two defenders means that an offensive perimeter player is going to be unguarded. Miami’s perimeter defenders are incredibly athletic and they rotate to the open offensive players much faster than most, if not all other defenses in basketball. The offense must be decisive and quick in swinging the ball along the perimeter, much like the Knicks were in games one and two earlier this year.

Take this play for example:

Miami traps the Knicks not once, but twice. They trap Felton in the pick and roll before then trapping Chandler. Chandler does a good job of kicking the ball back out to Felton who then swings it to Kidd. Here is where we see where the Knicks can hurt Miami. Because the ball was decisively and quickly kicked back out from Chandler and swung around the perimeter, Miami cannot completely recover on defense.

Rotation

LeBron is put in a position to have to make a decision. Either he closes out hard on Kidd, forcing him to continue swinging the ball, or runs to Brewer giving Kidd the shot. LeBron hesitates, not really doing either, allowing Kidd to take and hit the three.

Here’s another play where the Knicks beat a trap by hitting a three. Using Carmelo Anthony as a roll man (!), the Knicks are able to free up Steve Novak in the corner. When Felton gets trapped, Anthony rolls towards the hoop. This brings Novak’s defender, Dwyane Wade, down to pick up Anthony. Felton gets enough space to swing the ball to Novak in the corner and he hits the three.

About halfway through the second game, Miami started switching on their pick and roll defense.

As a result of all the switching, Felton had a career game. I would be highly surprised to see the Heat employ this strategy today.

A lot has changed since the Knicks beat Miami 112-92 on December 12th. The Knicks have cooled off drastically while Miami has won 13 games in a row. What hasn’t changed is that New York’s ticket to victory against the Heat is to shoot, and make, the three ball. Hard trapping and rabid attacking defense by the Heat opens up opportunities on the perimeter for the offense to hit threes. Over the last 10 games, the Knicks have actually been quite cold shooting the ball, hitting just 31% of their 3 point attempts. Today, and in any future meetings, they’ll have to re-find that early season shooting form if they want to beat the Heat.

Follow Taylor on Twitter @tarmosino

How Amar’e Stoudemire Fits Into the Knicks Offense

STAT

At 19-6, the New York Knicks have been just fine this year without Amar’e Stoudemire. New York runs the second most efficient offense in the NBA, scoring 110.5 points per 100 possessions. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a clear role or a need for Stoudemire in the Knicks offense. The monkey in the room looming over New York’s dream season has been the issue of whether the Knicks $100 million big man would accept a role coming off the bench. Over the past few weeks, Stoudemire has indicated that he would be accepting to come off the bench. Mike Woodson has indicated he will bring Stoudemire along slowly in terms of minutes played. All signs point to Stoudemire as a bench player, which is a really good sign for the Knicks.

In today’s NBA where player athleticism allows defenders to cover ground quicker than ever before, offensive spacing has become increasingly important. Teams are getting smaller and smaller with lineups, featuring more “stretch fours” (power forwards that can shoot and stretch the floor) than ever. The Knicks are no different. It is no secret that Carmelo Anthony is far more productive as a power forward, and has excelled to arguably an MVP caliber of play in New York’s wide open attack. New York employs a “four out” offensive system, based around four shooters and a big man setting pick and rolls. More

Carmelo Anthony: Post Passer

Yes, the title of this post is correct. Post PASSER. We all know Carmelo Anthony can score in the post, he’s shot 5/10 from there so far this season. But in these first three games, all Knick victories, Anthony has shown prowess passing out of the post. Often times he has been doubled in the post and he’s shown the ability to almost seamlessly hit open guys. This is a skill that is often taken for granted. For example, Andrew Bynum wets his pants every time a double team comes to him and often turns the ball over. It makes sense though why Anthony has been excelling in this part of the game. We’ve seen him make great passes before, not a lot of them, but he’s made them. We know he can handle the ball. He has all the skills to do everything he needs to do out of the post, it is just a matter of decision making. Through the first three games, Anthony has made great decisions.  More

Amar’e Stoudemire’s Post Game Has a Role in Mike Woodson’s Offense

Earlier this summer, Amar’e Stoudemire paid a hefty price (approximately $50k) to work on his previously non-existent post game with Hall of Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon. Given the history of Stoudemire’s offensive game, devastation as a roll man with a tint of mid-range shooting, there has been almost unanimous sentiment among the the basketball community that Stoudemire’s post game won’t be used much in games. I too felt the same way, until I looked deeper into the matter.

