By John Schmeelk
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The Knicks appeared to right their ship on Sunday when they blew out the Pistons, but the win isn’t as positive as it would seem.
Coming into the game, the Pistons were tied as the fourth least efficient offensive team in the NBA. The Knicks still let the Pistons score 100 points, shoot 47 percent from the field and get out in transition. It was not the dominant defensive game that the Knicks should have had against such a bad offensive team.
It was the continuation of a recent trend, as the Knicks allowed 131 and 114 points, respectively, in their two losses against the Rockets and Mavericks. The Knicks let the Mavericks shoot 49 percent from the field and only forced 13 turnovers. Dallas had 34 points in the paint and shot 45 percent from behind the arc. In the second half, when the Knicks usually turn their defense intensity up, the Mavericks scored 65 points.
It got worse against Houston, when the Knicks gave up 72 points in the first half and 59 in the second. The Rockets scored 54 points in the paint and shot nearly 52 percent from the field. It was also a horror show from behind the arc, where the Rockets shot 56 percent. Houston also outrebounded the Knicks by nearly 20. Mike Woodson put it quite accurately after the game when he said that the effort was not acceptable.
The Knicks have gotten to where they are with their defense, and the players would do well to remember that.
As Rasheed Wallace likes to put it, “Offense sells tickets and defense wins championships.” He should take his own advice since his interior help defense, along with that of last year’s Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler, has been bad. Spare a few minutes against the Mavericks, Chandler has not made his presence felt. Of course, it doesn’t help that the Knicks’ guards are letting opposing players get into the paint at will.
In the Knicks’ first nine games — all of which were wins — they kept every team except two at 95 points or fewer. Six were held under 90. The Knicks’ one loss came when they gave up 105 points. In their last three games, the Knicks have allowed more than 100 points and have lost two.
It is not a coincidence.
In those games the Knicks were committed first and foremost to defense. Their effort, more than anything else, got them those victories. They simply were working and playing harder than their opponent. It looked like Woodson had installed a new culture into the Knicks’ locker room.
Since then, the Knicks have been trying to outscore everyone. With Carmelo Anthony hot, the Knicks can win some games this way, but it won’t last. They need to get back to outworking their opponents and making defense the focus of their entire operation. Until that happens, the Knicks will continue to struggle.
Everyone gave Woodson credit for turning it all around, so now it’s time to hold him responsible for the slippage.
The Knicks play their first-ever game at Barclays Center on Monday night in a battle for New York. The Nets can score in a lot of different ways, and are the seventh most efficient offense in the league.
The Knicks’ defense needs to be there, or Brook Lopez will dominate the paint and Deron Williams and Joe Johnson will get into the paint and hit the open three. The Knicks need to be physical and establish their brand of basketball — the city’s brand of basketball — early in the game. The Nets aren’t the toughest team in the paint, and the Knicks need to make them pay for that. They need to assert their style to own the city.
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Despite their terrific record, are you concerned about the Knicks’ defensive struggles as of late? Sound off with your thoughts and comments below…