Can NY Knicks Grind out Wins When Hot Shooting Cools Off?

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Can NY Knicks Grind out Wins When Hot Shooting Cools Off?
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The New York Knicks offensive explosion will continue, and they will still be able to grind out wins on those off nights.

The Knicks are winning in great part thanks to their hot shooting. They boast the sixth-best field-goal percentage in the league (46 percent) and second-best three-point percentage (42 percent).

The result of this accuracy is a top-five NBA offense that has also made the most three-pointers, by a wide margin. The Knicks have scored at least 100 points in 75 percent of their games and have drubbed opponents by double figures in 10 of their 12 wins.

Carmelo Anthony is in the best shape of his Knicks career, and maybe his NBA career. His shooting is as good as it’s ever been, near or matching his better years in Denver.

Tyson Chandler is leading the league in field-goal percentage (again) at 71 percent—the only player “shooting” over 60 percent in the NBA.

Jason Kidd, J.R. Smith, Ronnie Brewer and Steve Novak are all padding the percentages, and even rookies Chris Copeland and James White have shown shot-selection beyond their experience.

In fact, almost the whole team has been remarkably accurate. One can point the finger only at Rasheed Wallace, Kurt Thomas and Marcus Camby as the lone Knicks not contributing on the precision front. But who needs them for that anyway?

Amar’e Stoudemire’s return will only reinforce the Knicks’ sharpshooting: He takes mostly high-percentage shots and usually hovers around 50 percent from the floor.

Drew Hallowell/Getty Images
Amar'e Stoudemire Will Improve Knicks' Accuracy
Clearly, the Knicks have no shortage of hot hands, but the team’s offensive numbers will come down, at least a little, to Earth. Injuries, adapting defenses and the long season will cool off New York’s sizzling production a bit.

It’s reasonable to suggest the Knicks will wind up somewhere in the low-40s and mid- to high-30s for their floor and long-range shooting, respectively.

This is no cause for concern. Even at those levels, New York will remain one of the best shooting teams in the game.

To balance out those predicted season percentages above with what the Knicks are putting up now requires some inaccurate games ahead, though. Inevitably, they are going to have a bunch of relatively bad shooting nights. Right?

The question is: How will the Knicks handle it, and will they still be able to grind out wins on those off-nights and multi-game slumps? Several layers of evidence point to “yes.”

Or, in the first case, lack of evidence. There is no proof that the Knicks are slowing down yet.

Maybe they won’t.

In fact, their shooting (especially long range) has gotten slightly more precise in the last eight games, though admittedly against worse defending opponents. All the better to collect those should-win games.

But if the likely scenario of a downturn in the Knicks shooting arises, there is proof New York will still pick up wins most of the time. They’ve already done so.

In the Knicks' eight best and eight worst shooting games, the team has identical records (6-2). There is a difference, though: Defense.

It’s more about the defense than anything else.

Even including the Houston Rockets 131-point debacle, the Knicks gave up fewer points, on average, in their eight least accurate games. They also held opponents to a lower shooting percentage (a noticeable 47 to 43 percent).

Not so ironically, the Knicks are just a .500 club when shooting over 50 percent. They lost to the Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks after shooting 51 percent against each.

The culprit in both those losses, and the one against the Rockets, was not poor shooting on the Knicks' part. It was poor defending.

Regardless of how they shoot, the Knicks are 2-3 when opponents are good 49 percent of the time, or more, from the field.

Admittedly, these are small sets of numbers to work with. The season is just one-fifth in. But the moral of the story is this:

Barring a barrage of injuries, the Knicks will continue to be among the best shooting and highest-scoring teams in the league for the remainder of 2012-13. That is the baseline for competing for the Atlantic title and a low playoff seed.

But in the end, it is their defense that finds the Knicks winning on those nights when they can’t find the basket.

Stats as of the end of Dec. 4 play. Sources: basketball-reference.com and nba.com.

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