The NBA: Five Reasons for New York’s Great Start

With a 77.8% victory rate, and after handing the Miami Heat their first home defeat of the season, the New York Knicks are the undisputed top team outside of the Western Conference. Not bad for a team that went 36-30 last season and was bounced by generally the same Heat team in the first round of the Playoffs.

So how are they doing it? How are they surviving, nay thriving, without Amar’e Stoudemire? How are they holding it together despite letting go of Linsanity?

Here’s my take on five important factors driving the Knicks’ surprisingly strong start:

1) Shooting: The Knicks are tops in the league in threes made, top 3 in three-point percentage, top 7 in field goals made, and top 9 in field goal percentage. All of those numbers are improvements from NYK’s shooting in ’11-’12, and the results are undeniable. These Knicks are more potent this season, and when they are allowed to get hot, they’re practically unbeatable – coach Mike Woodson’s wards are 8-1 when they score at least 104 points.

2) Backcourt: With the aging (or aged?) Jason Kidd teaming up with the erratic JR Smith and the boom-bust Raymond Felton, it would be fair to say that the Knicks SHOULD NOT have one of the league’s top backcourts. There are, after all, many other teams with bigger stars at both guard spots – Miami has Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen, the Celtics have Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce, and Brooklyn has Deron Williams and Joe Johsnon. What the New York backcourt lacks in star power, however, they make up for in sheer production. Kidd, Smith, and Felton combine for about 38 points, 12 assists, 11 rebounds, and 5 steals while shooting 43% from beyond the arc. Those stats help make this combo the third-best backcourt in the league, just behind the Clippers and the Thunder.

Raymond Felton has been playing really well
as the Knicks' starting point guard.
(image by Greg Shamus/Getty Images)
3) Balance: It’s not just New York’s backcourt that’s been clicking. The Amar’e-less frontline has been surprisingly effective, too. Carmelo Anthony has moonlighted as an undersized 4, while Tyson Chandler has been the immovable anchor. Steve Novak and the resurgent Rasheed Wallace have also been reasonably solid reserves up front for the Knicks. The balance does not stop with their roster, though, as the Knicks have been playing great two-way ball as well. They have the fourth-best offense in the league and the eighth-best defense. The days of D’Antoni’s run-and-gun, offense-is-the-best-defense philosophy are definitely long gone now.

4) Melo: Of course, one cannot talk about the Knicks’ success without mentioning the all-around effort being given by Carmelo Anthony on a game-by-game basis. Melo has upped his scoring, rebounding, and field goal shooting from last season, but the biggest improvement by far has been his three-point accuracy. The former Syracuse Orangeman has never shot close to 40% from beyond the arc in his career, but this season he’s hitting nearly 44% of his trey attempts. If he keeps this up, he might even be in the conversations for both the Most Valuable and Most Improved Player awards.

5) Chandler: Despite Melo’s staggering production, the biggest factor for the Knicks’ rise in the season’s first month has been the perennially undervalued Tyson Chandler. Here’s the thing with the prep-to-pro big man – he doesn’t put up eye-popping stats that other slotmen like Dwight Howard and the Gasol brothers are wont to do, but he’s one of the most efficient out there. Chandler’s aggregate numbers might seem pedestrian when set alongside those of Dwight, Gasol (Marc not Pau), or even the extremely shocking Anderson Varejao (his blocks have, in fact gone down dramatically), but his nearly 13 points (a career-high), more than 9 rebounds, and, get this, 71.2% FG shooting are enough to make NYK superbly sublime in the paint. He’s the classic example of someone who doesn’t do many things, but the few things he does, he does extremely well.

The Knicks celebrate after they beat the Heat in Florida.
(image by Alan Diaz/AP)

Game Recaps (courtesy of the Sports Network):
Denver 92, Indiana 89
JaVale McGee and Corey Brewer totaled 20 points each, as the Denver Nuggets used a late surge to best the Indiana Pacers, 92-89, on Friday. Andre Miller, who dished out eight assists, scored eight of his 15 points in the final quarter for the Nuggets, who have won two of their last three after dropping three in a row. Paul George ended with a game-high 22 points for the Pacers, who suffered their second loss in the last six outings despite having all of their starters score in double digits. David West added 18 points and a game-best 11 rebounds, and George Hill totaled 15 and 10 assists in defeat.

Philadelphia 95, Boston 94 (OT)
Evan Turner scored 26 points and hit the go-ahead basket with 3.9 seconds left in overtime to lift the Philadelphia 76ers to a 95-94 win over the Boston Celtics in an Atlantic Division matchup from the Wells Fargo Center. Turner added 10 rebounds and Thaddeus Young compiled 17 points and 12 boards to help the 76ers halt a two-game losing streak and take the opener of a home- and-home series between the longtime rivals. Jrue Holiday contributed 15 points to the hard-fought victory. Boston suffered its second defeat in its last three outings despite a triple- double from Rajon Rondo and a game-high 27 points out of Paul Pierce. The Celtics also received 19 points off the bench from Jeff Green and a 17-point, 10-rebound effort from Kevin Garnett. Rondo finished with 16 points, 14 assists and 13 rebounds.

Atlanta 104, Washington 95
Josh Smith poured in a game-high 23 points and grabbed 15 rebounds to lead the Atlanta Hawks to a 104-95 win over the Washington Wizards on Friday. Jeff Teague had 19 points and six assists while Al Horford added 14 points and 14 boards for the Hawks, who have won eight of their last nine. DeShawn Stevenson had 15 points on 5-of-11 shooting from 3-point range. Kevin Seraphin dropped in a team-best 19 points and Bradley Beal netted 18 for the Wizards, who fell to an NBA-worst 2-14 this season. Jordan Crawford and Nene added 14 and 12 points, respectively, in the setback.

