(Editor’s note: I was a little too busy today so I’m sorry in advance I couldn’t achieve my usual length and (hopefully) insightful analysis)
What the Knicks do well: Getting to the rim
They get to the rim a lot. I’m a big proponent of evaluating team shot locations because it can give you a nice look at a teams shot selection (or lack thereof). And naturally, shots at the rim are always a good thing. They happen because of solid offensive execution and aggressiveness. Because these shots are so close in proximity, they are converted at a much more efficient rate than any other shot on the floor. Makes intuitive sense, right? The average team has a .621 FG% from shots at the rim which represents a much higher percentage than shots from 3-9 feet (.374 FG%). Of course, I haven’t said anything that isn’t really simplistic (notice a trend here?).
Let’s just get down to the nitty gritty before I ramble on incoherently. The New York Knicks attempt 26.4 shots at the rim, good for ninth in the NBA. That 26.4 attempts represents 32.8% of their total shots. Since Feb. 4 (also known as the day that altered the complexion of the basketball word), the Knicks have seen their attempts at the rim rise to 29.4. A lot of that credit naturally goes to Jeremy Lin and rightfully so (Lin takes 4.3 shots at the rim, 11th among point guards). But when the Knicks are at their best, it isn’t solely because of Lin’s herky jerky offensive game. A lot of their attempts stem from their variety of different options. You have the potential for a Lin-Tyson Chandler pick-and-roll, Lin-Amare Stoudemire pick-and-roll, Carmelo Anthony-Amare pick-and-roll and the threat of an isolation for Lin or Melo. Really, there’s a lot to consider. My head hurts. Let’s just go on with this, shall we?
Player to watch: Jeremy Lin
Feb 11, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA; New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin (17) drives to the basket against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Target Center. The Knicks defeated the Timberwolves 100-98. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE
Naturally, I’m going to watch Lin extremely closely. As we all know, his story is captivating an entire country. So I won’t go there.
But I will delve into Jeremy Lin — the player. In his current state, Lin isn’t playing up to the incredibly lofty standards we arbitrarily set for him. I’m dying to find the real Jeremy Lin. Is he the guy we’ve seen the past week? He’s shooting poorly during this stretch (.370 FG%) averaging 15.5 points per game, while adding in four turnovers. Or is he Lin — the national phenomena? He averaged 25 points and 9.2 assists with a .509 FG% during that span.
My guess would be that he’s somewhere in between those numbers. I don’t think he’ll ever be able to consistently replicate those elite numbers. But I don’t think he’s some bum that is merely benefiting from luck and opportunity either. His numbers will eventually, with ample sample size, represent his true skill level. So in the meantime, I’ll just have to wait patiently with everyone else. The anticipation is palpable.
I have to admit, I’m irrationally excited about this game. I’m on the edge of my seat and the game hasn’t even began. As for my prediction, I see the Spurs winning by 10 (Editor’s update: Now that Chandler and Jared Jeffries have been officially ruled out, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Spurs won by 15+. Tony Parker should be able to get to the rim with impunity). The game will be relatively close throughout but I think the Knicks will be weary from a back-to-back. This will also be their third road game in four nights so that can’t be good. Also in the Spurs favor is the fact that we haven’t played since Sunday, we’ve lost two out of three home games and seem to be fully healthy.
Bring on Linsanity!