The New York Knicks are coming off a disappointing defeat to the Boston Celtics in the second leg of a two-game series. In the first game, RJ Barrett sniped a buzzer-beater off the glass, catapulting the Knicks to victory on the back of Evan Fournier and his 41 point performance.
However, New York managed just 75 points in the team’s most recent loss as they prepare to take on the San Antonio Spurs on Monday evening.
Tom Thibodeau’s team has been wildly inconsistent this year on both sides of the ball, but he had reassuring words for his defensive efficiency, noting multiple statistics to back up his claim.
“I’m more into where we are — are we challenging shots?” Thibodeau said, via Marc Berman of the NY Post. “Are we keeping the ball out of the paint? And we’ve been top five in points in the paint all year, so it’s something we’ve done well. I think we’re top five in defensive field-goal percentage. Those are the quality markers for me.
“I look at our defense in totality and to me the big number is the defensive field-goal percentage, that’s my biggest marker and we’ve been third, fourth all year long.’’
Defensively, the Knicks host the 19th best rating at 109.7. They rank 19th with 34.2 per game in terms of rebounding, but they host fantastic interior statistics. Thibodeau‘s unit ranks 3rd in opponents’ points in the paint, allowing just 41.9. By his logic, if opposing teams can’t score in the paint, they are less efficient in kicking the ball out to the corners to convert three-point attempts.
It is relatively straightforward that the Knicks’ primary issue is their offensive inconsistency, especially after signing Fournier and Kemba Walker to contract this off-season to help bolster their production. Walker has been benched this season and is currently dealing with left knee issues. Fournier‘s scoring production has been unpredictable — one game, he posts 40 points, in the next, he fails to convert a single basket, which is simply unsustainable for a team that needs more consistency.
“Finishing our defense probably has been the biggest thing, getting out to cover the line,’’ Thibodeau said. “We’re cutting that down. The defense has pretty much been there. It’s the offense has been inconsistent.’’
Thibodeau has a point, the team’s defense seems to hold up for the most part, but they are demoralized by poor scoring efforts. The Knicks rank 27th in points per game at 104, and while they do rank 11th in three-point percentage, they have one of the worst field-goal percentages in the league at 43.4%.
The team’s primary weakness is their assist numbers, lacking a true floor general with Derrick Rose dealing with an ankle injury that required surgery just a week ago. The Knicks average 20.9 assists per game, and depending on Julius Randle to handle the facilitation is a recipe for disaster.
If the Knicks really want to take a step forward, they should be targeting potential point guards at the trade deadline, or they must wait for Walker and Rose to return to full health, which is a risky strategy, to begin with.