The Secret To The Knicks Success

There have been a few different theories as to what has made the Knicks successful (or unsuccessful) this year. Early on it seemed that Eddy Curry & Channing Frye’s slumps were keeping New York down. But recently Curry had an offensive rejuvenation. Eddy scored 20 points or more in 11 straight games. Unfortunately that wasn’t the answer as the Knicks only won 5 of those 11 games. In the preseason there was talk about the New York backcourt of Marbury and Francis. However Francis has missed a handful of games and neither has been a major cog in the Knicks offense. Then of course there is the Madison Square Garden curse. The Knicks inexplicably play poorly at home, but the problem is perplexing since they play much better on the road. So if the Knicks’ problem isn’t due to a lack of offensive production from Eddy Curry, the pairing of Marbury & Francis in the backcourt, or some hometown curse, then what is the Knicks’ problem?

The answer is simple. Defense.

The problem hasn’t been the Knicks offense, as New York ranks 16th in the league. While the middle of the road offense isn’t fabulous, it is when compared to the defense. The Knicks are 26th on defense, among the dregs of the league like the Sixers, Wizards, Blazers, and Bucks. Just look at the halftime scores of the Knick opponents over the last 6 games (not including tonight’s Utah game) : 67, 64, 41, 61, 56, and 66. New York won only 2 of those games, the two with the lowest scores at the half. If that’s not enough to convince you (and it shouldn’t) then take these numbers. In games that the Knicks have kept the opposing team under an efficiency of 108.9, the Knicks are 8-3. When they allow their opponents a better offensive night, their record sinks to 1-12.

Tonight against the Jazz it looked like it was going to be another one of those nights. Utah had 34 points in the 1st quarter, and looked to be on their way to another Madison Square Garden laugher. However the Knicks kept the Jazz to just 10 points in the 2nd quarter, and 17 in the 3rd. Although they needed overtime to dispatch of the Jazz, it was a far cry from the 20 point second half deficit that they’ve been accustomed to. Due to the suspensions of Nate Robinson and Mardy Collins and the injuries to Steve Francis and Quentin Richardson, the Knicks were down to only 2 guards. New York frequently went with a big lineup, one with strong defensive players. Balkman saw 31 minutes, and although he only had 7 points, he chipped in with 15 rebounds. Renaldo’s bigger contribution was giving Utah fits defensively on the perimeter, disrupting the Jazz offense, and had 2 blocked shots. Similarly Cato played 16 minutes with only 2 points, but he had 4 blocked shots. Even Frye made a crucial block in the fourth quarter.

The Knicks have suffered a blow with the loss of nearly half their team. However with this win over Utah, maybe they’ve found a formula for success. New York shouldn?t be so concerned with their offensive situation, and instead concentrate on their defense.

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Mike Kurylo

Mike Kurylo is the founder and editor of His book on the 2012 Knicks, "We’ll Always Have Linsanity," is on sale now. Follow him on twitter (@KnickerBlogger).

23 thoughts to “The Secret To The Knicks Success”

  1. I agree with the defense assessment as well as a shorter rotation. I know we need Curry but man, it just feels like we play better when he is out of the game. Or at least they are funner to watch. Again it comes down to defense because Curry does not play any and also I think the Knicks stand around when Curry is in the game and along with Curry being a black hole, it just makes the team predictable and seems to zap their energy at the beginning of games.

  2. Very true. Especially on the perimeter, such simple things as fighting over picks and putting one’s hands up on D make the Knicks a much tougher team.

    It’s sort of a chicken-and-the-egg phenomenon, but anyone who complains about the desolate Garden has gotta look at this place when the Knicks are busting their asses on defense. The hustle feeds the crowd and the crowd feeds the hustle. I’m dying to see more of this.

  3. While shorter rotations theoretically are the best (it’s hard enough coming up with 8 quality players, never mind 10), it’ll be hard to install with the Knicks. I mean, part of what was great last night was seeing Blackman work his ass off, and he’d be buried in an 8-man; the Knicks have a bunch of decent players and no superstars, and Isaiah can’t seem to figure out how to make it work. But when Rich is healthy and Jeffries isn’t suspended, they sure as hell ain’t going to sit, and don’t really deserve to. So it would be the young guys who wouldn’t get play, and I don’t want to see that, either.

    And then, of course, contracts come into play — I dunno, I bet most of us would rather have Kelvin Cato rather than Jerome James, but with James around for several years and several millions, and Cato a free agent at year end, its obvious James will stay ahead of Cato in depth.

    So, as usual, all I can conclude is as usual the Knicks are kind of a mess.

  4. It was a great game yesterday. Fabulous pass from Lee to Marbury for the winning bucket. They beat a solid team.

    The D woke up in second quarter. Although it was helped by Utah going completely cold. But boy, they have some guys that can shoot the three pointer. It kept Utah in the game down the stretch.

    Knicks played with more energy on D considering that they were undermanned. I think all solid Knick teams of the past were built on defense. This is obviously not one them.

