The Knicks opened up the 2012-2013 season against the Miami Heat. The Knicks defeated the Heat by more than 20 points. The next series of games were against the Sixers. In both games, the Knicks defeated the Sixers by 19 or 20 points. The Knicks next played against the soaring Mavericks team that had a 4-1 record. The Knicks struggled early on, but rallied in the second half to drop the Mavs 104-94. The last game the Knicks played was against the Magic. Just like the previous game, the Knicks struggled but for three-quarters. In the fourth, the Knicks looked like a different team. The defensive intensity picked up and the offense just started “magically” clicking as the Knicks dropped the Magic 99-89. The Knicks then faced a tough task of facing the Spurs. A nail-bitter towards the end but the Knicks held their own and defeated the Spurs 104-100. The next night the Knicks were defeated by the Grizzlies in a horribly officiated game. The next game was against the Pacers where the Knicks just dominated from the start. The tenth game was against the Mavs in Dallas. They were defeated in another horribly officiated game. The eleventh game was against former Knick Jeremy Lin and the Rockets. The Knicks got embarrassed defensively and lost 131-103. They bounced back by defeating the Pistons 121-100. The next game was the Battle of the Boroughs as the Knicks fell to the Nets. The Knicks then went on a five game winning streak capped off with a blowout victory against the champs again. This came to a halt when the Knicks went into Chicago and lost. The Knicks the last game defeated the Nuggets 112-106. For the next seven games the Knicks went 5-2 and suffered two disappointing home losses. Twenty wins and seven losses, has the Knicks sitting as the best in the East. With these twenty wins, there are thirteen reasons to why the Knicks are the 2nd seed in the East.
Even though the season is still young, the Knicks are one of the best defensive teams in the league. They are holding teams to 96.5 ppg and around 45.4 percent from the field. It’s not just Felton, Kidd, and Chandler playing defense, but it’s the captain of the team Carmelo Anthony playing swarming defense. Even though they are one of the worst shot blocking teams in the league right now, it’s the team defense that is helping. Everybody on the Knicks team is playing defense from Prigioni to Wallace, and from Smith to Novak, everybody on the team is clicking defensively. It looks like Woodson’s system is working very well with a defensive, veteran-cultured Knicks team. This team has played lock-down defense against great teams like the Heat, Mavs, and Spurs; and they have against sub-par teams like the Sixers and the Magic. Up until recently, the Knicks defense has failed, and they need to get back on track. Since they had the undefeated streak, the Knicks were 2nd in the league in defense and now they are 8th .
The Knicks offense has the sixth most points per game with 102.6ppg. The Knicks are playing like they’re in a D’Antoni system with Woodson’s defense. It’s not just Carmelo scoring, but Kidd, Felton, Chandler, Brewer, Smith and others are scoring as well. The Knicks are also passing the basketball very well and looking for smarter shots than they have done in the past. Carmelo is even giving up open shots to find his teammates who are in better position. The Knicks offense right now, when it gets going, is looking like a well-oiled machine. Woodson’s offensive strategies have been working effectively as his team stands as the best team in the league, and the offensive execution is down pact. Up until late, the Knicks have struggled offensively and have looked like a team in an identity crisis. Some nights there is ball movement, the next it’s one-on-one play. If they want to remain a top-tier team they need to go back to ball movement.
3. Jason Kidd
Since the Knicks acquired Jason Kidd they have looked like a smarter basketball team. Jason Kidd is one of the biggest reasons why this team sits atop of the NBA….for now. Kidd said he only wanted to play 20 to 25 minutes per game. He is averaging 29.4 mpg and in those 29.4 minutes, he has drastically helped this team. When the Knicks need a big clutch basket, Kidd makes it; when they need great defense, he plays it, and when they need to set up the offense or slow down the pace, Kidd does exactly that. Kidd’s size and strength helps the Knicks when they need him to guard some two guards and smaller point guards. In the beginning of the season Kidd was supposed to lead Mobb Deep 2.0, but since the Knicks have had injuries, he has gotten the call to start at the two and he has not disappointed.
