There were 28 games remaining in the season when the New York Knicks traded for Carmelo Anthony. Fourteen of those games have now been played, and the new-look Knicks record in those games stands at 7-7. This shouldn’t come as that big of a surprise. That other team in South Beach started the season with a record of just 9-8 after 17 games.
It takes a while for superstar-laden teams to gel, to gain chemistry, to really find their stride. What makes the Knicks record so surprising is the fact that they are 1-5 against teams with under .500 records. This of course also means that the Carmelo-led Knicks are 6-2 against teams with above .500 records.
So what’s the difference? Why do the Knicks struggle against bad teams, while thriving against better ones?
First, and most importantly, it comes down to defense. In six games against opponents with records under .500 (amazingly all from the Central Division—Cleveland and Indiana twice, Milwaukee and Detroit once each), the Knicks are allowing 111 points per game on 48.6 percent from the field and 42.5 percent from three.
In eight games against teams with above .500 records [Miami, Orlando, New Orleans, Utah, Dallas, Atlanta, Memphis (2)], the Knicks allow just 101.5 points per game on 47.1 percent from the field and 34.5 percent from three.
That really just comes down to effort and intensity. The Knicks get up for big games and bring the defensive intensity. When they are playing lesser opponents, they relax because they think they can coast on their offensive talent.
Whose fault is it that the Knicks can't beat bad teams?
Offensively, there is not much difference in how the Knicks have played against good teams versus how they have fared against bad teams.
The Knicks score 109.6 points per game on 49.8 percent from the field and 40 percent from three in games against teams with under .500 records. In games against teams with over .500 records, those numbers are 108.7 points per game on 47.6 percent from the field and 41.5 percent from three.
They actually average 0.9 less points per game against above .500 teams and shoot a worse percentage from the field by 2.2 percent. They shoot 1.5 percent better from three.
It really is all about defense. Defense is all about effort and intensity. The Knicks need to realize that offense alone will not win games for them and bring their defensive intensity every night.