Tyson Chandler put the exclamation point on one of the greatest comebacks in New York Knicks history Monday, preserving a 22-point comeback with the defensive play of the game and helping the Knicks to their first win in Cleveland since 2006.
With six ticks on the clock and the Knicks up by three,
Coach Byron Scott put the ball in the hands of [Kyrie] Irving. The dazzling point guard couldn't beat Tyson Chandler off the dribble and then had his 3-pointer with 3.5 seconds left blocked cleanly by New York's 7-foot-1 center. (via ESPN)
Ask fans who they think the most valuable Knick is, and they will all almost certainly say Carmelo Anthony. They’re probably right.
But Tyson Chandler is not far behind.
Anthony has missed part or all of nine games this season due to injury, including this comeback against the Cleveland Cavaliers. At about seven minutes in the second quarter, and the Knicks down by 52-30, Anthony left the game with a knee injury.
But in the nine absentee games, New York is 5-4. That should put to rest any thoughts that the Knicks are a better team without Anthony. They’re not.
In many ways, though, they are equally doomed without Tyson Chandler. Without Chandler, and with Iman Shumpert slumping and Rasheed Wallace and Marcus Camby out, the Knicks would have no defense at all. They would be the worst rebounding team in the NBA, too.
In fact, Mike Woodson is trying to spread Chandler’s D across the starting and backup lineups. Per the New York Times, the coach
put Tyson Chandler on the floor with the reserve crew of Amar’e Stoudemire, J. R. Smith, Steve Novak and Pablo Prigioni. Prigioni helped the Knicks excel on pick-and-rolls, which created space for Stoudemire to score inside or to pass to an open Smith or Novak on the perimeter. Chandler protected the paint, and the Knicks were strong on the glass. Woodson said he made the switch because he wanted Chandler to help the reserves on defense.
Offense? Without Chandler and with Amar’e Stoudemire still working on his minutes, the Knicks would not average 100 points a game. Chandler adds over 11 points a night to the league’s 10th-best scoring attack of 100.1.
He leads the NBA in offensive rebounds and also field goal percentage—on a team that too-often shoots with poor accuracy (see: J.R. Smith).
The reigning Defensive Player of the Year is having as good a season this year as last and on both sides of the ball. He’s putting up some career numbers as well.
Like those 28 boards against the Golden State Warriors, the most he’s ever had in a game. Chandler is on a pace to break his single-season high of 928 rebounds. He is one away from five 20-rebound games, his personal record.
In the Knicks' 21 losses, Chandler has scored in double digits 10 times and had 10 or more rebounds 13 times, combining for seven double-doubles. Overall, you can maybe blame the center for poor play in just five defeats.
In New York’s latest slump (5-6 in their last 11), Chandler is averaging a double-double (10 points, 10 rebounds) in the six losses. In the loss to the Toronto Raptors, he had five blocks.
Chandler is holding up his part of the bargain and then some.
Of course Anthony is the best and most important player on the Knicks, but given the current makeup of this team’s roster and taking into account the play of Eastern Conference rivals like the Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls, Chandler is equally as critical.
If Anthony goes down, the Knicks could still survive with an increasingly robust Amar’e Stoudemire scoring 22 per 36 minutes and Chandler anchoring the defense. They would be able to secure a top-half seed and thus, hopefully, avoid a first-round playoff exit at least.
New York’s season would end just the same minus Chandler instead.
Worse? Would New York lay another one-and-out in the postseason without their center?
The Knicks actually have a better chance of winning with Chandler on the floor over Anthony, according to the more-advanced “win shares” statistical category—“number of wins contributed by a player due to his offense/defense.” Chandler is the team leader in both categories.
All stats used in this article are accurate as of Mar. 4, 2013.