The prevailing theory is that the Knicks’ defense is not the same as last season’s grit-and-laugh-old.
But the ‘D’s is not so much a concern for defensive mastermind Tom Thibodeau the last two weeks.
The coach has often quoted defensive stats that make him feel comfortable with the club’s ability to refuse penetration and light shovels due to its rim protection.
Are the Knicks as perfect as last season? Almost. But that’s not what hurts the Knicks in Thibodeau’s assessment.
Thibodeau attributes their 19-21 record to the slack offensive as the Knicks hit the math center of the season as they hosted the Spurs on Monday.
The problems in the early season of not flying around the defense or getting back in the transition mostly corrected when December hit.
“I’m more into where we are – are we challenging shots?” said Thibodeau. “Are we keeping the ball out of the paint? And we’ve been top five on points in the paint all year, so that’s something we’ve done well. I think we’re in the top five in defensive field goal percentage. the quality markers for me.
“I look at our defense as a whole, and for me the big number is the defensive field goal percentage, it’s my biggest marker, and we’ve been third, fourth all year round.”
In fact, the Knicks are currently in third place in points in the paint (41.9) – which is how Thibodeau bases his plans.
“So much of today’s game is based on getting into the paint to spray it out,” Thibodeau said. “And then you keep the ball out of the paint, then your finishes are much shorter. The drives are flatter. And that helps you. Your finishes, instead of being four or five steps, are two steps. It’s a big difference.” ‘
That said, the Knicks still have not denied 3-point shots.
“Finishing our defense has probably been the biggest thing, getting out to cover the line,” Thibodeau said. “We are cutting it down. The defense has largely been there. It is that the offense has been inconsistent.”
The Knicks’ defensive 3-point field goal percentage was No. 1 last season, as was their overall defensive field goal percentage. However, their 3-point defense has dropped to 17th place in 2021-2022 – allowing opponents to shoot 35 percent beyond the arc.
However, a deeper dive into the analysis shows that Knicks opponents were among the highest in missed open 3-point shots last season. These open looks are falling more this season, so it may not be worse closeouts, but worse luck.
“Covering the 3-point line is something we need to keep working on,” Thibodeau said. “Those numbers are falling. We are trending the right way.
“We review the film after every game. After 40 games, if you’re third of fourth in defensive field goal percentage, it’s pretty good. Have we covered the line as well as we did last year? No. And then to read the ball, move on the flight of the ball, shoot out, those are things we must continue to improve on. ”
Last season, the Knicks were first in the opponents’ scoring average. Now they are in sixth place – which gives 105 points. And it’s not too shabby.
PG Kemba Walker (knee) has been noted as doubtful for Monday’s match. He has not played since a win in Detroit on December 29 and has missed five games in a row.
Evan Fournier (bruised thigh) and C Nerlens Noel (repair) remain questionable. Fournier missed Saturday’s loss to Boston, while Noel has only played in 17 of 40 games this season.