clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

What's wrong with the Knicks offense? Defense and isolation

New, comments

Too much hero ball, not enough trust, ...does this sound familiar?

USA TODAY Sports

The Knicks are a good offensive team. At least they were in the regular season where they had an offensive efficiency rating of 108.6 - good for 3rd in the league. During the playoffs, however, they are down to 96.3 which is 4th worst of the playoff teams. The only teams worse are either eliminated already (Bucks and Lakers) or the Celtics (91.7 ...ouch).

You have to give a lot of credit to the Celtics for playing great defense, but I think some blame goes to the Knicks for playing flat out bad offense. One indicator of bad offense is not enough ball movement and too much isolation play. For as much as we tear our hair out at seeing Paul Pierce alone at the top of the key with the seconds winding down, that has been a huge part of the Melo-centric offense for the Knicks.

Here are some stats from Couper Moorhead.

Knicks vs. Celtics: Funeral talk, shaky offense costing New York - SBNation.com

As one of the league's best offenses during the regular season, the Knicks used 15.9 isolations per game. In the playoffs, it's been 26.6.

Further, those 26.6 isolations per game for NYK would be the most for any playoff team since at least 2004 (as far back as Synergy goes).

Also, those 26.6 isolations per game? The Knicks are scoring .707 points per possession with them. Lowest of any playoff team.

So is that a case of Melo dominating the ball and freezing out his teammates? Sometimes but not always. This is where you have to give credit to the defense. The initial play isn't executed properly or gets blown up by good rotations and so they have to default to Plan B.

Autoflagellation and other Knicks-Celtics Game 5 Leftovers - Posting and Toasting

And make no mistake: The amount of iso the Knicks are running isn't normal or healthy. And again: It's not that New York is just handing off to Melo or J.R. Smith and falling asleep every time down. They're doing that too often, but the other problem is attempting initial action-- a basic high pick-and-roll, the double hand-off, or more unusual pick-and-rolls with Melo as the screener or screenee-- failing, then having no other option but to go iso. Play calls get busted for all kinds of reasons-- bad screens, bad spacing, just great defense-- and the Knicks need to be ready to do some other **** when that happens.

If any of this sounds familiar it is likely because the Celtics fall into this more often than we'd like as well. So the answer is the same thing that Doc has been preaching all series and all season long. "Don't be a hero. Trust your teammates and make the extra pass."

In the first 3 games, they didn't do that so well. Lately, however, things have been picking up.

Celtics have what it takes to beat the Knicks -Celtics blog - Boston Globe basketball news

That trust was on display in Game 5. In some cases Celtics players waited for things to open up, the result of several extra passes finding Jason Terry or Jeff Green for one of Boston's 11 3-pointers. In others, it was a trust of the system and each other. A reverse bounce pass from Pierce to Garnett in the first half split three defenders and found Garnett for the dunk. An inch one way or the other and that's a turnover, but each player trusted the other to do the right thing. The result was 92 points on 46 percent shooting, the Celtics' highest shooting percentage of the series.

Which brings us back to the Knicks. As good as the Celtics defense is, if the Knicks stick to their gameplan and execute passes, they'll find open shooters on the perimeter where they love to take those long 3's. Scorers like Melo and Smith don't get discouraged easily. They just keep on shooting and have the confidence that the next one is going in. Before long, someone on the Knicks might get hot and I don't know if the Celtics have it in them to win a shootout.

Here's hoping that at least a little bit of doubt is creeping into their heads now that they've blown 2 opportunities to put this series away. Hopefully Carmelo will think that he has to win the game all by himself and resort back to more and more hero-ball. Hopefully they don't trust each other and limit their own effectiveness by not making the extra pass. Basically, I hope they keep doing what they have been doing on offense while our guys start to score more.