Preview and Chat: The New York Knicks

Kurt —  December 16, 2008

Golden State Warriors vs New York Knicks in New York
Records: Lakers 20-3 (1st in the West) Knicks 11-13 (9th in the East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 112.7 (3rd in league) Knicks 106.0 (19th in the league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 101.7 (3rd in league) Knicks 108.0 (20th in the league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Knicks Chris Duhon, Quentin Richardson, Wilson Chandler, David Lee, Al Harrington,

Lakers notes: Here are just a couple things from my venture to Staples the other night.

First is something that I mentioned in the comments of the last post: Kevin McHale said after the game that they tried to up the pace because the Timberwolves felt they had to. With the Lakers trap, it takes longer to run your half-court sets, so if you just walk the ball up and try to run it you end up against the clock, McHale said. He said you have to get into your offense with at least 15 seconds on the clock, or you struggle against the Lakers.

The bigger thing is this: The Lakers hear your criticism, they are aware that they are not playing at their peak and they are being criticized for it. And to a man, everyone asked brought up the word “execution,” saying they have good offensive and defensive systems when they execute it. But also, they are not panicked about it. I leave you with the post-game thoughts of Derek Fisher, who I think summed up the locker room mood:

“Things have really changed a lot. We’ve put ourselves to the point where if we win 120-108 we gave up to many points and if we win 98-86 it’s not pretty enough.”

Then he was asked if there is room for improvement with this team.

“There should be. If there wasn’t room for improvement in December [laughs]. It would be a very high goal for us to stay at that level through June and keep up our intensity.”

The Knicks Coming In: This is the second game of a back-to-back for the Knicks, who lost last night to the Suns. Brett Pollakoff of Fanhouse was there and sent me a couple thoughts:

Mike D’Antoni wasted no time at all implementing his up-tempo offense in New York. Last night in Phoenix, the team launched a preposterous 37 three-point attempts, many of them in transition with definitely less than seven seconds gone off the shot clock. Not to over-simplify things, but had they made more than five of them, they definitely would have had a pretty great shot to beat the Suns.

The downside for New York is, with this lineup and the tempo that they choose to play at, they have no inside presence defensively — at all. So if the Lakers begin the game by establishing Bynum in the post, limit their turnovers and don’t get sucked into the tempo by taking quick shots early in their possessions, then they should have little trouble beating this Knicks team.

The Knicks started the season 6-4, but have gone 5-9 since then. Yes, they miss the scoring of Randolph and Curry, but that’s not the biggest problem according to Mike from Knickerblogger:

Prior to the start of the season, I called the guard spot the Knicks “deepest“. D’Antoni had a rotation of Duhon, Crawford, Robinson, and Collins with Roberson and Marbury on the bench. However since then, New York traded Crawford and Collins, Robinson hurt himself, and Marbury has Marburied himself off the team. This has left the Knicks without any depth at guard. Over the last few games Duhon has played more than 40+ minutes in just about every game, Richardson has slid over to shooting guard, and D’Antoni has so little confidence in Roberson that he’s used 5 forwards on the floor instead of playing the team’s summer league signee.

D’Antoni’s system needs good guard play to thrive, and not only are they not getting it, they don’t look to be getting it from anywhere short of a trade.

Keys To The Game: Remember way back when Loyola Marymount made a run to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament, with Bo Kimball shooting free throws left handed and Paul Westhead as the coach? They did it, beating established teams, because their extreme run-and-gun style threw more traditional teams off their game. Those teams didn’t know how to react. That was until LMU ran into UNLV, a team with athletes like Stacy Augman and Larry “Grandmamma” Johnson that wanted to get out and run too, and they had far, far more talent. The result was UNLV was comfortable and blew out the Lions.

I bring that up because this game is sort of like that – these are the teams playing at the first (Knicks) and third (Lakers) fastest pace in the league. But, the Lakers have far more talent, they are better suited to this style and should be able to run away from New York.

One key will be the Lakers recently shaky transition defense. As Brett Edwards said, this Knicks run back and are happy to do the PUJIT, you have to have you man in transition. Bynum and Gasol run the floor well for seven footers, but Al Harrington has thrived and scored in this system. If Bynum and Gasol don’t get back the Lakers may need to go smaller. Another reason to get back — the Knicks shoot 54.6% (eFG%) in the first 10 seconds of the shot clock but that falls to 47% if you can get them into the next five seconds. The Lakers need to get back, and if not slow the Knicks down they need to prevent layups and force those PUJITs.

Offensively, the Lakers bigs should dominate. The front line of the Knicks is 6-8. 6-9. 6-9. Bynum and Pau should feast.

But that means getting the ball inside — the Lakers have been bad about this. Or when they do the ball kicks back out but doesn’t rotate to the other side. The Laker bigs should be able to score even against doubles tonight, but if they kick out we need ball movement with passes.

Where you can watch: This game is on Fox Sports here in LA and NBATV nationwide. For some odd reason, when NBA TV shows the game, you can’t get it on NBA Broadband, something that is rather silly.