Wednesday, January 12, 2005

(Guest post) - How to Beat the Knicks

[In honor of the Knicks-Bulls matchup this weekend, today's blog comes from KnickerBlogger, a born & bred New Yorker. Matt's post today is published on KnickerBlogger's site.]

Matt kindly asked me to guest blog for the upcoming back-to-back games between our two respective teams. I've actually been to Chicago. Some of my clearest memories are driving on Michigan Avenue, and passing all the major stadiums: Comiskey Park, Soldier Field, the United Center, and of course Wrigley Field.

Now I know all about being in Rome, and since I'm in enemy territory I'll suppress the urge to get revenge for the years of anguish I suffered under his reign. I promise not to bring up how the Bulls traded away three all stars in Brand, Miller, and Artest, if you promise not to mention the forbidden one. Deal?

Now that's all squared away, let's get down to business. Hmmm let me see... what would a Bulls audience want to hear about? I could do a historical look of the matchups, but we just promised not to relive those days (for my benefit, of course). So what would today's Chicagoan want to hear about with a match-up against their one-time hated rival? How about a handbook on how to beat the Knicks?

The Knicks defense is plain awful, ranked 27th and are second worst in opponent shooting percentage (49.5% eFG). That means they're easier to score on than Hilton and Richie. The Knicks just don't have the personnel nor the scheme to contain any team. 99% of the time you're going to see a plain vanilla man-to-man defense. New York does not rotate well, so don't take the first shot you see (unless of course you're wide open). The Knicks have fooled around with a zone in recent games, but it's been just ineffective. You won't see any traps or presses, so feel free to bring the ball up the court at any speed you're comfortable with.

The Bulls' guards will be able to penetrate since Houston's bum knee will keep him from playing passable defense, and Starbury's mind will be busy pondering how he's going to score on the next possession. If you get past those guys (and believe me you will), don't worry. There's no Patrick Ewing waiting in the lane, salivating at the thought of another blocked shot. Nor will Charles Oakley be looking for a new way to knock down the encroaching player. Instead you might be met by offensive minded Nazr Mohammed, or Kurt Thomas, who's well past his good defensive days.

There is one familiar face that Bulls fans will have to worry about. Due to injury, Jerome Williams the self styled "Junk Yard Dog" will be starting at SF. He's playing shut down defense at SF (7.4 oPER), but is more vulnerable when moving to PF (21.9 oPER). His replacement, Trevor Ariza is also someone to keep an eye out for. The teenage rookie doesn't have the experience to be a shut down defender yet (and you've probably seen Trevor throw his hands up in exasperation after King James ran right past him for a poster-worthy dunk). However "Air Riza" has a good nose for the ball, and is likely to strip an unaware player, blaze into the passing lane on a lazy pass, or come out of nowhere to steal a rebound. Make sure you keep an eye on this guy for the 15 minutes that Lenny allows him to be on the court.

When you allow your opponents to score half the time, you have to have a good offense to just stay near .500. The Knicks offense is ranked 14th, which isn't fantastic, but is formidable. It all starts with Marbury, who's having a great offensive season (21.9 PER). He's relentless when going to the hoop, and can burn you with the three from the top. His ability to break down the defense, and dish it has turned Nazr Mohammed into a near All Star (20.0 PER). Marbury has turned Kurt Thomas into a jump shooting PF, by keeping him out on the perimeter for pick & rolls. Thomas will knock down that shot, but the positive aspect for Bulls fans is that he'll be too far away to make any difference on the offensive glass.

Allan Houston is still working himself into shape. He's hitting the open shot, but like Daniel Bayly, he just can't get around like he used to. The best way to stop the Knicks' offense is wait for the reserves. Moochie Norris (35.1% eFG), Trevor Ariza (41.8%), and Vin Baker (31.8%) just can't shoot. Mike Sweetney (53.6% 18.2PER) is day-to-day, but even when he is suited up to play Wilkens keeps him on a ridiculously short leash (16MIN, 4.6FGA).

If you're intent on stopping the Knicks' offense, one easy way is throw the zone at them. One theory is the zone makes Marbury have Olympic flashbacks, but against it the Knicks' offense just comes to a grinding halt. The Magic went to it successfully

This is the second time in a row the Knicks have lost despite leading at the half. Against the Magic they were stymied by a second half zone defense. New York's offense just ground to a halt, as they lacked good ball movement and confidence in hitting an open jumper.

and so did the Wizards:

I should mention that once again Marbury had what appeared to be a poor floor game. The two turnovers he is charged with mask how poorly he ran the team down the stretch. He simply does not operate well against zone defenses.

So there you have it. Wait for the open shot. Beat the guards on the perimeter. Look out for JYD & Ariza. Hope to contain Marbury. Laugh when Moochie Norris and Vin Baker are on the court. How to beat the Knicks in a nutshell.