The Knicks left the 1st Quarter with a surmountable 6 point deficit. Although New York didn’t play great defense surrendering 33 points in the 1st, the entire starting lineup posted offensive ratings over 128 and positive net ratings. It was a different story for the bench, with the subs posting net ratings of -97 or worse in the 1st Quarter. The defensive woes continued for the rest of the game, along with poor bench play. The Nuggets finished the game with 129 points and their bench outscored the Knicks bench 74-54. The Knicks offense posted 30 points in the 3rd Quarter, but failed to score 20 points in both the 2nd and 4th Quarter. Shooting woes continued for New York, shooting 41% from the floor, 26.5% from three, and 65.2% from the foul line. Ball movement continued to be an issue for the Knicks, only making 280 passes in this game, well below their goal of 300 and the Nuggets total of 314 passes. The Knicks tallied 23 assists which is reasonable, but 15 less than the Nuggets 38. The Knicks biggest issue in this game, which has been prevalent all season, was defending the three-point line. Denver shot 21-39 (53.8%) from three. The Knicks had an extremely hard time stopping the Nuggets after swing-swing-swing possessions that resulted in the Knicks leaving Denver shooters wide open in the corner (the Nuggets shot 7/10 from the right-corner, three). Amazingly, the Nuggets scored 129 points and their star player, Nikola Jokic, only scored 6 points. Denver was led on offense by Will Barton (17 points), who I highlighted in my pregame writeup. A balanced attack pushed Denver to their 37 point victory, with 8 players reaching double figures in points. The Knicks top 3 scorers on the season, Marcus Morris Sr. (18.3 PPG), Julius Randle (16.8 PPG), and RJ Barrett (14.4 PPG), combined for 25 points on 10-32 (31.3%) from the floor. The lone bright spot for the Knicks in this game was the play of Mitchell Robinson. Robinson scored 17 points on an efficient 6-8 (75%) shooting. Robinson also racked in 7 rebounds, 2 steals, and a blocked shot. He’s been efficient and had an impressive motor all season (with a FG% of 68.5%, while averaging 6.7 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in just 21 minutes of action). Robinson’s issue has been playing time, only being able to record 21 minutes per game due to his struggles with fouling (averaging 3.6 personal fouls per game and has fouled out 4 times this season). The best part of Mitch’s stat-line in this game, was not recording a foul.
Why The Knicks Lost
The Knicks lost this game because of their poor rotations on defense, leading to lots of open threes for Denver and subpar offense. Denver shot from three at a clip of 53.8%, 2x better than the Knicks 26.5% from deep. The Nuggets tallied a ridiculous, 60 uncontested field goal attempts. The Knicks only took 41 uncontested shots. Denver knocked down 35 of those chances and the Knicks only made 12 uncontested shots. In the NBA, team’s will kill you if you leave them open and the Nuggets did that in this one.
The Knicks give up the 3rd most threes in the league (13.5 per game) and allow opponents to shoot 38.6% from three (second worst in the league). New York needs to make significant changes on defense, otherwise teams will continue to burn them from deep. On offense, ball movement has plagued the Knicks. However, the Knicks are 12th in the NBA, making 295.5 passes per game. So how can ball movement be the problem? Well for starters the Knicks are dead last in the NBA, averaging 19.8 assists per game. This could be attributed to their poor shooting, but if you take a deeper look into the numbers, that isn’t the main issue. New York is 27th in the NBA in potential assists per game (41.4). Okay, maybe that’s due to New York playing a slow pace, but they are still efficient. That’s also incorrect as New York is last in the NBA in assist to pass percentage (6.7). Clearly the issue is not that the Knicks don’t pass the ball enough, but rather their passes are not effective/generate scoring chances. This can be attributed to the Knicks lack of paint touches, only 20.1 per game (26th in the NBA). This is remarkable as New York leads the NBA in offensive rebounding (12 per game) and are 6th in the NBA in post-ups (11.4 per game). The Knicks purposely utilize big lineups and play through big man, Julius Randle, who leads them in usage rate (25.7%). New York’s issues in paint touches and ball movement both can arise from the main issue of the Knicks motion offense. The Knicks are 7th in the NBA in hand-offs (frequency of 6%), yet are 27th in the NBA in scoring efficiency on them (33.1%). New York is 5th in the NBA in postups, at a frequency of 7.1%. New York is 25th in the NBA in points per possession (0.81) on post-ups. The Knicks are last in the NBA in cut frequency (3.7%). Meanwhile, the Knicks are 13th in the NBA, averaging 1.27 points per possession on shot attempts after a cut. That is a much higher rate of efficiency on scoring off cuts, than on both post-ups and hand-offs. One thing is clear; for the Knicks to improve, they need to make some changes. Their defense and offense are both clearly flawed and must be adjusted.