After 13 games, the New York Knicks likely expected to be a bit higher in the Eastern Conference standings, but they have plenty of time to turn things around after a tumultuous start to the season.
The Knicks have enjoyed their fair share of success early on when firing on all cylinders, but inconsistencies have begun to plague them despite strong offensive production. The starting team has struggled considerably over the past few games, notably third-year guard RJ Barrett, who has contributed just nine points in the last two games combined.
The players have indicated they are being out-hustled and lack energy, which is an inexcusable justification for poor play. There should never be a lack of energy and effort as the primary reason for losing games, especially with a team as talented as New York.
“I definitely think there’s games where we’re being outworked, outrebounded,’’ Julius Randle said. “Our identity’s not our defensive end [like] how it has been. But we know that. We know we got to fix it. We just got to keep working at it, just keep coming together and stay together’’
Tom Thibodeau’s squad currently sits 7th in the Eastern Conference rankings, behind the Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat. Luckily, they are just 2.5 games back from first place, a number they can easily change on a small winning streak and some luck.
Eastern Conference standings:
- Wizards (9-3)
- Nets (9-4)
- Bulls (8-4)
- Cavaliers (9-5)
- Heat (8-5)
- 76ers (8-6)
- Knicks (7-6)
- Hornets (7-7)
- Raptors (7-7)
- Celtics (6-7)
The Knicks went into the regular season with a focus on three-point shooting, and they are currently hitting 37.1% of their attempts, good for 4th in the NBA. They also rank 9th in three-point attempts per game at 37.8, displaying Thibodeau‘s strategy on paper.
Giving opponents good shooting opportunities and clean looks has led to the Knicks fighting back from significant deficits early in games. However, their perimeter defense has made them susceptible to great three-point performances from mediocre shooting teams. While they have shown resiliency and thought their way back, they run out of gas in the fourth quarter when they need to be on top and pressing forward.
The strategy of early holes and resilient comebacks is not sustainable throughout the season. They need the starters and second team to be playing in unison with efficiency, which they have done at times this year.
It starts with improving their defensive efficiency, as the team currently ranks 25th in defensive rating at 109.7. They have struggled with rebounding at times, primarily as Nerlens Noel and Mitchell Robinson deal with personal injuries. However, they do rank in the top five in blocks per game with 6.2, showcasing their rim discipline. Interestingly, the Knicks do show decent statistics in most defensive categories, but their perimeter defense has been the most significant issue this season but should give Thibodeau a hyper-focused approach on a solution.
Despite sitting in 7th place, the Knicks can be a middle-of-the-pack team in the 1-6 seed range. They currently allow the second-most points per game out of any team in the top 10 in the Eastern Conference with 109.2. If their defense doesn’t improve, we can expect them to be a play-in tournament candidate.
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