    Their division stinks, if they can beat the teams they should beat like Bobcats and Sixers and catch a break now and again like they did against a tired Jazz team, maybe they won’t be an embarrassment.

    Hell, I have kept away from the game for last 5 or 6 years now. I remember listening to the 69/70 Knicks as a 11 year old during the championship series on my father’s transistor radio. I decided to start watching again.

    I guess I didn’t pick the best time to come back, but it is a great game. I seem to remember liking it better when Clyde, Willis and Dave D were on the court. The current edition needs a lot work.

  5. I think the Knicks would be a much better team if Jamal Crawford never played. That alone might translate into an additional 5-6 wins.

  6. There was a new wrinkle to the offense, too, though that’s worth noting – Steph started driving for the first time in awhile (he did it in the Denver game but no one cared) and the team started setting picks for him like they used to in his so-called glory days.

    Jamal Crawford is the hardest player to watch in the league. He’ll drive you crazy missing ten shots in a row then suddenly hit the big one when it counts or make the clutch free throws and then you have to at least tolerate him.

  7. Loved watching the units that were out there last night – they actually played together (especially on D). As Seth said, when guys like Curry aren’t in the game it makes it easier on the perimeter defenders…we always complain about our guards D, but there aren’t too many guards who can consistently stop opposing guards penetration (especially when teams are rolling picks at them)…you need guys who can hedge the screens and guys who can block shots / intimidate when guys get in the lane.

    (Not that I’m hopping back off the Curry bandwagon after just two games).

  8. Wait what? The Knicks can’t play defense? And when they actually do, they play well? No one could have predicted that, not even Larry Brown.

  9. Did anyone else go ballistic when the game was tied in regulation, and Crawford pulls up for a 3?

    That drives me absolutely nuts, and Jamal does it all the time. You need 1 point. Move in 6 feet & take the 18 footer! Or drive & try to draw a foul. A three point shot is about the worst shot you can take in that situation.

  10. I counted at least four occassion where Crawford woould either catch the inbounds or get the ball with about 15 seconds remaining on the shot clock hold the ball or dribble recklessly until about 2 or three seconds remained on the shot clock and took a fade away three or long two. I wanted to jump into my screen and throttle him. More importantly, how does Isiaih sanction this. It is awful awful basketball.

    And KB that shot Crawford took at the end in regulation with about 7 second remaining on the shot clock was an absolutely atrocious play.

    Its not like he plays defense to compensate for these awful decisions. I just don’t get it, its so frustation and it seems so obvious.

  11. In Crawford’s defense, he was better under Larry Brown and displayed much more discipline because, and to his credit, he was able to transform his play to a pass-first point guard when Marbury was out hurt. Also, there was a structured offense in place which helped keep him in control, as a result he flourished.

  12. If I’m Marbury, am I happy that Crawford gave me such a fantastic finish with atrocious shot selection, or am I mad he forced me into that situation in the first place?

  13. Matt,
    Isiah has him as his ‘go-to guy’ in the clutch, you can’t fault him for taking open shots.

  14. Does anybody know the stats on the Knicks’ defense on 3 pointers? It seems that’s an area that the team is just getting killed on and it may contribute to the squad’s terrible defensive efficiency.

  15. I love that it took all but one other guard being out of the game for Marbury to finally get treated like he was the star of the team.

    I like Marbury.

  16. Knickerblogger-

    Definitely! You knew it was coming, too. Go to the damn basket, Jamal! He’s so good at it but does it so rarely.

  17. Jamal can have bad nights, thats why he comes off the bench. If hes haveing a good night get him on the floor, if hes off put him in the lockeroom. He should be able to retain that form of what he was for Larry Brown, a controled and yet agressive player who helps the offense move along. Now its like he has ADD and forgets what hes supposed to do for 10 seconds everytime he gets the ball, then hes forced to shoot. He needs to attack the basket, hes got too good a crossover so be a jumpshooter. Once hes esablished himself driving he can shoot and dish.

  18. Here you go, from the New York Times. The Knicks beat the Jazz by holding them to less than 20 points in 2 consecutive quarters, and it seems they’re more concerned with how their offense fared.

    “The Knicks are encouraged by their stunning victory over the mighty Jazz, and by the re-emergence of Marbury, their beleaguered point guard. Marbury posted his two highest scoring games of the season, with 29 points against the Jazz and 31 points in Saturday?s loss to Denver.”

  19. Yo Marc R.,
    The Knicks allowed 565 three’s last season, at a 37.8% clip. I couldnt find out how many they have allowed this season, but last year 565 was the most allowed.

  20. Thanks. That’s consistent with my observations. Teams aren’t attempting many more 3s against the Knicks, but they’re converting at a ridiculous rate.

    The Knicks also give up the fourth-most free throws per game (and have the second-highest number of PFs, behind the Jazz), which kills their efficiency.

    It seems if they could improve in those two areas (fewer fouls and better defense on 3s), they really could improve their defense a great deal.

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