Knicks Abandon Identity In Low Scoring Game 1 Victory

The Knicks may have won their initial game against the Celtics, but it was in a very ugly manner. The offense was disjointed and the pace slow–in short, they played right into Bostons’ hands. Bostons’ biggest advantage is their ability to muck up the game, use the fewest amount of possessions, and, however cliche is sounds, grind the other team into a pulp. They may have won, but New York allowed the Celtics to do this to them in Game 1. If this type of play continues, the Knicks’ status as favorite in the series will become very tenuous.

The Knicks have been a potent offensive team this season mostly as a result of three things: pick and rolls, spacing, and ball movement. All of these things are deeply interconnected. They’ve developed into a spread pick and rolling, three point bombing attack; ironically what Mike D’Antoni always wanted them to be. At their best, Tyson Chandler is finishing alley-oops or sucking in weakside defenders from the three point line on pick and rolls. At their best, jab-step-hold-the-ball-for-7-seconds-jab-step-again-18-foot-jumper Melo is at a minimum, replaced by the skillful stylings of catch and shoot, pick and roll, and attack Melo. At their best, Jason Kidd and Iman Shumpert are stroking open three pointers after defenders rotate off of them to defend penetration.

The Knicks were not at their best Saturday afternoon.

Last week Zach Harper outlined the term “selfish ball movement.” There are two types of isolations. The good kind: a product of ball movement that makes it nearly impossible to help on the ISOer. The bad kind: when the ISOer brings up the ball and immediately ISOs or the whole goal of the offensive possession is to get the ISOer in possession with no other action.  Nobody else moves. No initial pick and roll, no nothing. Anthony has been incredibly successful on these “good” isolations and when he is lured the bad ones, the Knicks offense stagnates.

Against the Celtics there were a hell of a lot of bad ISOs.

Even in the rare instances they did pick and roll, the Knicks were generally unsuccessful. This was largely a function of the immobilized Tyson Chandler, his usually zealous rolls to the hoop nonexistent. But even then, the ball handlers were strangely apathetic, hesitant in attacking the basket post-pick, which idled movement and led to more late in the shot clock, offense suffocating isolations.

Unless New York cleans some things up on the offensive end, this series will not go their way despite the final result they achieved Saturday. Injury hobbling the defense-drawing Chandler aside, going away from literally everything that made the Knicks good during the regular season is, well, dumb, and could lead to a surprisingly quick elimination for the ‘Bockers if they don’t get back to what makes their offense click.

Pick and rolling and getting Melo space to operate off the catch or against on the move defenders will generate better looks for both Melo and his teammates than if they let the Boston defense key in on a predictable ISO.


  1. um, how about the part of the game where the Knicks held the Celtics to 25 second half points? will that still lead to a “surprisingly quick elimination”?

    to me – and I hopefully won’t eat these words – Boston had a very good chance to steal this game, and that might have been their best shot to win a game at MSG. But when push came to shove in an ugly game that Doc said “this is exactly where we want to be”, they couldn’t muster more than 8 points in the 4th quarter. When the game dynamic was exactly what they wanted it to be, they were (in relative terms) blown out in the 4th quarter — the quarter in which their playoff experience, Doc Rivers’s coaching edge over Woodson etc. was supposed to be the difference maker.

    I feel pretty good about this series.

  2. I feel like I agree with the analysis but not the conclusion, in that the fact they didn’t play well and got away from what makes them successful, but still won — semi-comfortably — actually makes me encouraged about the rest of the series, though can admit the first half was alarming.


  1. […] Offensively, this was not a good game for the Knicks. They rarely were able to get an effective pick and roll set going and much like Boston there was way too much isolation and a ton of bad shots taken. A whooping 33% of the Knicks offense ended in an isolation, according to Synergy, which is unacceptable. Those isolations weren’t ending in much offensive success, as the Knicks scored just 0.72 PPP in those situations. They weren’t getting good isolations either, where Melo was getting the ball on the elbow or in the low block. Many possessions started with Carmelo bringing the ball up the floor and finished with him taking a shot without having passed, or with Boston pushing him out to the perimeter and forcing more difficult shots. As a result, he had a poor game in the 2nd and 3rd quarters and finished 13-29 shooting. For more on the good/bad isolations, I direct you to our friends over at Hoopchalk, where Jacob Frankel wrote about this. […]

  2. cozy cove says:

    The Ships’s Voyages

    I feel engineering just makes it even worse. Now there is a channel to never ever treatment, now there will not likely be a probability for them to find.

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