New York’s pick-up game defense neutralizes improved offense

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Win three in a row, lose three in a row. Beat the Heat, get swept on a home-and-home by the Pacers.

Getting a read on the New York Knicks with Carmelo Anthony is hard because they are so erratic. They are 6-6 since the trade drama ended and have looked both like the team nobody wants to face in the first round and have looked like a team that will be swept right out of the playoffs.

Why? Their defense.

John Schuhmann over at NBA.com broke down the numbers and found that since the trade the Knicks offense has improved from 107.6 points per 100 possessions to 109.6. The problem is the defense went from giving up 106.1 points per 100 possessions to 109.2.

Since the break, the Knicks have the fourth-best offense in the league, but the 24th-best defense. And it’s not like they’ve been playing some offensive juggernauts in that stretch. In fact, eight of their last 12 opponents are in the bottom half of the league offensively. They allowed the Pacers to shoot 54 percent over two games in the last few days, after Indiana shot just 41 percent over their previous six games.

He went a step farther and noticed when Amar’e Stoudemire and Anthony are on the court together, they allow 110.9 points per 100 possessions. The offense is at 110.5. So, essentially it’s a wash. We’ll add that the Knicks still have done the best when just Stoudemire is on the floor.

I hear the Knicks fans argument now — we traded away our depth to get two stars together. The defensive players can be put in place around them, but getting two stars had to be the priority. That is how you win a title. Plus, Chauncey Billups has been out for a number of those games.

Valid points. But the numbers are showing what our eyes have already seen — the Knicks have their stars but still have a long way to go to be contenders for anything. And that fixing the defense has got to be the off-season priority.