Knicks Make Defensive Adjustments

by Jeff Fogle 28. February 2011 01:27

New York certainly focused on areas of need defensively in Sunday Night's 91-86 shocker at Miami. Potential trouble spots from the Milwaukee and Cleveland games were non-issues.

Let's take them in the order they were presented in the prior article...

Miami only went to the free throw line 22 times, which was well below what Milwaukee and Cleveland shot. Dwyane Wade was just 2-3 for the night.

Perimeter Defense
Miami was just 6 of 22 from behind the arc, for a paltry 27.3% success rate. That's a shade under 41% as a two-point equivalent.

Defensive Rebounding
Miami only grabbed 6 offensive boards Sunday night, while New York had 35 defensive rebounds. If Miami missed, the Knicks grabbed the ball.

New York also forced 18 turnovers. Though there's some debate about how many of those should be considered unforced errors. The Knicks clearly disrupted Miami, and didn't provide many extra opportunities when Miami was shooting at its own foot.

For Heat fans, a discouraging trend...

MIAMI SCORING IN QUARTERS 2-3-4 (last 3 "big" games)
17-15-20 versus New York
22-14-22 at Chicago
23-18-21 at Boston

Those are totals of 52, 58, and 62 points against playoff caliber opposition in the East, or an average of 19.1 points per quarter over nine quarters once the games has settled down into a normal flow.

Also worth noting, Dwyane Wade struggled from the field vs. the Celtics and Knicks. Chris Bosh was 1 for 18 at Chicago. At this moment in time, it looks like Miami needs ALL THREE of their musketeers to have good shooting games vs. top opponents.

Was going to return Monday night for the start of the regular weekday reports. Wanted to quickly post those numbers since the Knicks bounced back so well from Friday's disappointing loss at Cleveland. New York's next challenge will be a back-to-back Tuesday and Wednesday that features a road game at Orlando followed by a home game vs. New Orleans.

Miami doesn't play again until Thursday, when a brutal back-to-back awaits. Miami hosts Orlando Thursday on TNT, then visits San Antonio Friday on ESPN.

What we see in those four games may shed a lot of light on expectations for the coming playoffs...

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Knicks Can't Defend Worst Offenses

by Jeff Fogle 26. February 2011 00:57

Since the Carmelo Anthony trade, the New York Knicks have faced the two worst offenses in the NBA, and made them look like two of the best offenses in the NBA.

The standards for offensive efficiency (points scored per 100 possessions) heading into Friday action:

League Leader: Denver 109.7
League Average: 104.3

The two worst offenses in the league:
Milwaukee: 98.4
Cleveland: 98.6

New York opened the Carmelo-era allowing 108 points on 99 possessions to Milwaukee for a 109.1 efficiency mark. Friday night they allowed 115 points to Cleveland at an even faster pace, which will end up projecting in the same neighborhood once the numbers are in the books.

There were concerns about New York's defense after the trade, given the very poor defensive reputations of Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, the age of Chauncey Billups, and the general lack of emphasis on defense from head coach Mike D'Antoni. Thus far, those concerns have been justified. New York has turned the two worst offenses into the equivalent of league leaders. What's going to happen when they face GOOD offenses?!

Problem areas thus far:

New York put Milwaukee on the line 32 times Wednesday Night, then saw Cleveland march to the line 44 times Friday. It's worth noting that some of that Cavs total was a garbage-time free throw parade as the Knicks had to resort to desperation measures. Cleveland ended 31 of 44, but it was 26 of 38 with 24 seconds to go.

Milwaukee: 25 of 32
Cleveland: 26 of 38 pre-desperation

The Cavs didn't exploit their free throw opportunities as well as they could have. Both teams attacked the basket knowing they'd earn some trips to the charity stripe.

Perimeter Defense
The Bucks and Cavs combined to go 17 of 44 for 38.6% from behind the arc. The two have combined to hit about 34% for the year. You don't want to judge this stat too harshly on two games because it's a fickle category. But, early returns suggest the Knicks aren't great at denying open looks from long range.

