New York 101 Cleveland 98

How unlikely was yesterday’s game? The Knicks didn’t falter in the 4th quarter (unlikely event #1). Crawford had the ball for the last shot & drove to the hoop (unlikely event #2). When the defense colapsed, instead of taking the shot, Crawford passed the ball (unlikely event #3) to Eddy Curry who caught it (unlikely event #4). Curry finished with a dunk, was fouled, & hit the free throw. The Knicks had a chance to seal it up, but Steve Francis missed both free throws (unlikely event #5), and the Knicks still held on to win (unlikely event #6).

I was absolutely thrilled when Crawford hit a cutting Curry with the ball. Too often Crawford forces up a jumper. Too often there is a guy wide open on the floor that the guards don’t see, and I end up screaming “pass the ball.” The Knicks’ offensive scheme isn’t so bad, it’s that they don’t have the guards to implement it. Take a fast break from Tuesday’s game. The Knicks had a clear 3 on 1. Marbury in the middle, Francis on the left wing. Marbury passes the ball to Francis, and the defender steps towards Stevie. Now anyone who has played basketball knows at this point if you’re on the wing, you pass the ball back to the middle for an easy basket. At worst you pass fake and go up with your left. What does Francis do? Drive baseline under the basket for a reverse attempt with his right. There isn’t a point guard in the league that would have done what Francis did, and that’s a problem with the Knicks’ lineup. They have all these shoot first guards who aren’t used to passing.

However there is one guard that is surprising me with his passing skill. I wrote this about Nate Robinson this summer:

The Knicks coaching staff has asked Nate Robinson to become more of a point guard and get his teammates involved with the offense. Unfortunately the message is not getting through, as Robinson has taken 2.6 shots for every assist he?s dished out. All too often Nate has sped off to the hoop with a cadre of defenders abandoning their duties to prevent the diminutive guard from scoring. With a host of teammates open on plays like these Robinson still refuses to pass the ball. Additionally Nate has issues with his shot selection, as his summer 42% eFG would attest to. Mark Aguirre has regularly benched Nate, including removing him early in the first quarter of the Kings game after the guard forced up a shot.

Robinson?s fearlessness allows him to get to the hoop on offense, grab rebounds on both ends of the court, and talk smack during the course of the game. Nonetheless he needs to increase his court vision because he?s not going to continue to make a living if the entire league knows he can?t pass when driving to the rim.

Well Nate has certainly gotten the message. While his assists/minute doesn’t back it up, probably due to the ball-sharing offense New York runs, Nate seems to understand the importance of passing the ball. He still has the best pass I’ve seen from a Knick guard this year, a stop on the dime in the paint dish to Lee. His increased awareness means teams can’t double or triple team him as he goes to the hoop, because Nate might just hit the open guy cutting to the hoop. And although he hasn’t seen a big increase in his assists, Nate’s shooting has gone from 46% last year to 53% this year (eFG%). Robinson isn’t about to turn into the next Muggsy Bogues, but by keeping defenses honest he’s giving himself a cushion when shooting.

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Mike Kurylo

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

19 thoughts to “New York 101 Cleveland 98”

  1. I’m sorry, let me see of I get this straight: Nate Robinson’s assists/48 minutes are ridiculously low for a PG (3.4 – 3rd lowest among all point guards), his assist/turnover ratio (0.93) is awful, and you think he’s improving? He is a dunk first, shoot second, pass third shooting guard trapped in a point guard’s body. The one pass you pointed out is exactly what you said it is – ONE pass. It does not reflect on Robinson’s progress as much as his stats do.

  2. I think you missed two. Eddy Curry jumped to dunk the ball (#1) and he hit a foul shot. (#2) His free throw shooting is above 50%, so I guess that might be a “likely” event. Still glad the Knicks got the ‘W’ though because like Q said, that’s what it’s all about.

  3. RKade32 makes some good points. Nate’s stats only seem to work as a shooting guard. It seems that the Knicks very rarely have him out there playing the point though, so this doesn’t seem to be a problem. He usually guards the point guard on D and then the bigger (but not big) Knick who is playing the point guards the SG.

    And Nate is a much, much, much better shooter than Muggsy.

  4. Nate’s shot selection has been immensely improved this season – it’s not even close. That explains his increase in field goal percentage. He has shown that he has the ability to make spectacular passes, but the numbers don’t seem to back it up. To be fair, he’s been asked much more to be a high energy scorer off the bench then a playmaker, right? I feel like that’s his chief role.

