The 7-10 Phoenix Suns come into Sunday’s matinee at Madison Square Garden coming off back-to-back losses at the hands of the mighty Pistons and the riveting Raptors. Wait no, both those teams suck. Our 11-4 Knickerbockers are coming off back-to-back blowout victories against the Bucks and lowly Washington
Generals Wizards. New York looks to continue defending their home court as they are 6-0 at the friendly confines of Madison Square Garden through these first 15 games.
In terms of pace, the Knicks play super slow while the Suns play the NBA’s 6th fastest pace. Phoenix is the 10th best offensive team in the league, coming in with a 102.8 offensive efficiency. Point guard Goran Dragic and center Marcin Gortat make up one of the more dynamic offensive duos in the league. Though often hilarious, forward Michael Beasley can light it up if he gets hot. Phoenix does have some wings who can get hot shooting, guys like Jared Dudley and Shannon Brown. Defensively the Suns are putrid, coming into the game with the 4th worst defensive efficiency in the league.
Here are my keys to the game:
- Pace, pace, pace. The Knicks have to control the pace. It seems like every time I write a game preview I talk about pace, but I think it is necessary to. For this Knicks squad that has struggled defensively as of late, pace is incredibly important. The Knicks are one of the worst transition defenses in the league. They do much better protecting the rim when they can slow the game down and keep it to a half court game. Phoenix is a team with Dragic running the show that can do some good things in transition. As goes hand in hand in controlling pace, the Knicks have to limit their turnovers and not let Phoenix get out in transition. Given how bad the Suns are on defense and how good the Knicks have been not turning the ball over, I don’t think turning the ball over will be a problem for New York.
- Defending post ups. With Luis Scola and Marcin Gortat, Phoenix has two of the better post up bigs in the league and they run a lot of offense out of the post. According to Synergy sports, the Suns produce 0.91 points per possession on post ups which rates 7th in the league. However, it isn’t necessarily scoring out of post ups that worries me. I think with Tyson and Sheed and Melo, all good post defenders, the Knicks won’t get burned for 20 points out of the post. What worries me is how poorly New York double-teams in the post and how it opens up opportunities for the opposing offense. Often times the Knicks are doubling in the post with a defender that is just an easy pass away from the posting offensive player, rather than doubling with a defender coming across the court. Doing this has allowed opposing teams to get either open spot up looks or open cutting lanes to the rim. The Knicks have to be careful with double-teaming in the post and they have to make sure their help defense is sharp and that they can get to open shooters and cutters.
- Ball Movement on offense. Phoenix is awful defensively, but they’re especially bad guarding spot up shooters and guarding roll men in pick and roll situations. According to Synergy, Phoenix rates dead last and second to last in the league respectively in defending those two categories. To me, this indicates that ball movement can really kill this Phoenix defense. Bad spot up numbers indicate that teams are getting good spot up looks, which is usually a direct result of good ball movement. The Knicks are a great three point shooting team, largely because of their unselfish play in passing to get guys open looks. Phoenix also doesn’t seem like it knows how to defend roll men and Tyson Chandler is a damn good roll man. Look for him to have some good looks at the rim.
This is a game the Knicks should win. Phoenix is not a good team, as many of their 7 wins have been against bad teams. One of the things I love about this Knicks team is that they seem to not play down to their competition. None of their 4 losses have been against ‘bad’ teams. They’ve had to play teams like Detroit, Washington, New Orleans and Orlando and they’ve yet to have a let down in those match ups I think New York will take care of business Sunday morning and move to 7-0 at Madison Square Garden.
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