104-84. 112-92. After these two lopsided affairs, the then two time consecutive Eastern Conference Champions stared in immense disbelief. Has a legitimate foe to their seemingly safe throne finally emerged? Miami had suffered their first loss of the 2012-2013 season and their first loss at the confines of the American Airlines Arena, both coming at the hands of this surprising opponent. Stunningly, the latter occurred with the opposing team’s superstar draped with a fashionable suit instead of his blue away jersey. This was certainly uncharted territory for Miami, as they usually found themselves on the other side of this rout. So who was this contender vying to snatch the title away from the incumbent you might ask?
The Knicks were definitely smiling then. I’m not so sure if they are anymore.
The New York Knicks. Yes the same New York Knicks who are currently 7-17 and have lost twelve out of their last sixteen games, including blow out losses to two sub-.500 teams (Boston and Cleveland) and an absolute gaffe at the end of game against Washington. Instead of battling with the Heat for the top seed out East, they are in the hunt with the Milwaukee Bucks for the absolute worst spot in the conference. For all you Homeland viewers, this is like the drastic turn of events from thinking you have maintained peace by capturing the most dangerous terrorist to then picking up the pieces a few days later from a devastating bomb blast that resulted in over 200 casualties. Will the Knicks do something even Carrie Mathison had a very difficult time accomplishing: resurrecting after the explosion?
All signs point to a resounding no. The New York offense doesn’t revolve around ball movement, as players such as Anthony and Smith rather rely on their dribble to create a shot. Last year when New York started the season an astonishing 17-6, only 15.8 percent of the Knicks’ offensive possessions ended in an assist, good for 29th in the league. The reason they were able to overcome this deficiency and still sustain good production is because New York was 5th in the league in three point shooting with 37.2 percent. And they relied heavily on the long bomb, with 34.6% percent of their points coming from deep. Only Houston got more of their offensive production from the three point shot. But just as the old adage “You live by the 3, you die by the 3” goes, how would the Knicks respond when the ball wasn’t soaring through the hoop?
Well we’re getting our first hand view of that this season. New York now drills only 34.5 percent of their three point shots per game. Instead of deviating from their reliance of the 3, they continue to be in the top 5 of three point shots attempted per game and in percentage of points coming from downtown. This continued dependence on the long game stems from their inability to obtain baskets through other mediums. They are 29th in free throw attempts from the game. But the most important flaw is that there is absolutely no player movement off ball. The Knicks space out a lot with their tendency to have line ups with 4 three point threats and one big, but aren’t utilizing it. Players with the ball on an island are usually accompanied with his four teammates watching him like spectators. When New York’s offense becomes this travesty where every player believes the sole way to score is to do it through their own dribble, they become very easy to defend and fall behind 27-9 to Cleveland and relinquish a 23 point lead to Chicago. A team with the offensive repertoire of the Knicks only scoring 9 points in the first 9:58 to an average Cavalier defense in the first quarter is absolutely unacceptable.
Anthony receives the pass on an island.
The possession ends in a tough, contested jumpshot by Anthony with no ball movement. Stoudemire and Smith haven’t moved at all, and Prigioni and Hardaway completed a soft, futile switch.
Even if they continue on this terrible trajectory, a few threes here and there could very much land them with an Atlantic Division title and home court advantage in a playoff series. But being a sub-.500 beneficiary to an awful division was not written in the cards for the Knicks. Sure Tyson Chandler will help shore up the post defense, something that is absolutely miserable against a team with effective penetration and offensive big men like the Cavs do. But his presence will not mend New York’s core players’ desire to trust their dribble over the pass.