After leading scorer and signature star Carmelo Anthony was downgraded from a game-time decision to out for the New York Knicks' matchup with the Miami Heat, plenty of Knicks fans wondered just how New York was going to score enough to keep the Thursday night tilt interesting.
After all, this was a Knicks squad starting Kurt Thomas, Ronnie Brewer and Tyson Chandler, who aren't exactly prime-time scorers; that figured to feature a lot of shots by hot-and-cold types like Raymond Felton, J.R. Smith and Rasheed Wallace; and that would be facing a Miami defense that, while certainly nowhere near the wrecking crew that ended last season, still seemed quick and aggressive enough to gum up the Knicks' ball-movement-heavy offense once it no longer had to key on Anthony, the NBA's third-leading scorer and the Knicks' unquestioned offensive focal point. With the proverbial head of the snake already cut off, how would the Knicks adjust?
The answer, apparently: Become a hydra and attack from everywhere. Including, and most notably, from long range:
With Anthony out of the lineup, the Knicks ran pick-and-roll after pick-and-roll, swinging the ball around the court like mad to stretch Miami's unsettled switch/hedge-heavy defense until its shape was distorted, and then routinely made one more little pass for an even more wide-open shot, frequently behind the 3-point arc. The result: 44 3-point attempts and 18 makes in a stunning 112-92 blitz. (They also took 47 shots from 2-point range and made 23 of those, but they weren't as pretty to look at or as valuable.)
Six Knicks, led by Felton (6-for-10 en route to a team-high 27 points) and reserve sharpshooter Steve Novak (4-for-9, 18 points off the bench), made 3-pointers in the convincing road win, which extends the Knicks' current streak to five games and hands the Heat on a back-to-back losses for the first time this season. It also gave the Knicks their second 20-point win over the defending champs this season and pushed New York 1 1/2 games clear of the Heat for the top spot in the Eastern Conference at 14-4.
The Knicks' long-range barrage was impressive, but not altogether stunning; they've been burying opponents from deep all year. Thursday night marked the third time during the 2012-13 season that a team has hit 18 or more 3-pointers in a single game, according to Basketball-Reference.com; the Knicks have two of the three, and they've both come against the Heat, which might give Miami fans wondering what's up with their defense some cause for concern. (On the plus side, the first time, they hit 19. So, trending downward!)
New York takes (29.7) and makes (12.1) the NBA's most 3-pointers per game, has the third-best 3-point accuracy mark in the league (40.8 percent, just behind the Oklahoma City Thunder and Heat) and gets a significantly higher share of its total points from behind the arc than any other team in the league. The NBA's second most triple-reliant squad, the Houston Rockets, gets 26.5 percent of its points from deep; the Knicks get 35.2 percent. The Knicks have eight players shooting better than 36 percent (league-average thus far this season, according to Hoopdata) from 3-point range — those numbers will likely dip a bit as players cool down and dip toward their career averages, but the Knicks' free-flowing, move-the-ball-and-create-opportunities offense has thus far resulted in more wide-open shots than Knicks players were seeing last year, and a steady diet of clean looks can turn decent shooters into good ones and good shooters into game-breakers. (So, too, apparently, can shooting coach Dave Hopla, whom Knicks fans are about ready to sponsor for sainthood.)
As a result of all that ball movement, all that spacing, those quick releases, all those confident wrist-snaps and follow-throughs, the Knicks poured in points at an insane clip on Thursday. They scored at a pace that would equate to nearly 118 points per 100 possessions, about seven points-per-100 better than their already stellar league-leading mark, which is downright lethal. The efficient, effective, explosive offensive display had coach Mike Woodson — now 32-10 in the regular season as the Knicks' head coach after taking over for Mike D'Antoni late last season — pretty psyched after the game, according to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News:
"The effort was consistent throughout the game," Mike Woodson said [...]. "We moved the basketball, we made shots. It was beautiful to watch."
Video via NBAVid1.