The Knicks are a dominant basketball team [against the Pistons]. The Knicks play with lethal efficiency [against teams from Detroit]. The Knicks are better than every other team in the NBA [assuming that team is named after an engine part]. Depending on your point of view (cue relevant image, above), these truths are decidedly self-evident.
New York led wire-to-wire last night in a laugher over the NBA’s lowest scoring and worst rebounding team, but in a season marked more by fits than starts, coach Mike D’Antoni will surely take what he can get at this point. It also didn’t hurt that the
oft-maligned, criticized, doubted, judged, psycho-analyzed health[ier] version of Carmelo Anthony (25 points on 9-of-14 shooting with 6 assists) returned to the starting lineup and brought his wonderful all-around game with him.
Not unlike the team we saw demolish Charlotte on the road a week ago, these Knicks not only moved the ball on offense and helped each other on defense, but more importantly, they managed to discover something that has eluded them all season: the ability to put the basketball in the basket. The ‘Bockers shot an even 60% from the field against Detroit (9-for-18 from long-range), but even more impressive than their efficiency – and considering they had not topped 50% in a game all year, it’s amazing that anything could impress more – was the quality of their shots attempted.
Open looks were abundant against Detroit, in no small part due to New York’s 25 assists in the affair (on 42 field goals). That dime-tally far exceeded the team’s season-average of just under 19 APG, a mark which places them in the bottom quarter of the league. Quite simply, the passed-basketball travels a lot faster than defenders can, so it stands to reason that timely passes tend to create better looks and (gasp) more shots-made. A novel concept, isn’t it?
In fact, the Knicks seemed to be channeling the Miami Heat by collecting 13 dunks against the Pistons, many of those coming after the extra pass was made and the Detroit defense was out of position.
It’s been said before, but D’Antoni’s offensive system is predicated on ball movement, and if the Knicks play sharesies, that will lead to more uncontested shots and presumably better shooting percentages. At least, that’s the prevailing theory.
WHAT WENT RIGHT:
- Maybe I was wrong about Landry Fields, who dropped 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting (4 treys) and tallied 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 5 steals last night in what might have been the best overall game of his career. Fields is a difficult player to analyze. He doesn’t possess great quickness, he can’t create his own shot, and he isn’t a particularly impressive ball-handler, but he certainly has a nose for the ball and an above-average basketball-IQ. The Knicks have been criticized – and rightly so – for their top-heavy-no-depth roster, so in order for them to be successful, it’s absolutely essential that cost-effective players like Fields exceed the value of their contracts. Time will tell if Fields is the guy who has scored in double-figures in seven of the Knicks’ last eight games or if he’s a second-rounder-for-life, but the needle is clearly trending upward for the Knick-SG.
- “D-Fence!” New York forced 22 Piston-turnovers, leading to 21 points. With 12 more steals, the Knicks now find themselves third in the league in SPG. Steals lead to fast breaks which lead to easy buckets which lead to outscoring the opponent which leads to wins. Essentially, steals = wins. Or something.
- Tyson Chandler (17 points) made 5-of-6 field goal attempts, and is now shooting an insane 70% on the season. The Big Fella is only averaging 4.7 shots per game this season, so perhaps D’Antoni should look to involve his center more often. That said, I am starting to become a bit concerned with Chandler’s beard. While that unkempt mane may work with the ladies, it’s scaring children of the 1%’ers that are just trying to enjoy their courtside vantage points.
- The Knicks took much better care of the ball than they have of late, turning it over just 12 times against the Pistons. Unsurprisingly, two of these turnovers came in 15 minutes of burn for Bill Walker.
- I really liked what I saw from Iman Shumpert (6 points, 4 rebound, 6 assists, 2 steals in 35 minutes) last night. He let the game come to him, he didn’t force things (8 shots) and he played within himself. His stellar defense on Detroit-PG Brandon Knight, in particular, was commendable.
- Mike Bibby did not play.
WHAT WENT WRONG:
- There wasn’t much to complain about last night.
- Jeremy Lin needs to play more (and I am not the only one who thinks so). In just 6 minutes last night, albeit during extensive-garbage-time, he managed to contribute 4 points and 4 assists. In the limited times that he has gotten burn, Lin has displayed both a fearless, attacking style of play and a clear sense of purpose. Perhaps limiting the minutes of the erratic Walker and Toney Douglas in favor of Lin is warranted. He clearly knows HOW to run the PnR, even if he we don’t yet know if he CAN consistetly execute it, and he’s tenacious on the defensive end. Again, with the condensed schedule, the Knicks will need to rely on their entire roster if they hope to avoid the injury bug. Why not see what you’ve got with Lin (when the game is not out of hand)?
- Amar’e Stoudemire gave the Knicks a bit of a scare during halftime last night, turning his ankle while jogging during warmups, but he said after the game that he was okay. The only question was how MSG got the grainy footage of the incident, which looked eerily Zapruderesque.
- Johnny Mac was in the house, but his personal stylist must have had the night off.
- Speaking of fine menswear, I was watching the season premier of Tosh.0 after the game and caught another celebrity Knick fan “rocking” some gear that the NBA’s licensing department will be sure to love.
- At long last, the Knicks turn to play in a “back-cubed” has arrived. They’ll certainly be tested, with games Thursday (v. Chicago, 8:00pm), Friday (v. Boston, 8:00pm) and Saturday (v. New Jersey, 7:30pm).
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Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images