Defensive Rebounding
Cleveland had a stunning 19 offensive rebounds Friday, compared to just 29 defensive rebounds for the Knicks. Remember when Indiana was grading out so well in the low 30% range in offensive rebound rate right after Frank Vogel took over? Cleveland was a fraction under 40% in that stat tonight. The Cavs would win the battle of the boards 62-42 overall.

Oh, Cleveland is the third worst offensive rebounding team in the league this season.

It's only two games. And, there are going to be growing pains whenever new players are thrown together with little preparation. The Knicks are likely to get better as they get more acquainted with each other. The problem is, two bad defending bigs and an aging guard getting better acquainted may not help the defensive rotations that much.

Offensively, Carmelo backed off a bit so Stoudemire could get some more shots.

Stoudemire: 27 shots, 3 assists, 31 points
Anthony: 22 shots, 3 assists, 27 points

Nobody can complain about the offensive production so far. But, the offensive production was fine before the trade. As we mentioned last week, New York's recent slump featured a playoff caliber offense but one of the worst defenses in the league during that stretch. Nothing new to report. New York was 6-11 their prior 17 games before the trade. Splitting with 22-35 Milwaukee, and 11-47 Cleveland is a continuation of that form.

New York just played a composite 223-223 two-game tie with opponents who are a combined 33-82 this season. That's where they stand heading into Sunday night's game at Miami.

Transition Points:

*Big result for Utah Friday, as the Jazz rebounded from recent woes with a 95-84 win at Indiana. Great to see such defensive intensity when it was missing for so long. Indiana was 13 of 47 shooting in the first half! And, it's not like the Pacers were just firing up bombs that were missing. Indiana was 0-5 on treys, 13 of 42 on two-pointers in the first two quarters.

The Pacers did keep crashing those offensive boards though, posting a 35.1 offensive rebound rate. Tyler Hansborough had 6 by himself on a 1 of 11 shooting night. Was he just grabbing his own misses and missing again?

First win for Tyrone Corbin. New Jazz Devin Harris had 14 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists in 29 minutes (but 5 turnovers). Derrick Favors only played 15 minutes. The bulk of great defense came from the guys who weren't defending during that stretch we documented a few weeks ago. Maybe we'll find out what was going on behind the scenes sometime before 2015!

*Detroit only played six guys tonight because of the veteran revolt earlier in the day. Elton Brand of Philadelphia had 20 points and 16 rebounds in 29 minutes against the makeshift lineup. Kind of gives you a sense of what would happen if a D-League team had to play in the NBA, though Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva might take exception to the comparison.

How would Cleveland or Toronto (3-19 its last 22 games) do in the D-League? Don't contract, relegate!

*Evidence of teams prioritizing certain games at the expense of others:

Chicago allowed 118 points to horrible Toronto the night before playing Miami
Miami allowed 113 points to horrible Washington the night after playing Chicago

It was Chicago 93, Miami 89 when the Eastern powers went at each other's throats.

Did you see the footage of Chris Bosh pretending he got nailed near the throat? (More the jaw really, but this was a more artistic digression!) Maybe the 1 for 18 shooting was just him selling the concussion.

*Going to put the Superleague on the back burner for some time, or bring it back later in a different form. Several Western teams have surged in recent weeks in a way that made excluding them kind of crazy. The Knicks recent woes suggest they're borderline in the East until they get things in gear.

One of the challenges for analysts in the coming weeks will be differentiating in the West amongst Portland, Memphis, Denver, New Orleans, Phoenix, and Utah in terms of how well they're playing at the moment. Maybe you can throw Houston and Golden State in there too even though Golden State hasn't looked good in a game and a half (as I write this) since the break. And, maybe even the LA Clippers when Eric Gordon comes back and the team isn't on the road every night.

*Big TV games this weekend are:

Boston at the LA Clippers Saturday night on the NBA Network
LA Lakers at Oklahoma City Sunday on ABC
New York at Miami Sunday night on ESPN
Atlanta at Portland Sunday night (later) on ESPN
Boston at Utah Monday night on the NBA Network

See you again Monday night for a review...

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Bosh 1 of 18 in Miami Loss

by Jeff Fogle 25. February 2011 01:19

What lessons can we draw from Chicago's 93-89 victory over Miami Thursday night? Whatever pathway you try to take toward insight, you eventually run into the elephant in the room. How many times will Chris Bosh go 1 of 18 from the field?!

