[This does not include last night’s game against Detroit.]
The New York Knicks have entered a major home streak in their schedule. Of their next 11 games, 10 will be at Madison Square Garden. For most teams, being within the friendly confines of home is a boon to the team. When you think of home field advantage, your thoughts might be of 60,000 fans in snowy Soldier Field or the varying outfield dimensions in half a dozen baseball stadiums. But the NBA boasts a better home win percentage (about 60%) than either football (58%) or baseball (55%).
Yet for the Knicks, home is hardly where the heart is. New York has an abysmal 1-6 record at home, while boasting a respectable 5-5 record on the road. Presented to a reasonable person, the simple conclusion would be that the Knicks have faced tougher competition at home. Looking at the stats, this might seem to be true. The Knicks home opponents have averaged a .520 win%, while their road opponents average only .485.
However a closer inspection of the facts show that these numbers may not be the true reason of New York’s home mystery. If you exclude New York’s opening day victory over hapless Memphis, the Knicks road opponents average a more respectable .509. Additionally the Knicks have lost to two teams at home (Boston & Cleveland) that they beat on the road. So if strength of schedule isn’t the answer, what is causing the Knicks to perform worse at home?
Looking at the four factors for guidance, the problems become clear. On offense, the Knicks shooting percentage (46.5% eFG%) is significantly worse at home than on the road (50.6%). In fact New York has only bested their road average once in 7 tries at home. Ironically that’s the only area that is worse at the Garden. The Knicks turn the ball over less, get more of their misses, and accumulate more points from the free throw line at home.
Unfortunately you can’t say the same about the Knicks defense. New York is worse on defense at home in every single category: shooting, rebounding, turnovers, and free throws. Away from home, the Knicks defense averages 106.3 pts/100 possessions which is about where the Mavs/Nets are this year, nearly league average. But bring the same group home and the average dips to 111.2. That would place the Knicks home team among the defensive dregs of the league like Seattle and Milwaukee.
From this the keys to a Knick home exorcism is simple. First is to be patient when they have the ball. Just about everyone who has watched the Knicks on a regular basis would agree that they just look better when they stay within the frame of the offense. The Knicks should move the offense away from the guards and feature Curry (53.5% eFG%) and Richardson (53.9%) with David Lee (61%) cleaning up the scraps.
More importantly the Knicks need to bring home the defensive intensity that they’ve shown on the road. Oddly, enough the injury to Channing Frye may have helped the Knicks here. With David Lee in the starting lineup, Renaldo Balkman has seen more and more playing time coming off the bench. If Balkman isn’t the Knicks’ best defender, he certainly is their most tenacious. He’s earned the name “the Human Windmill” by the KnickerBlogger household for the way he swings his long arms on the defensive end. Additionally Isiah has turned to the zone to help the Knicks’ defensive woes. Although Zeke relies on the zone too often (last night Detroit feasted on the outside shot), it’s helps mask some of the Knick poorer defenders. But ultimately New York needs to give more effort on the defensive end.