There is a buzz circulating around NYC as of late. For the past week, the Knicks have actually been playing some decent basketball. They’ve won three in a row and four of their last five (three of which were against winning teams). Coach Mike D’Antoni’s troops have definitely played harder and more importantly, they’ve been playing some defense. Last night against the Blazers, the Knicks forced 19 turnovers and blocked six shots. By the third quarter, New York was blowing out Portland.
Usually, the Knicks are down in the second half by double-digits and are forced to expend a ton of energy just to fight back into games. Lately, it seems they have done a better job not waiting until late into the games to show a pulse. While the Knicks have been killing it this week, I wouldn’t jump on the bandwagon just yet. There are still several areas of concern they must address before you can even start mentioning the “p word.”
Guys need defined roles: Yesterday, Dime’s Austin Burton talked about how Al Harrington has emerged as the team’s go-to-guy, but has also faced some inconsistent minutes. D’Antoni has been shuffling his rotation ever since opening night. Remember when Larry Hughes was blacklisted from the lineup for the first few games? Now it’s Nate Robinson who is racking up the DNP-CD’s. Everyone from Harrington to Toney Douglas have had undefined roles. In order for the Knicks to continue to play well, D’Antoni needs to come up with a more consistent rotation and each player should have a specific role.
They live and die by the three: The Knicks have played better D, but it seems like they rely too much on three-pointers. The Knicks are 5-2 when they shoot over 40 percent from beyond-the-arc. The Knicks are leading the league in three-point attempts at 27.6 per game and they are 7-15 this season. The team needs to find other ways to score in the half-court, whether it is more drives by Wilson Chardler and Harrington or more pick-and-rolls between Chris Duhon and David Lee. The fact that they don’t have a strong inside presence is going to hurt them as they make a push for the playoffs. Jared Jeffries plays his ass off on D, but there’s no way he’ll be able to guard guys like Dwight Howard.
The point guard situation: It’s no secret, Duhon has struggled this season. And even though I just talked about how D’Antoni has been indecisive with different players’ minutes and roles, he’s been consistent with Duhon by keeping him as the starting point guard. Duhon hasn’t shot the ball well, but does a decent job running the offense. Though he starts, he rarely finishes as D’Antoni has opted to go with Hughes down the stretch. Hughes has point guard skills but because of matchups, I’m not sure he can be the full-time point guard. I think Douglas deserves more minutes if they want him to develop. His point guard skills aren’t refined, but he plays every possession hard on both sides of the court.
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