    Does anyone think Curry’s big games the last few nights are the real deal or is he just teasing us again? Like the post said, the guards actually cut and passed to and ran some pick and rolls that were way more effective then the “throw curry the ball in the high post and wait for the turnover” plays we’ve been running all year. Maybe we have a better strategy?

  5. I agree with Dan, Nate is just filling his role. He isn’t ask to be a consistant play maker, though when the opportunity presents itself he takes it.

    He’s one of our adrenaline shots off the bench, who supplies energy and instant offense. That’s his role for this year.

  6. the ?throw curry the ball in the high post and wait for the turnover? plays we?ve been running all year.

    It’s hilariously sad how accurate that description is.

  7. The guards really do have to change their approach. Penetrate with the purpose in mind to draw and kick, but that’s not how they play it. This is what made the 4th qtr last night so shocking. They actually did what they’re supposed to do for a change and passed to the open man.

  8. It seemed to me that the guards were trying that penetrate ‘n’ pass business early in the season, but Eddy “Mittens” Curry couldn’t catch those passes. He’s doing a better job now getting his hands ready to catch and keeping his eye on where the ball is.

  9. I think the biggest factor in Curry’s recent play, the thing that allows the team to focus on getting him the ball, is Lee replacing Frye in the starting lineup.

    With Frye starting, there are too many different guys who need to get going and we seemed to go away from Curry too quickly, even if he was doing well.

    Also, I think Curry was more likely to pick up quick fouls playing next to Channing. Lee seems to balance out the foul situation (Lee is much better at help D than Frye, for one thing) and allow the guards to focus on getting Curry the ball repeatedly. Also, the pick and roll wrinkle that’s been added to the offense is a nice one and an important one for the guards and Curry.

    I think Frye’s role needs to be instant offense off the bench.

  10. Sean…I think you’re right on.

    As for Curry, while he has played well offensively (no huge surprise) I would say that most of his points last night came after his defender left him to cover one of our penetrating guards..which is good. We finally started running pick and rolls..steph and craw run them well – I don’t really like how steve runs them.

  11. The Knicks’ D improved very noticeably in the Cavs game and (until the final six minutes) the Bulls game as well, and Lee starting probably had a lot to do with that.

    I’m very curious what the Knicks would look like with Q-Rich, Lee, and Jeffries on the court. An actual, bonafide, defensive squad? We haven’t even pretended to have one of those in at least five years.

  12. I’d like to agree with playing Frye off the bench, but I can’t imagine him being really pleased with it. Unlike Jamal, I get the feeling that Chan’s not really the one to take that in stride. All of this is only gonna get stickier when Jeffries is healthy.

  13. My Mouth is actually watering thinking of the line-up, espiecally if Nate progresses with his Defense. The best part about that line-up is we have a bench player who can sub-in to play defense, Renaldo Balkman….ahhhhh

  14. One other observation on Curry from the Bulls game: for the first time I can recall as a Knick I saw Curry consistently altering shots on the defensive end. He was active, and he challenged virtually everything that came inside.

    Seth – Channing Frye got yanked in and out of the lineup all last season as a part of Larry’s mind games. Like the other Knicks, his performance likely suffered at times from not knowing his role but he certainly never pouted about it, never came close.

  15. Dave…

    I don’t remember that in the bulls game so much, but he did alter the last Lebron shot last night that basically wrapped up the game for us (or should’ve if francis hit a FT)…and I was definitely surprised (pleasantly) by that.

  16. The Knicks new penchant for the zone has been taking some pressure off Curry as well, forcing teams into shooting threes and jumpers instead of slashing to the hoop and making Curry work – in the Cavs case they were abysmal from long range so it worked out great.

  17. QRich Lee and Jeffries on the floor would be righteous, (a team capable of actually playing offense and defense?!) but does that mean that QRich will start at SG? I’m all for it, but would Isiah do it?

  18. That lineup might even be the best for Marbury to some degree. With less players who can create their own shot on the floor we could legitimately ask the guy to be Starbury more and initiate the offense. Lee and Jeffries are more than happy to pick up garbage buckets and Q Rich can stick to his perimeter shots when Marbury draws a double team driving in. If that doesn’t work, go to Curry.

  19. What I have noticed in the last couple of years during the “Starbury” era, is that Stephon Marbury it seems believes that he is his own coach and runs his own plays. It was a nice idea but a bad business move. (Lets not mention Francis). Keep letting the younger guys play and get better. I still remain optimistic for this season and the future of the franchise.

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