Knicks-Bulls Preview, or Backwards Day 2


Tonight we go to Chicago to play the Bulls, but somehow the stats tell us that we’re arriving looking like a defensive juggernaut that doesn’t know how to play offense.  Huh?  The blog By The Horns brought up these truly backwards stats:

how weird is this:

The Knicks — a presumably defenseless team that relies on Mike D’Antoni’s wacky offensive system to outscore their opponents — currently rank 24th in Offensive Rating (101.1) and 8th in Defensive Rating (102.4). Seriously.

As for the Bulls, they’re 15th in Offensive Rating (106.4) and 9th in Defensive Rating (102.6). So…Tom Thibodeau’s team is worse at playing defense than Mike D’Antoni’s squad, but better at putting points on the board?

In related news: Dogs are now living with cats. Mass hysteria!

Yeah, yeah, it’s just three games so it’s silly to take this with anything but a heaping bowl of salt, but it is interesting.  I mean just by looking at us over those games it was clear to me that we are a far improved defensive squad from last year.  We probably won’t remain a top 10 D team, but we’ve got a good shot at being top 15 which would be solid.

Other stats from Horns:

What may tell us something is the fact that the Knicks do a lot of running (9th in Pace Factor) but score only 98.0 PPG. And I already mentioned their lousy O-Rating. This team is struggling the score.

I actually take that as an encouraging sign.  Our offense has been herky-jerky at times, particularly with doctors working around the clock to revive the corpse of Danilo Gallinari.  I’m convinced medicine has evolved enough that Gallo will be resurrected, which would greatly improve our O-Rating and of course the points per game.  Considering we only barely lost to both Boston and Portland, had Gallo been merely marginally better and hit one more shot, we could’ve won one of those games.  Had he been solid, we likely could’ve won both easily.  And if he actually could improve on his performances from last year, maybe we would’ve even won those games by healthy margins.  Yeah, that’s a lot of what-ifs, but also remember these additional bits:

-Raymond Felton is still getting adjusted to running our offense.

-Anthony Randolph not only hasn’t played in the regular season yet, but he also still has yet to figure out the system yet.  If he does and can even partially contribute in the manner that many have dreamed about, then that’s another huge boost.

-And Kelenna Azubuike, who many thought would be our best option at shooting guard, is still recovering from injury.

I’ll save insulting your intelligence by not mentioning that Eddy Curry is also injured and could return some day.  Still, with possible improved contributions from Gallo, Felton, Randolph and Azubuike, ya figure at least one of ’em is likely to take that next step forward.

But back to Just The Stats, Ma’am:

New York ranks 29th in Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt. It makes sense. According to Hoopdata, the Knicks lead the league in three-point attempts (26.3 per game) but only 18th in shots attempted at the rim (22.0). Jacking up outside shots doesn’t earn many fouls.

The Knicks may not be attacking the rim, but they sure are defending it. New York ranks third in opponents’ at-the-rim field goal percentage (55.7).

Again, yes, it’s early, but I wouldn’t be surprised if throughout the season we stayed in the lead for most three-point attempts.  That’s how we’re built.  But hopefully the shots at the rim should improve as chemistry forms between Felton and Amar’e Stoudemire.  Felton’s already shown that he’s not afraid to take it to the hole.  And as long as Randolph doesn’t keep just jacking up jumpers, he should be able to drive and create contact.  And again, if Gallo can get his shot going, it’ll force opposing teams to stretch their defense, leaving the paint less packed and more ripe for forays to the rim.

Also, not only is it surprising that we’re third at preventing teams from scoring at the rim, but there’s more odd proof of why: we’re actually currently leading the league in blocked shots.  And again, this is without shot-blocking phenom Randolph having joined the party.  Although Wilson Chandler won’t keep up his ridiculous block-rate, so even with Randolph back we might drop a bit.  Now if only we weren’t allergic to rebounding and thus could finish off defensive points by securing the boards.

Lastly, one final weird thing which is non-stat related.  Somehow I never noticed this before, but maybe everyone else already has.  Not only are we keeping the ball Off our rim, but all our centers’ last names end in the “off” sound (homonym-ly speaking).  We’ve got Mozg-Off, Turi-Off, and now Rand-Off.  Then again, during both pre-season and regular season while those guys have improved our D when they’re on the court, they also make our offense look kinda, well, Off.  Perhaps it’s no coincidence that our O looks the most On when we move Amar’e to the middle, thus keeping all our Off centers off the court?

Let’s hope we steal tonight’s bout so we can get on a roll before we even hit our easier stretch of upcoming games that begin Friday.