Fate May Keep Knicks From Familiar Trap

If you follow me on Twitter (@ArtRondeau), you know that I believe that the Knicks lost game 1 to the Celtics in the 3rd quarter, not in the 4th.  During those 12 minutes, they only scored 13 points and a 12-point lead shrank to 5.  With all the uproar about the questionable offensive foul called on Carmelo Anthony with 21 seconds left in the game and about the trip that wasn’t called against Kevin Garnett when he took Toney Douglas to the ground as Ray Allen hit the game winning 3-pointer with 11 seconds left, none of it would have mattered if the Knicks had scored only 16 points in the 3rd.  And, let’s face it, a 16-point quarter in a Mike D’Antoni offense would be almost as much cause for alarm as the 13-point quarter is.

Although I’ll soon be posting something about the Knicks’ alarming pattern of poor second half play, this post only deals with game 1 and why Toney Douglas starting may be a temporary, but unintentional, game 2 fix for what ailed the Knicks on Sunday.  As we’ll see, Sunday’s issues were issues during the regular season as well.

Sunday’s game fit neatly into the pattern first identified in The 46% Solution (posted on 3/21/11) and updated in The 46% Solution – Revised (posted on 4/14/11 https://artrondeau.wordpress.com/2011/04/14/the-46-solution-revised/).  This is the trend where the Knicks win about 80% of the games where they shoot 46% or more from the floor but only win about 20% of the games where they shoot less than 46%.  Sunday’s 42.3% effort (33-78) resulting in a loss was not a surprise based on a trend first identified during the ’08-’09 season and prevalent throughout ’10-’11 as well (I haven’t analyzed ’09-’10 box scores.)

Similarly, what contributed to the bad 3rd quarter was previously covered in What Goes Around Needs to be Spread Around (posted on 3/28/11 https://artrondeau.wordpress.com/2011/03/28/what-goes-around-needs-to-be-spread-around/).  There are at least two items from that post that applied to Sunday’s 3rd quarter:

First, when Amar’e Stoudemire and/or Carmelo Anthony don’t shoot for four minutes of game clock time or more, it seems to cause problems.  Those problems may be game-flow related and/or related to more missed field goals when Amar’e or Carmelo eventually starts shooting again.  In Sunday’s 3rd quarter, Amar’e took 2 free throws at 10:26 and then didn’t shoot again for over 4 minutes (6:16).  Although he hit that shot, he missed his next two before going out for a sub.

Second, whenever Amar’e and/or Carmelo take too many shots, it impacts the overall shooting of the rest of the team.  Just as Amar’e and Carmelo need to shoot regularly to stay loose, so too do the rest of the players.  Suffice it to say that when Carmelo took 9 of the 27 shots in the quarter (and made only 1), it not only impacted Amar’e (see above) but the rest of the team as well.

Recommendations for dealing with these issues are in both of the blogs postings mentioned above.  But the Knicks have personnel issues for game 2 and those may help them avoid another reason that they often shoot < 46%.  The Toney Douglas factor.

I like Toney’s game, as do a number of Knicks fans.  Unfortunately, one of the more noticeable trends when the < 46% games are analyzed is that Toney takes a lot of shots in those games.  A lot of shots.  This tends to cause the large blocks of time where Amar’e and/or Carmelo are frozen out of the offense.  It also causes the rest of the team to go cold as well.

Toney taking a lot of shots upsets the balance, regardless of how many shots he makes.  When he hits a lot of them, the Knicks win the rare < 46% game.  When he misses a lot of them, the Knicks put another L into the 80% loss category.

Usually, Toney is taking those shots on top of what Amar’e, Carmelo, and Chauncey Billups are taking.  That, in part, causes the imbalance (when he takes a bunch of shots in a row, it causes the Amar’e/Carmelo freeze outs).  In game 2, however, Chauncey is out and some of his shots will end up going to Toney.  That may help to keep the offense from getting too far out of balance.

Also, as the starting point guard, Toney will be expected to get Amar’e and Carmelo into the offense from the start.  If Toney distributes the ball to the rest of the team, hits a lot of his shots, and makes sure that he doesn’t take too many of those shots in a row, the Knicks will have the offense needed to win the game.  And if they bring the defensive intensity that they did in game 1, they’ll leave Boston with a split and greatly improve their chances of a first round upset.  Film at 11.

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