Amazingly, the first few recaps I read of the game didn't even mention this startling non-accomplishment. If Bosh had thrown the ball into the crowd 17 times a wire service reporter would have noticed. The ebb and flow of the game was certainly dramatic. Wasn't it influenced by one of the "big three" stars missing 17 of 18 shots?

If you're a fan of Miami, you can convince yourself that a rematch would be a win because there's no way Bosh could be that bad again. The Heat only lost by four after all. If you're a skeptic of Miami's championship hopes, you can point out that Chicago did a great job of forcing Miami to shoot where they didn't want to shoot from outside of some fast break dunks in the first quarter (Heat by quarter: 31-22-14-22).

It's interesting that this was Miami's second road loss to an Eastern power in recent memory. They fell at Boston 85-82. Bosh was actually 8 of 11 in that game, but Dwyane Wade struggled at 6 of 17. Maybe that's a path worth walking down for a bit...

James: 10 of 21
Bosh: 8 of 11
Wade: 6 of 17
Total: 24 of 49...49%
Others: 7 of 25...28%

James: 12 of 21
Wade: 12 of 24
Bosh: 1 of 18
Total: 25 of 63...40%
Others: 7 of 16...44%

There was talk when the superstars were assembled that the combination provided some big game "insurance." If LeBron was having an off night, surely Wade would pick up the slack. If Wade wasn't hitting, LeBron could take over. If defenses had to devote most of their attention to LeBron and Wade, then Bosh would score at will on chippies.

That line of thinking looks to be true against most of the league. Miami has truly been dominant in recent weeks when all three were healthy. They've won 31 of their last 34 by my quick count when all three were in the lineup and ready to go. But, that includes an 0-2 mark when playing on the road against Eastern powers with strong defenses. To win a championship, you'll have go to through at least one Eastern power with a great defense. 

Perhaps these results are suggesting that the big three HAVE to all be playing well in the playoff style showdowns. If one has an off night, then what's left of the team will struggle to reach 90 points vs. a top defense.

We haven't seen Miami at home against an Eastern power for awhile. If they keep dominating the rest of the field, they may have home court advantage through the Eastern brackets and be able to overcome these road concerns.

Once the expanded boxscores are up for study early Friday, we'll be able to see where all the missed shots were coming from on the floor. For now, Chicago gets to celebrate another big home win over a championship contender. Keyed by the best defense in the NBA... 

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Melo's NY Intro: 25 shots, 1 assist

by Jeff Fogle 24. February 2011 00:23

New York Knicks fans got an immediate sense of what life with Carmelo Anthony is going to be like in the team's 114-108 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks Wednesday Night...

The good news:

*New York won 114-108 in a game that could have been very sluggish as the components tried to mesh for the first time.

*Anthony scored 27 points and had 10 rebounds in his 39 minutes on the floor.

*Though Anthony didn't shoot well on 10 of 25, the rest of the team was 30 of 55 thanks partly to Carmelo taking so much of the opposing defense's attention.

*The Knicks reminded everyone they'll be a free-throw shooting force if you put them on the line. Chauncey Billups was 12-12, Amare Stoudemire 7-7, and Anthony 6-7. Opposing defenses will really have to bear down in the closing minutes of tight games.

*New York's internal defense held Milwaukee to just 42% on two-point shots.

The bad news:

*New York wasn't allowing too many easy baskets, but they were fouling a lot in the process. Milwaukee shot 32 free throws. Stoudemire fouled out in just 34 minutes of action. Anthony had four fouls himself. Starting center Ronny Turiaf had two fouls in his first four minutes, then managed to finish with three in 20 minutes (near his season norms). Backup forward Shawne Williams committed five fouls in 25 minutes. Opponents who attack the basket will cause problems for this defense, particularly GOOD teams who attack the basket (Milwaukee is just 22-35 after this loss).

*Stoudemire only took 13 shots while scoring 19 points. He usually shoots about 19-20 times in 36-37 minutes. The Knicks want Anthony to be more productive than the guys he replaced, but the impact is less dramatic if he's just taking shots Stoudemire would have been taking anyway.

