The basketball world is stunned and should be stunned with the current standings in the NBA. The New York Knicks hold the top seed in the Eastern Conference with a record of seven wins and one loss. No one could honestly say they believe the injury-riddled Knickerbockers could defeat the elite teams like the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs during that stretch, let alone compete at all after the devastating toll of Hurricane Sandy.
Knicks fans are going wild after their team’s tremendous start. They have all the right to be, they have supported a team for the last decade synonymous with overrated-ness and mediocrity. I’m going to allow them to celebrate their team’s current success. It’s liking having a Thanksgiving feast after fasting for weeks.
Any who, back to the basketball business and the true purpose of the article. Clearly the Knicks are the biggest competitor for the Celtics when it comes to competing for the Atlantic Division crown. The Knicks may have the deepest team in the league but also the most aging. It’s hard to imagine a roster with over 25% of 38+ year olds competing for a championship. Years ago, I thought Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas, and the beloved Rasheed Wallace would make routine appearances on NBA TV and ESPN. Yet they all found homes in Madison Square Garden.
The Knicks have taken a turn for the best when Carmelo Anthony was subject to being the team’s starting power forward. This move propelled Melo’s game and helped create room for the team’s versatile yet defensive wingmen to start such as Ronnie Brewer and Jason Kidd. Not to mention the Knicks also have the reigning defensive player of the year in Tyson Chandler. The Knicks starting line-up has tremendously upgraded their defense from last year and are on pace to be a top ten defense in the league.
The Knicks’ bench also has substantially improved with the stellar play of J.R. “shoot at will” Smith. He easily is the second best offensive player for the Knicks and a stat’s expert can make a case he’s their second best player overall on the team averaging close to sixteen points and five rebounds a game. However the bench also has many tools such as the sharpshooting Steve Novak, defensive specialist Marcus Camby, and of course everyone’s favorite Rasheed Wallace.
However I do feel that there is one critical fault within the current Knick’s team. Even though they have great passing players in Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton, the Knicks are 27th in the league in assists. So what? This is an indication that most of their points come off either isolation or just spot up three-pointers. It’s evident that J.R. and Carmelo take up a huge percentage of their team’s shots and if you neutralize either one, its very possible that you can hold the Knicks to a much lower scoring output.
The Knicks don’t have many slashers, players that can attack the basket and draw fouls or make contested lay-ups. The Knicks’ offense is primarily centered around Carmelo Anthony. If Anthony or Smith don’t have an open shot expect a three point shot to be fired by one of the role players. The Knicks’ are second in the league in three-point percentage with 41.1%. That is incredibly high and don’t expect the hot streak to continue especially when J.R. makes over 60% of his three-point shots as of today.
I have a recipe that the Celtics should do in order to beat the current Knicks’ team. First they must be able to neutralize Carmelo or J.R.. We all know that it’s gonna be impossible to shut down both unless they both feel the need to take 40-feet jumpers like they were accustomed to doing in previous seasons. The Celtics should keep players like Jeff Green, and Jason Terry on those two at all times and have them play tight defense. Smith and Carmelo aren’t necessarily the quickest players but they can get their shot off quickly. It is imperative that a defender doesn’t give space to either of the Knicks’ players.
Second, the Celtics need flood the mid-range and three point line. Whether they go zone or simple man to man. There should be three to four players close to the three-point line. Steve Novak, Rasheed Wallace, and Jason Kidd will spend a majority of the offensive play close to line. They live and die by the three point shot. Knicks aren’t a quick team so it’s rare that a defender will be passed by a dribble. Leave Kevin Garnett in the middle of the paint and he will easily neutralize Tyson Chandler. Most of the Knicks’ points come from corner 3’s and isolation jump-shots.
Finally, the Celtics need to speed up the game using Rajon Rondo. I know the Celtics aren’t accustomed to running a quick offense. However the Knicks are stingy when it comes to giving up points, so when the Knicks give up the ball or score a basket, it is imperative that Rondo and the ball handlers for the Celtics pick the pace up and get some easy baskets. The Knicks also one of the worst rebounding teams in the league, so their plenty of opportunities for fast breaks off the rebound.
If the Celtics or any team for the matter of fact want to beat the New York Knicks, its evident and important that they play at a quick speed, defend Carmelo and J.R. Smith, and limit the open three-pointers for the Knicks. Otherwise, New York is just going to make it rain buckets and it will be very difficult for teams to outscore a barrage of three-point shots.