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.