The New York Knicks turned in one of their better recent performances yesterday, but they still lost to the Indiana Pacers 103-96 in overtime. The Knicks held the lead for much of the game, including with 5 seconds left, until Iman Shumpert fouled Paul George on a three point attempt. George calmly sank all three free throws, Carmelo Anthony couldn’t get his game winning attempt to go and the Pacers ran away from the Knicks in overtime.
The loss drops the Knicks to 3-8, and it caused J.R. Smith to use the word “panicking” when describing how he felt about the team’s start. He should be, because the Knicks have not shown any signs of turning things, and they have been equally awful on offense and defense. This team badly misses Tyson Chandler, but they have to survive without him for another month.
The Knicks can’t seem to figure out why they are losing games this season, but the answer is actually much simpler than they think. The biggest difference between the Knicks this year and last year is their precipitous drop in shooting percentages. As a team, the Knicks shot 44.8% from the field and 37.6% from three last season. This year, those numbers have plummeted to 41.9% and 32.2%.
The individual shooting numbers are not pretty. Anthony shot 44.9% from the field and 37.9% from three last season, and he is down to 41.6% and 33.3% this year. Smith has been terrible one year after shooting 42.2% from the field and 35.6% from three, making a miserable 31.0% from the field and 28.9% from three. Raymond Felton has gone from 42.7% and 36.0% to 37.6% and 20.6%, and Shumpert’s three point percentage has dipped from 40.2% to 34.4% (though he has actually slighted raised his field goal percentage).
When you look at those numbers, it’s no surprise the Knicks are averaging 6.3 PPG less than they were last season. Throw in the fact that the Knicks rank 26th in the NBA in assists, 25th in point differential and 29th in rebounding, and you have everything you need to be a 3-8 team.
It is no secret that the Knicks are team filled with players for whom shooting is the first, second and third option. Anthony and Smith have never seen a shot they don’t like, and Shumpert, Felton, Andrea Bargnani and Tim Hardaway, Jr. aren’t exactly shy about letting it fly either. The difference is that last year those shots went in, and this year they aren’t.
Despite all the schemes and analysis and statistics, basketball comes down to who can put the ball in the basket more times than the other team. Right now the Knicks can’t do that, because they take too many bad shots and play too much isolation basketball. Until the Knicks start moving the ball, finding open looks and knocking them down, they will continue to struggle offensively, and they will continue to lose games.