Can the Knicks run with the best teams in the NBA?

Julius Randle, Knicks. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Julius Randle, Knicks. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /
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Tom Thibodeau, Knicks. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

The Knicks defense will go after any team

Let’s start with the Knicks’ calling card this season: defense. Tom Thibodeau carries a reputation as a defensive mastermind and it’s certainly been true in his first season as head coach in New York.

Even with the reputation that Thibodeau carried, it was hard to see how he could mold a team that was very much the same roster as the previous into a defensive juggernaut. He’s managed to get the most out of his players and get them to buy into a defensive scheme that requires a high level of conditioning and supreme mental focus. 

The Knicks want to play a slow-paced game. They want every game they play to be a grind-it-out slow game where they can set up their defense and run their half-court offense. The thing is, they’re not the only ones who want to play this game.

The slowest teams in the league are the Knicks, Heat, Nuggets, Clippers, Suns, and Mavericks. This league isn’t exactly the “run & gun” league that some might believe it to be. While things like shooting and extra passing have opened up, most successful teams focus on the half-court games. Plenty of the teams who rank in the middle of the pack in pace like the Jazz, Nets, and 76ers will have no qualms about having to play slower against the Knicks.

I do believe that New York’s defense can keep them in games against top-tier teams, it’s all about how they close them. We’ve seen the Knicks hold on in close games against teams during their recent 9-game win streak and they’ll need to keep it up come playoff time. So while the Knicks defense can keep them in the game, can the offense close them out?