Golden State 109, Brooklyn 102
David Lee scored 13 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter, and the Golden State Warriors shut down the Brooklyn Nets in the second half to come away with a 109-102 victory at Barclays Center. Lee also pulled down 15 rebounds -- seven on the offensive glass -- while Stephen Curry netted 28 points for the Warriors, who have won the first two tests on their seven-game road trip and five of six overall. Joe Johnson finished with 32 points to lead New Jersey, with Andray Blatche chipping in 22 points and 15 rebounds. Deron Williams added 23 points and eight assists in the Nets' third straight setback.

Chicago 108, Detroit 104
Joakim Noah posted a game-high 30 points and 23 rebounds while adding six assists as the Chicago Bulls downed the Detroit Pistons, 108-104. Carlos Boozer gave 24 points and six rebounds while Luol Deng and Marco Belinelli each added 16 points for the Bulls, who have won 16 straight games over the Pistons and haven't lost to the team in close to four years. Rodney Stuckey had 24 points and seven assists, while Brandon Knight gave 21 points for the Pistons, who have lost four of their past five games.

Minnesota 91, Cleveland 73
Kevin Love poured in 36 points and added 13 rebounds as the Minnesota Timberwolves earned a 91-73 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers at Target Center. Like Ridnour totaled 12 points and seven assists, with Jose Juan Barea added 10 points off the bench for the Timberwolves, who have won four of their last six. Alonzo Gee posted 16 points and C.J. Miles contributed 13 for the Cavaliers, who skidded to their ninth straight defeat.

Memphis 96, New Orleans 89
Rudy Gay matched a season-best with 28 points and the Memphis Grizzlies held off the New Orleans Hornets down the stretch to record a 96-89 road victory on Friday. Gay shot 10-of-18 from the field, while Quincy Pondexter made all six of his shot attempts -- four of which came from 3-point range -- in a 16-point effort as the Grizzlies posted their sixth win in seven games and improved their NBA- best season record to 14-3. Zach Randolph added 15 points for Memphis, which led from the first quarter on and were ahead by as many as 14 points in the second half before the Hornets put forth an unsuccessful comeback try. Austin Rivers had a career-high 15 points and Ryan Anderson and Brian Roberts also netted 15 for the Hornets, who finished off a 5-game homestand at 1-4.

Milwaukee 108, Charlotte 93
Ersan Ilyasova had 21 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Milwaukee Bucks to a 108-93 win over the Charlotte Bobcats on Friday. Marquis Daniels added 18 points, while Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis dropped in 15 and 13 points, respectively, for the Bucks, who snapped a two- game skid. Gerald Henderson had 19 points and Kemba Walker added 16 points and six assists for the Bobcats, losers of six straight. Michael Kidd- Gilchrist had 11 points and 11 rebounds in the setback.

San Antonio 114, Houston 92
Tony Parker led six Spurs in double figures with 17 points while also dishing out seven assists as San Antonio routed the Houston Rockets, 114-92, on Friday. Tim Duncan, Gary Neal, Manu Ginobili and Patty Mills added 12 points apiece, with Duncan also contributing 12 rebounds in San Antonio's third straight win and its eighth victory in nine games. Tiago Splitter rounded out the Spurs' double-digit scorers with 15 points. James Harden scored 29 points to pace the Rockets, who have dropped their last six road games.

Utah 131, Toronto 99
Paul Millsap led eight players in double-figures with 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists as the Utah Jazz posted a 131-99 rout of the Toronto Raptors. Enes Kanter gave 18 points and eight rebounds, Gordon Hayward added 17 points while Marvin Williams had 14 points for the Jazz, who have won their past two games after a three-game losing streak. Randy Foye scored 13 points, Mo Williams posted 11 points and 10 assists while DeMarre Carroll and Jeremy Evans gave 11 and 10 points, respectively. Andrea Bargnani had 20 points and eight rebounds for the Raptors, who have dropped three straight and nine of their last 10 games. DeMar DeRozan scored 17 points and pulled down five rebounds.

Oklahoma City 114, LA Lakers 108
The Los Angeles Lakers simply couldn't keep up with Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and the rest of the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder's dynamic duo combined for 69 points en route to a 114-108 victory more one-sided than the final score indicated. Westbrook scored 27 of his 33 points in a first half that saw him drain a career- high five 3-pointers. Westbrook also handed out eight assists, while Durant totaled 36 points and nine rebounds in Oklahoma City's seventh straight win. Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard kept the Lakers somewhat competitive. Bryant finished with 35 points on 11-of-24 shooting, while Howard added 23 points and 18 rebounds in the loss, LA's sixth in nine games.

Sacramento 91, Orlando 82
DeMarcus Cousins posted 17 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Sacramento Kings past the Orlando Magic, 91-82, on Friday. Isaiah Thomas also dropped in 17 points, while Jimmer Fredette scored 15, Jason Thompson poured in 12 and Aaron Brooks contributed 11 for the Kings, who won consecutive games for the first time since Nov. 5-7. Glen Davis paced the Magic with 20 points and 11 rebounds in Orlando's second straight loss. Arron Afflalo netted 18 points, Jameer Nelson had 17 and Andrew Nicholson finished with 14 in defeat.

Top 10 Plays of the Night:

Game Highlights:

Next Post »
0 Comment