*The game was played at a very fast tempo (around 100 possessions). Only eight Knicks saw minutes. This is what created the wall the old Knicks ran into a few weeks tempos with short rotations.

The Knicks were expected to win by about this much, so it's a solid start to the new era. Fans of the trade will see items in the boxscore to get excited about given this was the first night for the new roster. Skeptics will find something to complain about.

New York plays again Friday at Cleveland, then Sunday night in a big ESPN game at Miami.

Transition Points

*Utah made a surprising trade today, sending Deron Williams to New Jersey for Derrick Favors and Devin Harris. Who knew the problems we saw with the disappearing defense a few weeks ago would lead to the implosion of the team?

The fact that players weren't helping each other on rotations hinted that something was up. Then, the fact that defense returned when Williams missed a few games with an injury seemed to suggest something more. We're all too far away to know the details, or to know who to blame for the chemistry issues. Now, the head coach is gone...and the guy he was feuding with is gone.

This sets up the possibility that feuding factions are now leaderless. If there was a Sloan contingent on the team, and a Williams contingent, you either have the re-birth of teamwork...or guys laying dazed in the rubble.

Tonight's 118-99 loss at Dallas looked like the latter.

Jazz negatives:
20 turnovers
Outrebounded 43-33
Allowed 61% on two-point shots
Allowed 50% on three-point shots
Lost the second half 59-44

The cloud of additional trades is hanging over this team. And, early body language suggests the players aren't ready to go to war for new coach Tyrone Corbin. The arrival of Harris and Favors may or may not help glue things back together.

Utah will have a back-to-back Friday and Saturday at impassioned Indiana (ouch) and Detroit.

*Chicago played one of the worst defensive games imaginable for a #1 efficiency defense in a look-ahead spot to Thursday's game against Miami.

The Bulls lost to lowly Toronto 118-113, allowing 62% on two-point shots while sending the Raptors to the line for 34 free throw attempts. Sometimes a good defense will run into a team that gets hot from long range and take an efficiency hit. Toronto only tried 5 treys because the going was so good inside!

Joakim Noah is back in the Chicago lineup just in time for the stretch run. He had 16 rebounds in 25 minutes.

*Orlando also lost to a bad team, falling 111-105 to Sacramento.

As we saw last week in a loss to New Orleans, the Magic are prone to go ice cold late in close games. I won't itemize the possessions this time because this is getting long already, and there were too many to go through. Just know that rested Orlando went from a 90-83 lead to a 110-102 deficit facing a BAD team that was playing on night two of a back-to-back without its starting point guard Tyreke Evans (out for a few weeks with plantar fasciitis).

During the 27-12 crunch time debacle, Orlando made only three baskets from the floor while missing nine attempts, turning the ball over four times, and having two shots blocked.

At least the Bulls were looking ahead to a big game!

Orlando is great when the bombs are falling...but two fourth quarter collapses in four games are certainly cause for concern.

*San Antonio beat Oklahoma City 109-105 in a potential playoff preview. We talked last week about Russell Westbrook presenting an element of danger for the Spurs after Derrick Rose lit them up in a loss at Chicago.

Westbrook must have been thinking the same thing because he took 24 shots tonight (compared to a per-game average of 17). Only two of his shots were three-pointers, so he was attacking aggresively. But, Westbrook's 25 points on 24 shots weren't particluarly lethal. His plus/minus was an ugly -12.

Looks like these two teams will play exciting games if they meet in the postseason.

Back Thursday after Miami-Chicago to discuss that the key numbers in that potential playoff preview...

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Denver Says "Carmelo Who?"

by Jeff Fogle 23. February 2011 01:12

The Nuggets entered the fourth quarter Tuesday night with a 102-76 lead over previously surging Memphis, in what would ultimately be a 120-107 win. Aaron Afflalo, J.R. Smith, Ty Lawson, Nene, and Kenyon Martin had a little message they wanted to send to the league!

Good thing Denver had built that 26 point advantage through three quarters. They had no bench! Only nine guys were in uniform as the city awaited the arrival of a few former Knicks. Only eight saw minutes. Among those who played:

*Smith had 26 points and 8 rebounds, and 5 assists from the shooting guard position, including 6 of 11 on three-pointers.

