With the 2013 NBA Playoffs in full swing, the New York Knicks are getting defensive.
When current Knicks head coach Mike Woodson replaced Mike D’Antoni last season, we all heard about how the Knicks would become a better defensive team.
And to his credit, the results showed up almost instantly as the Knicks closed out the 2012 regular season on a strong note.
After signing a slew of veterans during the offseason, we heard one word from almost every Knicks player during training camp- “Defense.”
That also showed up right away this season and while the Knicks had a couple month stretch where their effort on the defensive end of the floor could have been questioned, all problems seemed to be fixed as the Knicks closed the regular season on a high note.
But as good as the Knicks regular season defense may have been last year or even this year, it’s nothing like we have seen in the first two games of the postseason as the Knicks defense has carried them to 2-0 series lead over the Boston Celtics.
It hasn’t been 48 minutes of great defense for the Knicks, but what they have done in the second half of those games has been remarkable and is the sole reason they head to Boston up 2-0.
Here’s a look at how efficient the Knicks have been defensively so far this series.
Second Half Points Allowed: Game 1, 25. Game 2, 23
Field Goal Percentage Allowed: Game 1, 25.9% (7-for-27). Game 2, 19.4% (7-for-36)
That is the recipe for winning.
In the second half of the two games, the Knicks have combined to allow only 48 total points, while limiting the Celtics to a combined 14-for-63 (22.2 percent) from the floor, while forcing a combined 16 second half turnovers.
It’s hard to keep up that pace, but the Knicks have the mentality to do it. It would be nice to see them execute defensively for an entire game, but give the credit for buckling down in the second half.
The question to be asked though is if the Knicks can continue to play this way defensively, how far can it carry them?
The one advantage the Knicks have over most teams is the size and toughness of Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin, who both played well Tuesday night. They won’t have that advantage in a second round series against the Indiana Pacers, but Martin and Chandler should still be able to make the paint a very tough area against the likes of Roy Hibbert and David West. I would even expect to see Marcus Camby some against the Pacers size and length.
That’s key No. 1 for the Knicks. If they control the paint and don’t allow easy baskets, the rest should fall into place.
The rest of the Knicks success defensively is predicated on their depth.
Carmelo Anthony is committed to playing defense and has held opposing power forwards to a 13.4 PER on the season. Iman Shumpert should be able to hang with the opposition’s best perimeter player. Raymond Felton was victimized by Paul Pierce a few times, but did a good job hanging with him overall. Felton can matchup against most team’s 2-guards. Finally Pablo Prigioni can successfully defend most point guards in the league.
But that’s only the beginning.
Jason Kidd is one of the smartest defensive players in the league and J.R Smith has the ability to turn steals into easy baskets. The opposition never has it easy as mostly everyone in the Knicks rotation is capable of making big plays at the defensive end of the floor.
When the Knicks commit to playing at both ends of the floor, they can be a very dangerous team.
But don’t make them the beast of the East just yet.
Assuming that they can finish off the Celtics, I like the way they matchup against the Pacers in a possible second round matchup.
But to beat the Miami Heat, the Knicks defense will have to come to play for 48 minutes every night. We haven’t seen that from them yet. They can’t take possessions off; much less take entire quarters or halves off.
Do I like their chances more now than before the playoffs began?
A little bit.
But if the Knicks are going to find a way to knock off the Heat and reach the NBA Finals, it will be because of their defense.
They are off to a good start so far.
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