How the Knicks Used Motion to Bury the Celtics

New York’s offense was the catalyst in their 118-110 victory over the Celtics on Tuesday night. The Knicks shot 56.8% from the field, and a whooping 59.4% from downtown. In breaking down the film from the game, you can see why the Knicks were so dominant offensively. As opposed to the Miami loss on Sunday, the Knicks offense was very fluid. They were fluid moving the ball, as well as moving off the ball. Instead of running nothing but Melo isolations , New York did a nice job of cutting and setting screens. Their offense was multidimensional and the results showed on the final scoreboard. In this post, I am going to break down four plays I loved from the game as the Knicks used motion to execute offensively. 

The first play I am going to analyze is a great spot up three by JR Smith. This play begins as a Carmelo Anthony isolation on the right elbow. What I love about this play is how the other four Knicks move without the ball. After passing the ball, Baron Davis fades to the top of the key. Tyson Chandler, Iman Shumpert and JR Smith clear out the other side of the court. However, as Anthony drives to the baseline, the Celtics defense collapses. Rather than standing around and doing nothing, Chandler and Shumpert collapse into the paint. By doing this, they bring Brandon Bass, who was guarding Smith, into the paint as well. If you observe at the 0:09 second mark, Bass sees Chandler and Shumpert collapsing and totally leaves Smith unguarded. Seeing the open space on the floor, Smith does an excellent job of sliding to the open corner and presenting himself. Anthony makes a fantastic pass to kick the ball out to Smith and he buries the three. I love this play because I think the Knicks offense gets stagnant at times. Often times when Anthony isolates, the rest of the Knicks stand around and watch. I like how all five Knicks played a role in getting Smith the open spot up three. Here is the play:

The next play, a Steve Novak three, was probably my favorite play from this game. The Knicks begin the set with Mike Bibby running the point out by half court. If you observe the beginning of the play, you can see how the Knicks do a great job of spacing the floor. By placing shooters (Novak, Anthony) outside the arc on both sides of the court and burying Iman Shumpert basically out of bounds, the Knicks completely open up the paint. Tyson Chandler and Bibby run what looks like a typical screen and roll. If you pause the video at 0:07 seconds, you can see that the play looks like a typical pick and roll. This motion forces Kevin Garnett to over play Chandler in the paint which ends up being the most important part of the play. Rather than cut to the hoop, Chandler breaks off his route to screen Brandon Bass, who was guarding Steve Novak. Because Garnett is playing the pick and roll, he is too far in the paint to get back into the play. This can be observed at 0:09 seconds. Chandler sets an excellent screen and Novak knocks down the open three. I really loved the pick and roll action in this play, as it took Garnett totally out of the play and allowed Novak to have a wide open look. Here is the play:

The third play, a JR Smith three, also comes off of a Chandler screen. There was nothing fancy going on in this play, just a great screen by Chandler. Carmelo Anthony initiates the play at the top of the key. The Knicks do an excellent job of spacing the floor on this play. This is a very simple play. Tyson Chandler sets an excellent down screen on Paul Pierce. Celtics center Greg Stiemsma makes no effort to step up and challenge Smith’s shot. As a result, Smith has a wide open three and knocks it down with ease. Why is this a play worth analyzing? This was Smith’s second three point shot of the game. He had hit another three, two possessions earlier (as shown above). We all know that Smith is an incredibly streaky shooter. I like how the Knicks worked to get Smith a rhythm three. Once he caught his rhythm in this game, he buried the Celtics shooting 7/10 from downtown in the game. I think it is imperative for the Knicks moving forward to try and get Smith going early in games. They do a good job of it here.

The last play, a Tyson Chandler dunk, is a great example of how the Knicks use Carmelo Anthony as a decoy. Before I analyze this play, I have to say that Boston’s defense on this play is atrocious. I give the Knicks a lot of credit for executing this play, but I the Celtics did defend this poorly. The Knicks begin this play by having both Tyson Chandler and Landry Fields posting up in the high post/elbow area.  Under Mike Woodson, the Knicks actually do this a lot. On this play, New York gets Chandler the ball to initiate the offense. Landry Fields pops up to the top of the key and receives a pass from Chandler. Iman Shumpert comes across the court to the opposite corner of Chandler in order to pull Rajon Rondo away from the play. Shumpert and Baron Davis run a decoy screen to keep Rondo and Avery Bradley from recognizing what the Knicks are doing. Carmelo Anthony and Chandler begin to run a screen motion themselves. Chandler  looks to set a screen for a popping out Anthony. Instead of setting a solid screen, Chandler sets what I call a “brush screen” to give Kevin Garnett the idea that he is, in fact, setting a screen. Rather than pick off Pierce, the Knick center cuts to the wide open paint and dunks an alley oop pass from Fields. The key to this play is Anthony as a decoy. Obviously, Anthony had a dominant performance in this game. By using him as a decoy, the Knicks are able to completely catch Boston off guard. New York does an excellent job of pulling Kevin Garnett out of the paint. He believes the ball is going to Melo. He steps up to help defend Anthony and completely leaves Chandler open. Chandler cuts to the paint and it is an easy 2 points for the Knicks. It was a great play design by Mike Woodson and even better execution by the Knicks.

In conclusion, I love the way the Knicks played offense in this game. I have been critical about the stagnation of the Knicks offense at times, but I thought they were excellent against Boston. Sure, they shot the lights out, but I thought they did a lot of nice things with motion. They moved the ball well, as well as moving well off the ball. New York finished with 28 assists in the game which was a huge part of them winning the game. I hope this post helped recognize some of the things the Knicks were doing.


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