In the seminal NBA advanced stats book “Basketball on Paper,” Dean Oliver identifies his four factors in winning a basketball game. At the top of the list is the most obvious thing — shooting. It represents 40 percent of the outcome, Oliver said.
The Suns shot better than the Knicks in a Sunday matinee at Madison Square Garden — the Suns shot 48.8 percent to the Knicks 44.4 percent. To be more accurate, use eFG% (which gives you a bonus for made threes, just like the shot does) and you find the Suns were at 53.7 percent to the Knicks 51.1 percent.
But shooting alone is not going to win you a game. The second and third things on Oliver’s list are turnovers (25% of the outcome) and rebounding, specifically getting offensive rebounds (20%).
Those areas are what propelled the Knicks over the Suns 106-99.
The Suns had 17 turnovers to the Knicks 7 — the Suns turned the ball over without a shot on 18 percent of their possessions (the Knicks it was 8.7 percent). New York also may not have shot as well but they grabbed the offensive rebound on 32 percent of their misses and got another look at it.
Those factors made it a comfortable win for the Knicks. Well, until the final quarter when the Knicks coasted, the Suns played a little more desperate and it got closer than it should have. But this game never felt in doubt from the opening minutes.
The Suns were the Suns to start this game — eight first quarter turnovers, a technical foul for Michael Beasley who threw his headband into the crowd in frustration after a turnover, and the Knicks went on a 17-2 run and the Suns were down 11 early.
But when Carmelo Anthony went out with a second foul (offensive, for using his arm to hook a guy in the post, something he does a lot but usually gets away with it) the Suns came back on a 14-3 run. The Knicks bench looked like the noon start was far too early for their old bodies. It was a four point game after one quarter.
The first quarter also had the best highlight of the game. And of course it involved Rasheed Wallace.
Wallace picked a technical foul for some extra contact on Luis Scola after the whistle on a foul. It was a classic Sheed technical, not the “kinder, gentler” Sheed we were promised this year, and of course Wallace thought it was a bad call because he thinks every foul called on him in the last decade was a bad call. When Goran Dragic missed the technical foul, Sheed yelled his classic line “ball don’t lie.” And the ref gave him a quick and petty second tech for that. Still classic Wallace, not knowing or caring where the line is.
With Wallace showering in time to catch the 1 p.m. NFL games, and Marcus Camby out injured, it meant more run for rookie Chris Copeland and he looked good — 8 points on 4-of-5 shooting. He puts the ball on the floor well and used that to drive on the Suns players — like Carmelo, Copeland is more effective for the Knicks when they use him as the four and he has mismatches he can exploit with his handles.
New York took control of the game the second quarter, with Carmelo not really being efficient but getting the job done on the block (17 first half points on 6-of-15 shooting). ‘Melo finished with 34 points on 11-of-27 shooting for the game.
As laid out before, the Suns dozen first half turnovers and the Knicks getting the offensive rebound on 36 percent of their missed shots was the key to the Knicks taking control. New York was up 17 at the break.
The Knicks stayed in control and this game should have been done there. Marcin Gortat was efficient — 18 points on 11 shots — but he’s not a guy who can take over a game. Shannon Brown did what he has done all season — gun without a conscious. He had 17 points but was 6-of-16 shooting.
The Knicks relaxed in the fourth and Suns tried to make it interesting —they got the lead down to 4 in the final minute, but the game never felt in doubt. Mostly because Raymond Felton took charge and after a not great shooting game to hit some big shots. He finished with 23.
For the Knicks, it was a professional win — the better team, the one that fancies itself a contender, taking care of business. Would have been nice to get a blowout and rest the stars some at the end, but still a pretty easy Sunday in New York.