4. John Starks 2.0 aka J.R. Smith
Another big reason why the Knicks are 20-7 is because of the overall play of J.R. Smith. J.R. Smith is the Knicks’ sixth man this year and he is playing like he has a chip on his shoulder. J.R. Smith is averaging 15.0 ppg, 4.9rpg, and 1.1 spg, which shows that overall J.R. Smith is playing very well. He has really improved on the defensive end with his horrifying hounding defense. His offensive game has improved a lot as well by him playing more unselfish basketball and taking smarter shots. J.R. Smith right now is looking like he wants to be Sixth Man of the Year or even better, an All-Star. His contribution to the Knicks has proven big when it matters most. On the flip side, J.R. Smith has struggled these past two games by going back to his old ways of taking difficult, yet alone stupid, shots. If the Knicks are to get back on track, they need their sixth man to get in a groove.
The Knicks have quite a few X-Factors:
Brewer: Has played well offensively, and defensively. He has really fell in love with the corner three, and his offensive game has improved. However, his point total is only 5.4ppg and just like the team, he has been struggling shooting the ball and finding ways to score. Overall, he has been a big contribution for this team.
Sheed: He has played well providing the Knicks with defensive toughness and some scoring in a variety of ways. He is also posting up players and shooting the three ball pretty well. His defense has proven big for the Knicks, averaging 0.72 bpg. He has given the Knicks a little bit of problems by getting into foul trouble, but overall he is a factor of them winning.
Novak: Novak early in the season (first game) was lights out, but after that first game he has been dreadful, only averaging 36% from deep. He is not helping out in other ways because he is not getting rebounds or assists. Over the past few games, Novak has gotten back on track by shooting 43% from deep and averaging 7.8ppg. He has stepped up on the offensive and on defense end.
6. Limiting Turnovers
The Knicks are the best team in the league when it comes to turnovers, averaging just 10.8 TOs per game. In the past, the Knicks would almost average 18 turnovers. The Knicks have been doing a great job of limiting turnovers in the first few games. The last two games in Texas, the Knicks were dreadful with turnovers. One of the problems is that Melo has the ball too long and he often finds himself dribbling into double and triple teams. These past two games, Melo has had 14 turnovers, some of them stupid, others unwarranted, But his lack of ball security is really hurting the Knicks. Some of the Knicks turnovers come from bad calls and others such as stupid passes, but the Knicks need to get back on track and keep limiting turnovers.
The Knicks’ chemistry this season has been off the charts, literally it’s something that cannot be measured on the stat sheet. Anyways, the chemistry has been something Knick fans have not seen since the ’90s. Re-uniting former teammates can be one of the reasons the chemistry is great. Re-uniting Camby with former teammates Thomas, Smith, Melo and Felton really helps. Chandler reunited with Felton and Kidd is really helping the Knicks on the court. Off the court, it looks like the Knicks are making the effort to establish great team chemistry. The Knicks are trusting each other defensively which proves that they have good chemistry.
8. The Carmelo Offense
Carmelo Anthony has been an offensive juggernaut this season. He is second in the league in scoring behind Kobe Bryant with 28.3ppg. He has been a beast on the glass averaging 6.1 rpg and he has played some great defense. Carmelo this season has stepped up as the leader of the team, showing it on the court with his play as well as getting in guy’s faces and holding them and himself accountable. Melo has stepped up to the criticism he faces since his friends LeBron and Wade have won championships. Melo even took the initiative to lose some weight for the this season, which could be a reason why he has improved. He is looking like the player that the Knicks traded for in February 2011. Carmelo is helping the Knicks, but also at the same time, his offense is hurting the Knicks by being more stagnant than flowing. When the ball gets stuck in his hands, the offense suffers as he either just throws up shots or he dribbles too much and coughs up the ball.
