It’s not all offense, the Knicks defense has taken step back, too

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We’ve spent a lot of time talking about the Knicks offense and how they have faired trying to integrate Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire with Jeremy Lin (and throw in J.R. Smith to spice things up). It’s been inconsistent — some games Anthony seems to want to work off the ball, then there was the Dallas game where he stood around a lot on the wing.

But that’s only half the story.

While everyone was raving about Lin when he exploded on the scene the Knicks were quietly playing fantastic defense against a soft schedule — that was the fuel that allowed Linsanity to burn.

Since the return of the big names the Knicks defense hasn’t been bad, but it has returned to earth. Zach Lowe broke out all the numbers in a fantastic post at Sports Illustrated.

During (Jeremy Lin’s first) eight games, against that same weak schedule and with the same depleted roster, New York allowed 93.7 points per 100 possessions. That would be the stingiest mark in the league over the full season. In simple terms: The Knicks’ defense was the driving force of their success during Lin’s emergence…

The defense has allowed 99.6 points per 100 possessions since Carmelo’s return, a better-than-average mark that nonetheless constitutes a major drop-off from the stingy number (93.7) that they allowed with Lin/without Anthony. In the long run, it’s probably a good sign, or at least not a bad one, that New York has been slightly better than average on defense in a relatively tough six-game stretch while re-integrating two subpar defenders in Anthony and Stoudemire.

There are a lot of factors with what is going on with the Knicks. Teams are getting up for them and Lin in particular in a way the Knicks are just starting to adjust to. More importantly, they are facing a lot better teams now.

Then there is the defense — it’s good but not great like it was. So far the offense has not been able to make up that gap. If the Knicks ever get both ends of the floor going at the same time, they would be the third best team in the East. But right now, they can’t get there consistently.