It isn’t that Amar’e is going to become a post up player. He’s not. That has never been his game, and likely won’t ever be the base of his offensive repertoire. However, that doesn’t mean Stoudemire’s post work this offseason can’t help his game. After analyzing Mike Woodson’s offense, I think there will be opportunities for Stoudemire to score in a post up game and in that area of the floor. We know that Woodson’s history indicates that he run a slower, more isolation based type offense. Unlike Mike D’Antoni’s offense, the pick and roll has never been a staple of the Woodson offense. That doesn’t mean pick and rolls will be eliminated, but we’ll likely see less of them next season. That means Amar’e Stoudemire will have to find other ways to score, because he won’t be rolling to the basket every third possession. More

Analyzing Amar’e Stoudemire’s Awesome Defensive Rotation

There were 54.5 seconds left in the game. New York cradled a delicate 87-84 lead over the powerhouse Heat. Down 3-0 in the series, this was do-or-die time for the Knicks defense. Miami ran a high pick and roll between Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. Bosh did well to quickly slip screen into the paint while both Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler were focused on Wade. The much maligned Amar’e Stoudemire made an awesome defensive rotation to push Bosh out to the baseline, where he then threw the ball into a back court for a turnover. Carmelo Anthony was fouled from three point land on the next possession and the rest is history. In this post, I am going to analyze how Stoudemire made the defensive play of the game for the Knicks.  More

How the Knicks Used Motion to Bury the Celtics

New York’s offense was the catalyst in their 118-110 victory over the Celtics on Tuesday night. The Knicks shot 56.8% from the field, and a whooping 59.4% from downtown. In breaking down the film from the game, you can see why the Knicks were so dominant offensively. As opposed to the Miami loss on Sunday, the Knicks offense was very fluid. They were fluid moving the ball, as well as moving off the ball. Instead of running nothing but Melo isolations , New York did a nice job of cutting and setting screens. Their offense was multidimensional and the results showed on the final scoreboard. In this post, I am going to break down four plays I loved from the game as the Knicks used motion to execute offensively.  More

Analyzing Carmelo Anthony at the Power Forward Position

Ever since the injury to Amar’e Stoudemire, coupled along with a prior injury to Jared Jeffries, the Knicks have been forced to play small ball in which Carmelo Anthony is playing the power forward (or the “4″) position. The biggest beneficiary of the recent infusion of small ball has been the much maligned Anthony. Playing the 4 has forced Anthony to play harder on defense, as well as helped his offense. Zach Lowe had a great take on Anthony’s defense over at “The Point Forward”. This post however, will analyze New York’s offensive advantage with Anthony playing power forward.

New York is 5-2 in the 7 games without the services of Amar’e Stoudemire. One of the, if not the, biggest reason for their success has been the revitalization of Carmelo Anthony’s offense. In the past 7 games, Anthony has averaged 29.8 points per game on 49% shooting, 39% from downtown. Anthony’s resurgence can be largely contributed to his playing the power forward position. Having Anthony play the 4 creates mismatches for not only Anthony, but it opens up the Knicks offense. By playing “small ball”, the Knicks force opponents to adjust their lineups and match-ups to slow down the Knicks and particularly Anthony.

Today, I bring you 4 plays that showcase some of the ways that small ball, built around Anthony at the 4, has helped the Knicks offense.  More