Heat, Mavs, Improvement?

Heat, Mavs, Improvement?

Written by Declan Ryan

The Knicks moved to 19-21 this season after an encouraging win over the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday.

Prior to the Dallas game, the Knicks threw away what would’ve been a great confidence boosting win in Miami, who’s victory was largely predicated on their willingness to shoot threes, and the Knicks’ reluctance to do the same.

The 107-103 loss in overtime to the Heat was a reminder for Knicks fans that despite a
promising start to the season, there is room for improvement on multiple fronts for the
team going forward. Much has been made over the improved defense and effort that passes the eye test when watching the team, but statistically, the game-plans have to
improve if the Knicks want to reach even the 8th seed in the playoff race this year.
Miami attempted 42 threes on Friday, but the Knicks only managed 13 attempts – this
disparity further highlighted by the fact that the Knicks didn’t make a single 3 pointer until the 3rd quarter. Of course, attempting a low number of threes would be excusable if the team was having an off night – there’s no use chucking threes just for the sake of it. However, the Knicks hit 5 threes on Friday, shooting a good 38.5% as opposed to the Heat who shot 28.5% (12/42).

We all know that the Knicks have struggled mightily in defending the 3 point line this
season, in fact, it’s probably the most frustrating part of watching the team so far. Given that for the most part the effort on defense has been great, the Knicks’ players are doing themselves a disservice by giving them up.

A more detailed study of the Heat game, undertaken by reddit user /u/zounderk1te  (1) , shows that the team suffers from multiple individual errors when on defense; this is compounded by the fact that the team has to constantly help on defense to contain opposition players who are allowed to drive to the rim far too easily.

Despite KP’s recent ‘tired’ comments, there is a real case for him moving to the 5 once he can hang physically with NBA big men down low. KP frequently doesn’t contest 3 pointers when guarding stretch 4’s, and there’s no doubt he’s best defensively as a rim protector, closer to the basket.

Anyone who has watched the Knicks this year will tell you that the team appears to flat out refuse to box out sometimes, instead ball watching and allowing easy offensive rebounds as well as long rebounds which lead to easy threes for the other team. Truthfully, it’s hard to say whether this is solely a coaching issue, or because of the inexperience of the team’s young players, but regardless it’s killing the Knicks especially down the stretch in close games.

The Dallas game was a chance for the Knicks to make up for losing 7 of their previous 8
games, and despite possibility the worst officiating ever witnessed in NBA history (not
exaggerating), the team pulled through with a 100-96 win on the road. Porzingis scored 29 points, albeit on 25 shots, but given that he was fouled on what looked like almost every jumpshot he took, it’s a good thing that he still managed to get nearly 30 points and wasn’t anonymous unlike in Miami. KOQ went for 15 points and 11 rebounds, which has brought up trade rumours involving the big man and you can’t say the Knicks wouldn’t be selling high right now.

Ntilikina had a nice statline of 7pts, 7rebs, 5asts & 2blks, but the main thing was that he
looked comfortable on offense despite some hesitancy that hopefully grows less and less as the 19-year- old gains more experience. Unfortunately speaking of experience, Hornacek still continues with his unhealthy obsession of playing Jack in crunch time, although in Dallas Frank had played 12 straight minutes before being replaced with Jack for the final minutes.

If there’s anything to take from the last two games, it’s that the Knicks can play better than they are. January is full of road games (including a 7 game road stretch) and the team has only won 4 road games all year (4-14), yet for many they remain competitive until individual errors and an inability to run effective plays cost them. Hornacek will often call timeouts, spend minutes drawing up a play, only for the Knicks to run something so ineffective that it’ll end up in the hands of Kanter from the 3 point line, like what happened in Chicago in December.

Recent positive news for the Knicks is that Tim Hardaway Jr. is now practicing in full court scrimmages (2) , even if his return is still a week or two away. Furthermore, despite injuring himself taunting the Heat bench on Friday, it’s not too much of a stretch to say we might be witnessing prime Michael Beasley if he keeps up his production for the foreseeable future.

His 20 points in 23 minutes in Miami were huge in keeping most of the game in the Knicks’ favour, and B-EZ has been averaging 16.5 points on 54.3% shooting since the start of December. The Knicks are also considering signing Trey Burke from their G-League affiliate (3) , and this can only be a positive because it means Ramon Sessions might be saying goodbye to New York despite all he’s done to help the Knicks win this year.

Knicks’ remaining games in January: Bulls (H), T-Wolves (A), Pelicans (H), Nets (A), Grizzlies (A), Jazz (A), Lakers (A), Warriors (A), Nuggets (A), Suns (A), Nets (H)

(2) https://twitter.com/StevePopper/status/950765046191345664
(3) https://twitter.com/ShamsCharania/status/950482102755176453


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