New York (15-21 overall, 6-11 road, 5-7 vs Western Conference) visits Oklahoma City (20-6 overall, 10-8 home, 12-4 vs Eastern Conference).
Oklahoma City feasts on the East–most of the good Western Conference teams do. Don’t get me wrong I think Oklahoma City is a pretty good team with a very nice core of young players, but their current position in the standings has been buoyed by a favorable early schedule. 16 of Oklahoma City’s first 26 games have been against the weak Eastern Conference. 12 of those games came against sub .500 teams with the team going 11-1 in those games. Compare that to the team’s Western Conference record of 8-12. Oklahoma City deserves credit for finding a way to beat weaker teams because that is something good teams do.
What to watch for: Knicks should consider a zone defense tonight.
From the four factors above, it is clear that Oklahoma City is not efficient on offense. The team ranks in the bottom third of the NBA in EFF, eFG%, and turnovers. Two things they do well on offense–offensive rebounding and FT/FG ratio–are a reflection of their style of play. This is a slashing team that attacks the basket and passes to cutters when the defense collapses. This makes for more offensive rebounding chances as the interior defense is often out of place. The team plays this way because it has the personnel to do so and because the the team is a very poor outside shooting team. Oklahoma City hits about 6.5 three pointers per game. None of the core contributors hit threes better than 38%. Durant (32%), Westbrook (26%), and Green (29%) all struggle from deep. Harden (37%) is the most effective. Due to the Oklahoma City’s speed and style of play, it would be to the Knicks’ advantage to play a zone defense. Oklahoma’s poor passing (27th in turnovers) and poor outside shooting make it difficult for the team to capitalize on the disadvantages of the zone defense. I do worry about how the Knicks will stop Nenad Krstic from putting on a Luis Scola hook shot clinic.
What to watch for 2: Knicks looking for consistency on offense.
The game against Houston was a tale of two halfs. New York scored 32 in the first quarter but only 39 in the second half. One complaint I have about the New York’ offense is that the team does not appear to adjust to the defense. Yes, there have been a number of great offensive games but I think that is due to hot shooting from deep rather than identfying and exploiting weakness in the defense. This is a concern for me because Oklahoma holds opponents to a low eFG% (47.5) plus they force a high number of turnovers (16.7). Oklahoma has 6 players that get about 1 steal per game. New York needs to be much more careful with its ball movement and it has to work for good shots. Oklahoma lacks strong interior defense Ibaka and Collison block a few shots, but neither is very quick or skilled on switches. New York should try to exploit this with the pick and roll, back door cuts, drives, and movement. The second half against Houston featured a ton of players just standing around on offense. This made it easy for Houston to force turnovers with Robinson and Chandler willing participants on that end. Oklahoma forces turnovers at a high rate so New York can not repeat the errors they made against Houston. Move the ball and take the threes the defense gives you.
In-game thoughts here.