The Knicks dropped two road games this weekend. The first against a superior Spurs team that the Knicks beat just a few weeks ago. The second against another Western leader Oklahoma. Unfortunately the pair meant New York has now lost six in a row. If they don’t beat the Wizards tonight, the streak could easily extend to 8 or 9 with the Miami Heat and Hawks on the road coming up.
However there are two small things from this weekend that I do want to talk about today. The first was a Mark Jackson comment during the Knicks-Spurs game. The announcers were talking about New York’s defense and said that it had improved from the year prior. One of them casually mentioned that part of D’Antoni’s teams giving up so many points per game was partially a function of the fast pace the team runs. To wit, Mark Jackson replied “Would you guys please come back to me? [The Knicks] give up 106 plus points per night. It’s not because of the pace, it’s because they’re not a good defensive team. And please don’t tell me it’s acceptable.”
The Knick defense is ranked 23rd, which isn’t great. However it’s better than their ranking of 27th when using points per game. The difference between the two is no doubt attributable to pace. Saying the opposite is like saying Roy Halladay was a bad pitcher for allowing a league leading 231 hits last year, without accounting for his 250.2 innings pitching and ignoring his 2.44 ERA.
Back when Donnie Walsh became the Knicks President, one of the first things he needed to do was hire a head coach. It was rumored that Mark Jackson was the top candidate. However Walsh ended up going with D’Antoni, which lead to a segment of Knick fans critical of D’Antoni’s shortcomings and speculating what the team would be like under Jackson’s watch.
Since that time I wondered if Jackson was such a good coaching prospect, then why hasn’t he latched on elsewhere? Perhaps Jackson’s comments shed some light on the situation. Listening to his commentary, I find the former point guard to be more cliche than substance. And his inability to understand the concept of pace or to separate it from defense might reveal why he remains at the scorers table and not at the front of the bench.
Secondly was the four factor results of the Knicks-Thunder game. New York had a decided lead over Oklahoma in shooting and turnovers, but they lost the game due to rebounding and free throws. Statistically teams don’t often loose when they have the shooting edge, especially one so pronounced as 48.3% to 41.5%. When it does happen, it usually means that either the opposing team did exceptionally well in the other areas or the game was close and came down to a last second shot. With regards to the Thunder game, it appears that both occurred. Oklahoma killed New York on the glass with 22 offensive rebounds, at the line with 28 free throws made, and Kevin Durant hit an off balanced three pointer with Gallo on him as the buzzer sounded. Perhaps instead of a second scorer, the Knicks more pressing need is a big man who can rebound and defend. Especially one that D’Antoni will give minutes to.