Well, that was interesting. The Knicks lost to the Thunder 95-94, on a night where myself and the vast majority of others thought they would get clobbered. Without Carmelo Anthony, sidelined by death a sore knee, it looked like the Knicks would need a big night from their normally supporting role players. JR Smith answered the bell (Loudly, at that. I think he might have broken the bell.) scoring 36 points on 14-29 shooting, including 6-13 from three-point land. After the Knicks fell behind 35-26 at the end of the first quarter, Earl erupted for 18 points in the second, and helped close the Thunder lead to 59-56. The Knicks must have kept JR in an incubator during the break, because he didn’t cool off in the third quarter, adding in 13 more and helping the Knicks get a 6 point lead going into the 4th quarter. The Knicks should have left the court and refused to come back on after that, trying to get the refs to call the game early. Anyway, that didn’t happen, and the Knicks couldn’t hold on to their lead, losing by one. The fourth quarter featured some interesting lineup choices and play calls from Mike Woodson, some shaky calls from the refs, and some expletives shouted by me. Down one with 38 seconds left, the Woodson drew up a creative play to get JR Smith a fairly open three pointer which he missed. On the ensuing possession, Kevin Durant missed a mid range jumper and the Knicks had the ball with seven seconds left and still down one. JR got the ball on the wing, dribbled a bit, and missed a turnaround jumper over Russell Westbrook as time expired. Poop. Some notes: More
At the Meloship, we’re looking for one or two more writers to add to our group here. We’re looking for versatile writers with a good grasp of analytics, as well as a love of the Knicks. If you’re interested, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with 2 writing samples of your work. It doesn’t have to be hoops related, but that would be preferable. Also write me what your strengths/weaknesses are, what kind of pieces you would be interested in writing and how many posts a week you think you’d have time for. I’m not a micromanager, but I don’t want to add a writer who never writes anything.
What a strange night filled with boredom. No, it’s not from watching “Blair Witch Project” scenes, but from tonight’s game. The Knicks came into Detroit with Carmelo Anthony out after tripping on his own feet in Cleveland (curse you, Quicken Loans Arena). This game was very mucky and sluggish. After the first quarter, I knew this game wasn’t going to go all that well, and the majority of it didn’t. The defensive presence was great in the beginning, but, per usual, the defensive intensity slowed down, and got sloppy throughout, hence Brandon Knight looking like Mike Dunleavy hitting open threes from everywhere on the floor while Iman Shumpert and Jason Kidd were attempting to run around screens. However, in the fourth quarter, the Knicks regained themselves, Raymond Felton and J.R Smith in particular, and shot their way back into the game, going on a 16-0 run at one point, out scoring the Pistons 22-12, en route to an 87-77 win. Notes: More
Well it was an interesting night, to say the least. After coming out in the first half totally flat, and quite frankly uninterested, the Knicks were able to rally back in the second half behind a great performance from Amar’e Stoudemire. A vintage STAT game, Stoudemire scored 22 points on 10/14 shooting en route to victory. Carmelo Anthony went down with an apparent knee injury in the second quarter with the Knicks trailing by 5000 points. Stoudemire picked up the slack and led the Knicks to the win, playing a season high 32 minutes. Despite allowing Cleveland, namely Mo Speights and Luke Walton, to dominate the first half, the Knicks trailed by just 12 at halftime. New York completely dominated the 3rd quarter, holding Cleveland to 13 points. In the 4th, the Knicks scored 32 points behind Stoudemire and some timely three point shooting by Jason Kidd and Steve Novak. Cleveland had a chance to tie the game down three with six seconds remaining, but Tyson Chandler was able to deflect Kyrie Irving’s game tying attempt. Overall, this game wasn’t pretty for the Knicks and was incredibly frustrating, although predictable. Coming off yesterday’s emotional loss to Miami, it was expected the Knicks would have a let down game tonight. That being said, I thought the team showed great resilience to overcome Melo’s injury and an early onslaught of Cavalier offense. Given that Cleveland was playing without Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller, the game should not have been as close as it was, but I was encouraged to see how the Knicks were able to keep fighting back and eventually did what they had to do to win.
Matt Weiss (@ThanksRoy): Two ex-Knicks this week from me, because one is technically still a Knick. Even though he is still on the roster, for reasons unknown to me, but professed to be a “return in the second round of the playoffs” (how about we get there first) this week’s Ex-Knick of the week is Rasheed Wallace. I am a Carolina alum (hence the twitter handle, seriously, Thanks Roy) and so when Sheed was rumored to be coming to the Knicks I was even more giddy with excitement then most fans. Of course, Sheed is amazing and I was expecting hours of entertainment. More
I’m all that encouraged by the Knicks performance today. Apart from the second quarter, the Knicks were not a good basketball team today. They couldn’t shoot a lick, something we’ve seen over the past 11 games now, and they couldn’t respond at all when Miami turned up the intensity after halftime. The second quarter was a ton of fun, but the other three quarters were tough to watch. There were some positives though. For the fourth time in 5th games, Carmelo Anthony attempted double digit free throws. Jason Kidd had maybe his best game of the season, possibly breaking out of a prolonged slump of terrible three point shooting. Sans the end of the first quarter, I thought Stoudemire was solid and the Knicks did well to get him some open dunks at the rim.
What does this loss mean? Not all that much. It confirmed what we all kind of thought. The first two Knicks-Heat games were not that indicative of how these two teams match up. Though the Knicks are built to beat Miami, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who thinks they actually can in the playoffs. This was a bad loss for New York. Leading by 14 at halftime, the Knicks had plenty of opportunities to close out the game, but instead lost the second half by 20 points.
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.
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.
Whew. That was fun, wasn’t it? It took me a little while to full comprehend exactly what happened during the Knicks 109-105 win over the Warriors, but I think I’m good now. Steph Curry went unconscious in the middle of the second quarter and stayed that way throughout, finishing with 54 points on 18-28 shooting and 11-13 from beyond the ark. Luckily for the Knicks, no one else on the Warriors contributed much, and the Knicks actual won a game in which someone dropped 50 in the garden on them. Carmelo Anthony had 35 points and 8 assists as the Knicks ran the majority of their offense through him, and JR Smith added 26 on 10-19 shooting and 6-11 from deep.
The Warriors shot 50% from the field as opposed to the Knicks’ 41%, made more 3s (15 to the Knicks’ 11) and shot a better percentage from deep (55.6% to 32.4%) and lost. This was, in major part, to the Knicks dominance on the boards and in the turnover department. Tyson Chandler had 28 rebounds, and the Knicks outrebounded the Warriors 46-38, adding 16 offensive boards to just 5 for the Warriors. Chandler grabbed 10 rebounds in the first 7 minutes, and finished with 13 in the first quarter alone. A lot of this was David Lee being suspended for the Warriors, however the effort was clearly there from Tyson.
Instead of doing a normal, bullet-by-bullet recap, I’ve decided to break down some important plays from the game. While Curry went absolutely insane, and the Knicks only won by 4, I thought that they played much better defensively than they have in the past few weeks. They kept their switching to a minimum, didn’t do a whole lot of doubling in the post, (probably because the Warriors were missing Lee), and played with a lot of effort. They had some breakdowns which led to some open looks for Curry, but he probably wouldn’t have missed if he got hit with a car battery. Anyway, to the game: More