The New York Knicks are coming off a two-game losing streak against the Milwaukee Bucks and Charlotte Hornets. In both games, the starting unit failed to produce, as Tom Thibodeau relied on the second team to provide energy and offensive production.
The Knicks most recently lost to the Pacers last week, allowing big man Myles Turner to score 25 points and hit seven 3-PT shots. They allowed three of the Pacers’ starters to score over 15 points, as Caris LeVert produced 21 and Malcolm Brogdon contributed 17.
The Knicks need similar efficiency from their starting unit on both offense and defense if they want to take down a Pacers team who have won three of their last four games.
Three keys for the Knicks against the Pacers:
1.) RJ Barrett needs to find his groove
The Knicks are simply a better team when RJ Barrett is playing well. Ever since his 20 point performance against Milwaukee on November 5, he’s only cracked 10 points once.
Barrett has contributed a combined 11 points over the past two games, recording just two against Charlotte over 26 minutes this past Friday. He didn’t hit a single shot from deep and currently holds a 33.8% success rate from beyond the arc. His inconsistencies this year have affected the team’s chemistry and production, but when he is on and feeling confident, the team rallies around him.
2.) Better starting team production
As stated above, the starting unit for the Knicks has been lackluster as of late. Julius Randle mentioned they’ve been out-hustled on multiple occasions, which is not a good excuse for a team with this much talent. While the Knicks do have ample depth and quality talent on the second team, they can’t be relied on to compensate for early deficits and poor shooting from the starters.
As soon as the starters put together an efficient performance on both sides of the ball, New York will likely snap out of their funk. However, it starts with perimeter defense.
3.) Perimeter defense
Thibodeau indicated he wanted his team to be a better three-point shooting offense this season, but he didn’t mention maintaining their perimeter defense. Why they limited the top three points shooting team in Charlotte to just 27.8% from deep, the Knicks were giving poor shooting teams plenty of open looks and opportunities. The Bucks shot 52% from 3-PT range in the last week, which is simply impossible to match on occasions.
Perimeter defense is all about positioning and effort to close out shooting attempts, something New York has struggled with this season. The second team has been far more efficient and giving the extra effort to throw off shooters instead of giving them wide-open looks. As long as the Knicks can maintain their above-average 3-PT percentage and increase perimeter defensive efficiency, they should find a bit more consistency moving forward.
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