Beginning the week with a disappointing 1-2 record, the New York Knicks have a few chances to right the ship this week. But what’s been the problem so far with these Knicks — a team promising on paper, but only showing glimpses of actual promise on the court? Among of abundance of problems, including poor coaching, inconsistent shooting, and stagnant offense, has been the turnovers.
Last season, the Knicks ranked first in the NBA in taking care of the ball. They averaged the fewest turnovers per game (around 13 per), and as a result, allowed their opponents the fewest fastbreak opportunities and points off turnovers. That hasn’t been the case this season. The Knicks are league-average in turnovers with about 17.7 per game, but that’s a far cry from last season’s care-taking of the ball. Furthermore, the Knicks aren’t even at a ludicrously high average like the Boston Celtics or Detroit Pistons (30th and 29th in the NBA in TOs per game) — their numbers will likely come down. For the Knicks, 17 turnovers per game is feasible — the most turnover-prone team in the league last year, the Houston Rockets, averaged 16.4 per game. The Knicks’ number will come down, but they aren’t showing nearly the same precision they demonstrated with the ball this time last year.
In Sunday’s loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Knicks allowed the T-Wolves to score 12 of their 23 fastbreak points in the first quarter alone. The Knicks also had 6 of their 16 turnovers in that first quarter. In that game, the Knicks’ sloppiness early put them in too large a deficit to overcome. They simply can’t afford to spot teams big leads early in the game and then expect perfection the rest of the way.
This team may have a different style than last year’s team, but some things should be consistent no matter the personnel. For the Knicks, simply taking better care of the ball could help them right the ship.
Let’s take a look at this week’s games:
11/5 Knicks vs. Charlotte Bobcats, 11/8 Knicks at Charlotte Bobcats
What better way to try and put the poor start in the rear-view mirror than a home-and-home with the Charlotte Bobcats, a historically poor team the last few seasons. The Bobcats are also only 1-2, but have had a slightly easier schedule than the Knicks, the Houston Rockets being the toughest team they’ve faced.
The Bobcats, like the Knicks, have had a tough time putting points on the board, managing a meager 88 points PER 100 POSSESSIONS. Per game, they’re only averaging 85 points — the worst mark in the league. Fans may recall facing the Bobcats in the Knicks’ preseason finale, in which both teams struggled mightily to put points on the board in a laughably poor offensive showing in the third quarter. That game ended in an 85-83 final score. Charlotte hasn’t much improved since then.
The Knicks have actually defended quite well this season, currently sitting sixth in the league in Defensive Rating, allowing 95 points per 100 possessions. However, the Bobcats haven’t fared too poorly themselves, currently ranked 12th in the league in D-Rating, allowing 99 points per 100 possessions.
So, is this positive news that the Knicks rank fairly similarly to the Bobcats? No.
Simply put, the Knicks should take both of these contents soundly. Should. Charlotte has beefed up its roster slightly, adding Al Jefferson while waiting on the development of Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bismack Biyombo, and Gerald Henderson. However, the Bobcats lack anyone who resembles a defensive-stopper, and furthermore, outside of Walker and maybe Ben Gordon, don’t have anyone who can carry an offensive load, as noted by their offensive stats.
If the Knicks aren’t 3-2 come Saturday morning, something has gone horribly wrong.
11/10 Knicks vs. San Antonio Spurs
For perhaps the first time in my fandom, the Knicks swept the San Antonio Spurs last season. They rallied, incredibly, from a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the Spurs in San Antonio in November, and then in January, soundly stomped the Spurs in a beatdown in MSG that treated us to this play:
The Spurs this season have been themselves. That is, they’re 2-1, 9th in O-Rating, 11th in D-Rating. They employ most of the same team as last season, they’re well-coached, deep, and great at shooting (41.5% from deep). Basically, the Spurs don’t have a lot of flaws to expose. They’re not great at rebounding, but they’re still slightly better than the Knicks, and they’re vary careful with the ball. There’s not a lot of things the Knicks can specifically target to try and beat San Antonio.
The Knicks, however, have had success against the Spurs at home the last two seasons. I’m not too sure, exactly, what the Knicks have done to beat San Antonio, but they’ve done it. If there’s a game to lose this week, it’s Sunday’s contest with San Antonio, but even still, the Knicks should prevail by simply protecting home-court advantage.
Every game means something, and every game presents a different test. Last Thursday, the Knicks dropped a game in Chicago to a conference contender — a slightly more understandable loss. On Sunday, the Knicks lost exactly the type of game they should/need to win by dropping to the Wolves, a solid if unspectacular playoff team, in MSG. This week, the Knicks will have two games against a bottom-feeder that they should easily put away, and a tough challenge against an elite team, once again in MSG.
If the Knicks are who we think they are, who they think they are, they need to go 3-0 this week.
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