The Knicks started out this season red hot, winning six in a row. They blew out the defending champs twice. They beat the “rival” Brooklyn Net’s twice, and are currently far ahead in the Atlantic Division (The Nets are 4.5 games back). With all of these early season accolades you would think that the Knicks have very little to worry about, but you’d be wrong. They have lost 5 of their last 8, and recently lost starting point guard, Raymond Felton, to a fractured pinky finger. The defense hasn’t been very good as of late either. The bigger problem, however, may be that the three pointer’s aren’t falling the way they were in the beginning of the season.
The Knicks had the third best three point percentage early on in the season (second only to the Thunder and Heat), but have slipped to a still respectable 5th place, and they are currently shooting 39% from beyond the arc. While the Knicks are still posting better than average shooting numbers, it is clear from watching the team play that shots that were going in earlier this season are missing.
Ronnie Brewer’s three-point shooting percentage went from 41% in November to 15% in December. J.R. Smith’s three-point shooting percentage dropped from 48% in November to 30% in December. Before his injury, Raymond Felton’s percentage behind the arc dropped from 40% in November to 30% in December. Steve Novak, while still posting an impressive 43% for the season, cannot get an open shot as teams know they must keep him well guarded. Novak has only scored in double digits five times this season, and has scored less than 5 points on seven occasions.
Carmelo Anthony has almost single handedly erased the lower numbers of his teammates by playing MVP level basketball even while coming in and out of the lineup due to small injuries here and there. He is still shooting a career high number from the three-point line (44%).
Mike Woodson said earlier in the season that prior to coming to the Knicks he was never a huge fan of three pointers, but because they had the players and the shots were going in he was going to keep giving the green light, but if they were to start missing then he would need to make an adjustment. In the loss to the Portland Trailblazers on Tuesday, The Knicks shot just 27% from behind the three-point line.
Coach Woody could make the decision to limit offensive production through threes, which would probably result in the offense running even more through Carmelo Anthony, and the newly healthy Amar’e Stoudemire. The problem is that most of the three pointers that the team takes are wide open, but are simply not going in. Woody has also talked about helping his shooters be in better situations to succeed. That could mean running more plays like down screens to help Steve Novak get open looks.
It’s quite possible that these recent struggles are just another bump in the road that all great teams have, and that tonight’s game against the Spurs might be the start of a new hot streak for the Knicks from beyond the arc. But if what is really happening is that the Knicks shooting numbers are coming back down to earth, and they won’t be returning to that level any time soon, then it could end up killing their title chances. Cause of death? Death by three.