9. New Focus and Protecting the Garden
The Knicks this season have a new focus, getting to the Finals and doing it by playing tough defense. With the Knicks switching their focus completely in a new system, they are really thriving. The defense has spoken for itself at times and the offense with the new firepower has made some noise as well. By focusing from making the playoffs to Winning the Finals, the Knicks have become the talk of the NBA once again and the Beasts of the East. As well as switching their focus, the Knicks have defended their home court. In the ’90s, the Knicks would give any team a tough time in the Garden. Simply the message was: if you want to win in our house, you’re going to have to fight for the win. The Knicks this season have gone back to that tradition and have been very good at home with a 13-2 record. The makeup of a championship team is defense and being a great home team; the Knicks seem like they are displaying both.
The Knicks offense and defense this season so far has been clutch. The game against San Antonio, the Knicks stepped up defensively and offensively when the team went down by 10 in the fourth quarter. With big baskets by Kidd and Smith, the Knicks picked up the victory in crunch time. The most recent example is the game against the Charlotte Bobcats. With the Knicks not shooting well and going into the fourth quarter trailing, the team started to turn up the defense which led to the Knicks getting some big possessions. The hero of this game was J.R. Smith on the defensive and offensive end. J.R. Smith came up with a key deflection which later led to the game winning shot. The Knicks, when they have needed clutch defense, have played it and when they have needed a clutch basket, they have knocked it down.
11. Match-up Problems
The Knicks during the very start of the season looked like a team that was clearly unstoppable. They beat the Heat and had an undefeated streak for six games. On the seventh game, the Knicks faced the Grizzlies and found a match-up problem. The Knicks are not a good rebounding team, like their opponent for that game. The Grizzlies killed the Knicks on the glass and the Knicks lost badly. Another match-up problem came from both Houston games. The Rockets are the youngest team in the league and the Knicks are the oldest team in history. In both games, the Rockets out-ran and out gunned New York and just embarrassed the Knicks, in Houston and in MSG. The Chicago Bulls are also a bad match-up for the Knicks. The D-Rose-less Bulls focus on ball movement to score and on defense: they force teams to take jump-shots. In the first meeting, the Knicks were out hustled, out rebounded, and just out played. Without Melo, the Knicks looked sluggish defensively and had poor offensive execution. In the second meeting the Knicks looked sluggish again and confused. The Bulls defense shutdown the Knicks isolation offense and the pick-and-roll for Chandler. On the other end, the Knicks could not stop the amount of ball movement the Bulls utilized. The Knicks just did not look good as a cohesive unit.
12. Complaining About Calls
A factor is the Knicks complaining on every single call against them. In certain games they have a legitimate beef, but at the same time, the Knicks need to learn to play through it. In the NBA, there are no perfect referees and the Knicks are realizing it. In the game against the Grizzlies, the officiating was horrible for both sides, but the Knicks let it get to them and as a result they lost the game. In the second Bulls game, the Knicks let the bad calls get to them, resulting in ejections for Melo, Chandler, and Woodson. For the Bulls, Noah was ejected as well in a horribly officiated game. The referees seem like they have something against the Knicks and are either calling everything against them or the Knicks are not getting calls. However, the Knicks need not use this as an excuse for not getting back defensively and having poor offensive execution.
13. Feast or Famine: Raymond Felton
” At guard…6’1 from University of North Carolina…Number Two…Raymond Felton.” Raymond Felton is a main factor to the Knicks winning and sometimes a factor to them losing. Raymond Felton this season is averaging 16 ppg, 6.3 apg, and 1.2 spg. At times, Raymond Felton has come up big in certain games like the meeting in South Beach, but has struggled like in the meeting in Chicago. Felton over the stretch since the game in Chicago has really struggled; over the past ten games he is shooting 37% from the field and 30% from deep. If the Knicks want to really play well, Felton with these numbers needs to shoot a little less and do other things such as pass and play tougher defense.