Ten days ago, the New York Knicks were losing steam. They just lost four straight games on a tough west coast trip, Carmelo Anthony was in the process of draining his knee, and Tyson Chandler suffered a freaky looking knee injury and then strained his neck. The Knicks lead in the Atlantic Division over the Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics dwindled to just one game and fans were getting worried.
But the Knicks turned it around and are currently rocking a seven-game winning streak much attributed to great performances by J.R. Smith (24.6 PPG in last six games), Carmelo Anthony (29.0 PPG in last four games) and to the NBA’s surprise, Kenyon Martin (11.7 PPG and 6.3 REB in last six games), one of smartest pickups this year. But the biggest reason for the turnaround has been the Knicks killer defense. Below are the stats to prove that the Knicks have totally kicked their defense into second gear in the last six games.
2012-2013 Opponents Average Points Per Game: 95.7 PPG (8th) Last 6 Games: 90.2 PPG (3rd)
2012-2013 Opponents Average Turnovers: 15.2 TO (11th) Last 6 Games: 16.3 TO (2nd)
2012-2013 Opponent Average FG%: 45.7% (18th) Last 6 Games: 44.7 % (12th)
2012-2013 Opponent 3Pt Shooting: 36% (17th) Last 6 Games: 30.7% (1st)
2012-2013 Steals Per Game: 8.4 STPG (8th) Last 6 Games: 10.0 STPG (1st)
2012-2013 Opponent Average FG attempted: 78.1 FGA (3rd) Last 6 Games: 74.8 FGA (1st)
2012-2013 Opponent Fast Break Points: 12.1 PPG (5th) Last 6 Games: 9.8 PPG (1st)
2012-2013 Opponent Assists Per Game: 19.2 APG (3rd) Last 6 Games: 16.3 APG (1st)
So what is the reason the Knicks have stepped up their defense? They’ve been without Defensive Player of the Year Chandler so it’s a bit odd. Martin, who’s replacing Chandler at the starting center position, is undersized at 6’8″, but is a lot more versatile and he’s been doing a great job rebounding. Iman Shumpert seems to be playing defense like he did last year (FINALLY!) and is doing a great job at pressuring the perimeter shooters.
So when Chandler comes back from his neck injury, will the defensive numbers be like the last six games? I certainly hope so. With 12 games left, the Knicks have a 2.5 game lead over Brooklyn and a comfortable 7.5 game lead over Boston.