2 Glaring defensive mistakes that nearly led Knicks to ugly playoff loss

New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /

Coming off the heels of a disappointing Game 1 loss to the Miami Heat, the Knicks were in desperate need of a victory playing against a Jimmy Butler-less team. Despite some poor play throughout the game, New York was able to pull through, taking the Heat down, 111-105.

While the Knicks may have won the game, it was far closer than it should have been thanks in part to some very poor defensive play and scheming. Not only did the Knicks players not play well defensively, but Tom Thibodeau’s scheme on that side of the ball didn’t do them any favors.

Hopefully, New York learns from its mistakes entering Game 3, as the team can’t afford to have so many defensive lapses if Butler makes his return.

2 defensive mistakes that nearly cost the Knicks Game 2 against the Heat

2. Lack of communication/poor defense on screens

There were several moments throughout this game in which the Knicks got absolutely torched through the pick and roll. Not only were there several moments of poor communication but the way New York attacked this play in general just didn’t work out.

Whether it be doubling the ball handler, running drop coverage, or really just overall defense, the Knicks failed to guard this play time and time again. Often in the playoffs, the effectiveness of the pick and roll fails due to how predictable it is. However, the Knicks’ lack of discipline made it easy for Erik Spoelstra and the Heat to run the play continuously without fail.

New York needs to get better at sticking with the ball handler off the pick, especially with how well of a three-point shooting team the Heat have been in the postseason. Obviously, it’s a little difficult to do so when Bam Adebayo is constantly setting moving screens, but I digress.

Hopefully, Thibodeau and the Knicks can improve upon this entering Game 3 and the rest of the series. Butler is an excellent ball handler in the pick and roll and the Knicks cannot afford to let him get cooking on the perimeter.

1. Running a trap-based defense

With all due respect to Thibodeau, we don’t know what he was thinking with his defensive scheme in Game 2. While the players may not have executed it perfectly, running a trap-based defense while the opposing team is missing their best player is near malpractice.

The Heat may not be an incredibly talented team, but with a coach as smart as Spoelstra, they moved the ball incredibly well without their best player. Honestly, the ball movement was much smoother this game than it was in Game 1. The Heat aren’t the better team, but it’s reasonable to expect a more smooth offense when a team is missing the player who touches the ball the most.

This cost the Knicks a lot of points off the board, as it seemed as if almost every time a player had the ball and didn’t dribble there was a double sent. This led to simply far too many three-point shooters being left wide open, which would explain why the Heat took 49 threes in Game 2.

While thankfully, the Heat hit just 17 of their 49 attempts, this sort of defense is not sustainable at all, especially against this kind of team.

New York has a chance to turn the series around in Game 3 on Saturday. Thibodeau must learn from his mistakes in the first two games and make some serious adjustments. If this happens, the Knicks will have a real chance to pull out with another playoff series victory.