The Knicks have lost four straight games. In the last three losses of that streak, New York has lost each first quarter by nine points (odd). In what sounds like a reasonable response to first quarter sluggishness, Mike D'Antoni has decided to shuffle his starting lineup. From Marc Berman of the Post:
Faced with a four-game losing streak, Mike D'Antoni is reverting back to his old starting lineup, benching Wilson Chandler, putting Ronny Turiaf back in as the starting center that allows Amar'e Stoudemire to move back to his starting-power-forward slot.
On its face, that seems like a wise move. The woolly one brings extra post defense, passing, and vigor to a first unit that could desperately use all three. It's not quite that simple, though. A few things worth considering:
- In an article I already shared with y'all, John Schuhmann shows that the lineup of Raymond Felton, Landry Fields, Danilo Gallinari, Amar'e Stoudemire, and Ronny Turiaf has been the worst five-man unit on any team above .500. (Yes, the Knicks are still above .500. Don't take that for granted, you ungrateful louts.)
- Narrowing our scope to just the Knicks, check out Mike D'Antoni's most used five-man units. The squad with the most minutes (and the one that's been starting of late) is the small lineup featuring Amar'e at center and Wil/Gallo at the forward spots. Tonight's starters form the lineup with the second most history together (albeit only about 100 aggregate minutes), and they've been pretty terrible. You expect to lose some offense by subbing Chandler for Turiaf, but tonight's unit has actually been inferior defensively to the familiar small lineup. Based on this chart alone, it looks like swapping Turiaf in for Gallinari, not Chandler (something a few of us have suggested) would better suit the defense. Lineups with Toney Douglas also allow fewer points, for whatever that's worth.
- An interesting wrinkle to this emerged when D'Antoni was asked about benching Chandler, not Gallo:
"We've discussed the reasons and I'd rather not play it out in the papers, but Wilson's come off the bench and it has not affected him and you don't know if it's going to affect the other guys."
I'm content accepting that quote as a compliment to Wilson, but it could be taken as further evidence that D'Antoni is especially sensitive to Danilo's vacillating confidence, particularly as he returns from injury (or, if you're so inclined, as evidence that Gallinari is a soft European diaper-wearing sissy baby boy who wants his mommy).
- When the Knicks beat the Spurs earlier this month, Gallinari was injured and D'Antoni started a lineup of Felton, Fields, Chandler, Stoudemire, and Turiaf. That lineup outscored the Spurs' starters 20-18 in the game's first six and a half minutes before being disbanded. To open the third quarter, they outscored the Spurs 18-17 before Turiaf went to the bench. Also remember that DeJuan Blair mauled New York at the rim in the first quarter and that that win was the Knicks' second best offensive performance of the season (in terms of efficiency). Them's the facts.
- Going just by my eyeballs, I'd say that Gallinari has played significantly better individual defense than Chandler has in the last game or two. Feel free to argue that. What's inarguable is that Gallinari has shot an eFG% of 52.6 since returning while Chandler has shot 43.5% eFG over that span. Gallo's also settling for fewer threes and getting to the line more frequently than Wil of late.
- Remember, as always, that a starting lineup is just that. Turiaf will start, but Chandler will definitely log more minutes than he does. Wil might even out-spin Gallo, for all we know.
- Update: Bandwagon Knick makes a very good case for more Turiaf.
Anyway, those are tonight's starters and, from the sound of things, the starters for the immediate future. It's not the most statistically sound move, but it's the move we're going to see. D'Antoni has to weigh the numbers with his own notions of team goals and energy level. Keep an eye on how he tinkers with his rotation as the Knicks try to buck this losing streak.