Improving defense wasn’t the only contributing factor to the Knicks’ first four-game winning streak of the season, but recent numbers at this end of the field are impossible to ignore.
Sure, the expanded roles of second-year guards Quentin Grimes and Miles McBride have provided a tangible boost, but keeping their last four opponents to 92.8 ppg has been a team-wide effort, according to head coach Tom Thibodeau.
“I think Quentin and Deuce added a lot, but I don’t want to take away what the other guys did either,” Thibodeau said after Sunday’s 112-99 win over the Kings. “I think when you start digging into the numbers, you see it’s been pretty good.”
Thibodeau often says the defensive metric he watches and emphasizes most is his opponents’ field goal percentage, and the Knicks (14-13) rank fifth in the NBA in that category overall for the season at 44.7%.
Still, they held opponents to 39.1% from the floor during the winning streak, which would rank first in the league by a wide margin over a full season, with the Bucks the current leader at 44.6% overall. .
The much bigger disparity in wins over the Cavaliers, Hawks, Hornets and Kings came on the defensive perimeter. The Knicks limited their opponents to 22.1% from 3-point range, down from 35.5% on their 10-13 start. The current league leader – the Sixers – have allowed 33.1% conversions from long range this season.
“The defense just really picked up, making a conscious effort, especially guys like Deuce and Quentin, Quick, just peddling balls,” RJ Barrett said, also referring to reserve guard Immanuel Quickley. “And [center] Michael [Robinson], over there protecting the paint. It was huge for us. Try to keep things defensive as much as possible.
Grimes averaged 35.3 minutes per game over the streak, including a season-high 42 on Sunday, while McBride recorded 88 minutes over the four games. They have provided length and intensity at the defensive end since Cam Reddish and Derrick Rose were dropped from the rotation, although one of them could be reinserted Wednesday in Chicago depending on the availability of the starting point guard Jalen Brunson after sustaining a sprained ankle against the Kings.
“It’s just about playing hard, putting in the extra effort. We’re not going to be perfect every game, we’re going to make mistakes. As long as we give 110%, avoid our mistakes, we’ll be fine,” Grimes said. “I feel like we’ve done that in the last four games.
“It’s a young formation, the next one. It’s all young with me, Deuce, Quick, RJ, but it’s fun. These are guys you know. We have the same age gap, all 22 and under. I feel like it’s easier to go out there and play, have fun and go out there and win. It was fun hanging out with all the young guys.
During the winning streak, the Knicks also averaged 38.5 defensive rebounds per game, up from 33.8 on the previous 23. This contributed to a decrease in shots allowed (91.7 per game to 83.8) and 3-point attempts allowed (39.5 to 83.8). 34.0), hence fewer second-chance point opportunities in that span through Sunday.
Since their 122-100 loss to Dallas a week earlier, according to The Athletic, the Knicks have gone from 26th in points allowed per possession to a tie for 10th overall entering Monday’s league action.
“Really just a little more lockdown, you might say. We were pretty good defensively in the paint. But the 3-point line is where we were hurt,” Quickley said. “It was kind of a point of attention from Coach.
“We all have to talk, especially against shooters. Just try to get them to do something else they don’t want to do. … We try to make it difficult for everyone. Just try to make it a hard hit every time. That’s all you can really ask for. There are a lot of great players in this league making tough shots. You just try to make it as difficult for them as possible every game.”
New York Post