New York Knicks: Three Key Defensive Areas Against The Brooklyn Nets

Nov 6, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) boxes out New York Knicks center Joakim Noah (13) on a free throw shot during the second quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 6, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) boxes out New York Knicks center Joakim Noah (13) on a free throw shot during the second quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports /

Defense is the New York Knicks’ problem this season. They will have to make it a strength in order to secure a win against the rival Brooklyn Nets.

Against the easiest opponent of the season so far, the New York Knicks have to improve on the defensive end. With a more talented roster, two days rest, and the home court advantage, there would be no excuses for not getting the win on Wednesday night.

The Knicks have struggled through six games against six tough teams that are expected to make the playoffs. Growing pains were to be expected with a new coach and three new acquisitions in the starting lineup.

What’s come as a surprise has been just how terrible the Knicks have performed on the defensive end of the floor. New York is currently dead last in the NBA in defensive rating, allowing just 110.9 points per 100 possessions.

If New York has any hope of making the playoffs this season, the defense will have to dramatically improve.

The Brooklyn Nets have exactly the same record as the Knicks through six games (2-4), but have been surprisingly competitive so far this season, with three of their losses coming by five points or less.

Three areas the Knicks will have to focus on to get a much-needed win are defensive rebounding, defending the 3-point line, and defending without fouling.

Defensive Rebounding

The Knicks are last in defensive rebounding percentage in the NBA, collecting only 71.6 percent of opponents’ misses. With a starting front court of Joakim Noah, Kristaps Porzingis, and Carmelo Anthony, there’s no reason New York should be this bad at finishing out defensive possessions with a rebound.

The whole team needs to take responsibility against the Nets and box out. That’s something the Knicks miss from last year’s starting center, Robin Lopez, who was an exceptional team rebounder.

Robin’s brother Brook Lopez will be the Nets’ primary offensive weapon on Wednesday night. That means Noah, who will likely be guarding Lopez, will need help on the boards from his teammates.

He’ll often be guarding Lopez one-on-one in the post or on the 3-point line, where Lopez is taking a career-high 4.2 attempts per game this season.

Defending the 3-point Line

The Nets play a modern brand of basketball that emphasizes pace and 3-point shooting. To start the year, they’re fifth in the NBA in Pace, generating just over 103 possessions per 48 minutes, and third in the NBA in 3-point attempts at 34.2 attempts per game.

They may not have any elite individual shooters on the roster, but a large volume of their offense comes from beyond the perimeter. The Knicks will have to play solid transition defense to not allow quick uncontested 3-point field goals in transition against a team that loves to play fast.

In the half court, switches have been a problem for the Knicks, with miscommunication and poor rotations leading to wide open looks for opponents. New York has been terrible defending the perimeter this season, with two blowout losses to the Houston Rockets and Cleveland Cavaliers, who are first and second in 3-point field goal attempts per game.

They also allowed Detroit to shoot an obscene 61 percent from beyond the arc in a loss.

The Knicks guards will have to do a better job getting over and communicating on screens and switches to not allow a volume 3-point shooting team like the Nets to have time and space to shoot.

Defending without Fouling

In the Knicks’ 114-109 loss to the Utah Jazz on Sunday, the Jazz went 30-of-35 from the free throw line. The foul line turned out to be the difference between what would have been a huge home win against a Western Conference playoff team and a bitterly disappointing loss.

As a team, the Knicks have to be more disciplined. This especially applies to Kristaps Porzingis, who’s consistently been in foul trouble to start the season. He’s averaging 4.2 fouls per game so far.

He’s simply too important to be sat on the bench at the end of games.

Porzingis is an excellent shot-blocker, and the fouls he gets going for blocks are the ones you can live with. He has to be careful not to pick up cheap fouls going for offensive rebounds or reaching in on crafty guards.

Learning to play through foul trouble and being aware of his value to the team to defend conservatively when necessary, is going to be an important part of KP’s development.

Knicks legend and play-by-play commentator Walt “Clyde” Frazier acknowledged as much in New York’s latest loss to the Jazz.

New York can ill afford to take Porzingis out of the game when he hits foul trouble, partly because of his value on both sides of the ball, and partly because, in order to learn how to defend without fouling, he needs be on the floor.

The Knicks have too much talent on the roster to give away games with lackadaisical defense. It will be a point of emphasis for Hornacek going into the Brooklyn game. We’ve seen flashes of brilliance from all the Knicks starters this season.

If they can just put together 48 minutes of disciplined team defense, they could be a real force in the Eastern Conference this season.

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It starts with getting a win against the cross-city rivals: the Brooklyn Nets.