Celtics 107 Knicks 73

I love getting email. This one comes from occasional guest-blogger Dave:

a few quick impressions after the opening home loss…

1. the field goal defense, after only two games, is atrocious. the knicks are unable to take anything away from the offense. is there a weaker defensive pg, sg, sf combo than marbury, crawford, and tim thomas in the entire NBA? (denver’s miller, lenard, and anthony are the only ones i can think of that even come close.)

In the last line on my Wednesday column, I said we’re going to have to watch the Knicks’ opponents shooting percentage. That night T-Wolves shot well (54% eFG%) against New York. Kevin Garnett was Minnesota’s leading scorer, but 5 of the next 6 T-Wolf scorers played either PG, SG, or SF. Watching the game tonight (as much as I could stomach) the Celtics looked unstoppable at times. Boston’s eFG% was through the roof (59% eFG%). Again most of the scorers (6 of the top 8) are from those same 3 positions: PGs (Payton & Banks), SGs (Davis) SF (Pierce & Welsh). The Celtics combined stats at the 1, 2 or 3 were a gaudy 75PTS, 29-47, 66.0% eFG%, 1.41PSA.

As always with defense it’s hard to pinpoint exactly who is to blame. Dave has a great point that the Knicks have 3 weak defenders at the smaller spots. However the Knicks lack interior defense from the big men as well. The perimeter guys did score, but I clearly recall two occasions where Pierce & Davis were having their way in the paint. Something tells me if Deke was on the court, this wouldn’t have happened.

Denver’s perimeter defense may be weak with Miller, ‘Melo and Boykins (who’s been getting major minutes with Lenard out), but at least they have some help behind them with Martin & Camby.

2. i’m beginning to think this isn’t just a slow start for tim thomas, and that perhaps his back still isn’t quite right. lenny’s decision to go with shanderson and ariza as the small forwards almost exclusively in the 2nd half when he could have reinserted thomas to try and help him find his rhythm concerns me. if it’s the back this is obviously a really big problem since thomas doesn’t defend, rebound, or pass even when he’s healthy.

Granted Pierce can make a lot of people look bad, but Thomas looked horrible. At one point Pierce was shooting a three pointer, and Thomas closed the distance, but didn’t bother to raise his arms. He wasn’t close enough to block the shot, but he could have easily gotten a hand in Pierce’s mug. One of three things was going on there. Either Thomas was really careful about giving Pierce’s dentist some more work, his back is bad enough that it hurts him to lift his arms, or he’s just in a funk. Right now I’m hoping he’s just an anti-dentite.

Seriously, being hurt might explain Thomas’ poor play, but since there is no public evidence of an injury, I have to go with random chance. Everybody has two bad games in a row a few times during the season, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that Thomas’ has started the season off this way. Hopefully he’ll snap out of it on Tuesday.

3. trevor ariza’s going to be a very good defender. he already gets his hands on a ton of balls. more importantly, he puts a lot of pressure on the man with the ball. jamal crawford, on the other hand, is a much worse defender than i’d anticipated.

Agreed. Ariza is real quick & has a good nose for the ball. My personal feeling is Wilkens should try to trap and press more, especially when Ariza is in the game. This way he might get an honest defensive effort from Marbury and Crawford. The only problem with this style is the Knicks’ guards would tire quickly, and right now their depth at guard is a real concern. Penny did not play tonight, and Allan Houston is waiting for government sponsored health care. The Knicks backup PG is their starting SG, and an audible moan can be heard from the crowd when Moochie Norris or Shanderson enter the game.

I really haven’t paid too much attention to Crawford’s defense individually, as the whole Knick team has a problem stopping their opponents. Crawford, Marbury, and Tim Thomas look like they have to tools to play good defense, but just don’t apply them. That’s why I think taking an aggressive approach might get their game up to speed on that end of the floor.

4. i wondered how sweetney would fare against shot-blockers like lafrentz and blount. he had a difficult time getting the shot off but he did draw fouls. (most of his points came against the rookie al jefferson.) if he can get into the mid 70s ft shooting he could average 15 ppg.

If Michael Sweetney can get more minutes, he could easily average 15PPG. He’s looked good so far this season. I don’t think his size is much of an issue, because of his girth, reach, and strong hands (when the ball is already lodged in there). Even tonight when he went up against two shot blocker, he was able to draw the foul, and put points on the board. He needs to improve his free throw shooting, but if anything is limiting his per game scoring, it’s a lack of time.

One thing I did notice is that the Knicks don’t feed Sweetney the ball in the post often. In fact tonight I can’t remember anytime where dumping the ball into the post was the primary option. Hopefully Wilkens will correct this in the near future. So many good things can happen when you have a strong post player. The perimeter guys can get open looks when the defense collapses, drawing fouls is always good thing, and the slashers can cut towards the hoop for a quick score. Hopefully Sweetney will get more minutes and take a more prominent role in the offense.

*eFG% = Efficient field goal percentage, this is like FG%, but gives a proper bonus for three pointers made. (FGM + 1/2*3PM)/FGA
**PSA = Points per Shot Attempt. Unlike eFG%, it includes free throws. PTS/(FGA+FTA*.44)

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Mike Kurylo

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

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