*Afflalo had 21 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists on 7 of 12 shooting, also on the wing.

*Lawson had 21 points, 5 rebounds, and 7 assists on 8 of 15 shooting from the point guard position.

*Nene had a plus/minus of +26, but could only play 28 minutes before fouling out (Knicks fans may want to prepare for foul issues with new starting center Ronny Turiaf...he's averaging 2.7 fouls in just 18.5 minutes per game this season).

You can't draw conclusions after one game of course. Clearly this group was fired up to play well. Memphis was missing Rudy Gay, and was on night one of a back-to-back. No Grizzly played more than 31 minutes as the team saved itself for a hoped-for win at Minnesota Wednesday night. Still, it was good to see the effort and enthusiasm there for a Denver team that could easily have muddled through waiting for things to settle down.

Denver plays again Thursday night in a TV game against Boston (after Miami-Chicago on TNT). New York's first game since the trade will be Wednesday night at home against Milwaukee.

Transition Points

*Tempo was EVERYWHERE in this first game night from the break. You'll see that when you read the boxscore summaries. Among the most aggressive teams I wanted to point out to you were a pair of playoff contenders who were opening against non-contenders. These guys really attacked the basket:

Indiana: 88 shots from the field and 45 free throws
Charlotte: 81 shots from the field and 42 free throws

And, it's not like those two were getting a bunch of offensive rebounds in a way that padded the shot totals. Indiana actually didn't rebound well offensively, breaking from their prior trend under new coach Frank Vogel. Both teams showed how much they wanted to win...facing teams who couldn't do much more than foul against the onslaught.

Final Scores:
Indiana 113, Washington 96 (the lead was 22 after 3 quarters)
Charlotte 114, Toronto 101 (the lead was 20 after 3 quarters)

Keep an eye on the hustle stats for playoff contenders when facing non contenders.

*Indiana's back to running like crazy with fresh legs. Remember how they exploded in the first game with Vogel then kept right on pushing tempo? A set of three straight back-to-back's put up a temporary wall (February 8-9th, 11-12th, and 15-16th). That wall is gone for now. John Wall of Washington wasn't much of an obstacle either!

The Pacers move to 8-3 under Vogel, with two of the losses coming against recently dominant Miami, and the other coming in overtime at Detroit in a b2b spot that was also their sixth game in nine nights.

Fresh, vs. teams who are just kind of going through the motions, the Pacers look like they'll do some serious damage.

*Another road loss Tuesday for the LA Clippers. Blake Griffin showed no ill effects from a very busy All-Star weekend. He was 9 of 15 from the floor, and 10 of 17 from the foul line (not a great shooting performance at the charity stripe, but he was obviously attacking the basket to earn so many trips).

A potential red flag showed up in the performance of Baron Davis. He was just 1 of 8 from the floor for 2 points. Davis has a tendency to shine in the spotlight, then see his numbers diminish when games lose their meaning. With the Clippers now at 2-8 their last 10 games, and 2-11 their last 13 road games, there's certainly potential for a lack of meaning in this two-game trip to Oklahoma City and New Orleans before a high profile two-game set this weekend with the Lakers and Celtics at the Staples Center.

Let's see if the Clips bounce back with more teamwide fire Wednesday in the Big Easy. It's a shame Eric Gordon's injury derailed what had been a blossoming story.

*Don't want to add much to the Carmelo Anthony story. Much has been written in great depth about the trade already (click here for Joe Treutlein's comprehensive analysis if you missed it yesterday). Wanted to touch quickly on a potential fringe issue that I talked about a few weeks back. It's possible that Denver benefits more from home floor advantage on offense than other NBA teams because of altitude...on the theory that it's tougher for tired defensive legs to guard people.

Carmelo 3-point shooting last 3 seasons:
37% at home
31% on the road

Carmelo 2-point shooting last 3 seasons:
48% at home
44% on the road

A lot of guys shoot better at home, so I'm not going to pretend that this is some kind of breakthrough stat. Just wanted to set the stage for monitoring Anthony's shooting in the coming weeks with the Knicks. At the very least he'll be adjusting to different surroundings. He may also be dealing with fresher defenses a greater percentage of the time.

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