The New York Knicks are coming off a slim victory over the Chicago Bulls, in which they dragged the game out to the final seconds after failing to score a single point in the last three minutes. Thanks to great defense from RJ Barrett on Pelican’s free-agent acquisition, DeMar DeRozan, who tossed up an airball to finish off the game, handing the Knicks their fourth win of the season.
The Knicks have now overcome strong Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, and Chicago teams, proving they’ve taken a step forward this season. However, they are vulnerable against lesser squads, playing down to their opponents as they experienced against Orlando Magic. Next up on the docket is the New Orleans Pelicans, who currently sit 1â€“4 on the season and are coming off a tough defeat to the Atlanta Hawks.
Three keys for the Knicks against the Pelicans:
1.) Consistent defense
When the Knicks are playing quality defense, there aren’t many teams that can keep up with them. They limited the Bulls to just 103 points in the win on Thursday evening, showcasing quality perimeter defense and forcing Chicago to beat them inside.
Specific individuals have elevated their game with more action this year, notably Barrett, who showcase an elite defensive performance in the win. Earlier this week, Barrett indicated he wants to be an All-Defensive first-team player, and he showed a bit of that tenacity on the court in Chicago.
Ultimately, it boils down to communication and picking up runners in the paint effectively. The Knicks rank in the top 10 in blocks per game, indicating they have performed well in the interior.
2.) Shoot over 38% from 3-PT range
The Knicks currently ranked 4th in three-point percentage, sitting at 38% from range. The Knicks havenâ€™t lost a game when shooting above 38%, so that will be a significant factor in the game plan. Tom Thibodeau indicated before the season began that he wanted his team to shoot more three-point attempts, but picking the right shots is essential.
Newly acquired point guard Kemba Walker is currently shooting 58% from three-point range, providing the team with a massive offensive boost compared to Elfrid Payton in 2020.
If Walker can continue to knock down shots at this rate paired with the remainder of the team, the Knicks will find themselves in good shape moving forward. Currently, the Pelicans rank 10th in three-point efficiency but 22nd in attempts. They also rank 27th in points per game, so the Knicks should dominate them defensively.
3.) Get into the Pelicans’ bench
Similar to the Chicago Bulls, the Pelicans are top-heavy, featuring Brandon Ingram, Devonteâ€™ Graham, and Jonas Valanciunas as their primary scorers. As long as the Knicks can hold those three down, New Orleans shouldnâ€™t give them much trouble. They do have a few youngsters on their squad, including Tre Murphy and Kira Lewis, so forcing them into action will give New York a massive advantage.
The Knicks are seeing the benefits of their extremely deep bench early in the season, and it should help mitigate fatigue for the starters down the line as well.