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Mahoney: How to Stop the Knicks

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Over at the excellent NY Times Off the Dribble Blog, the excellent Rob Mahoney wrote an excellent piece about Miami's excellent defense of New York's excellent 1-5 pick-and-roll.

The philosophy behind the defense is simple: play the numbers. Amar’e Stoudemire is a monster on offense (and particularly in the pick-and-roll), so Miami threw double and triple teams at him as often as possible. The timing of the pressure was fairly random; sometimes extra defenders would come on the dribble, and sometimes they would wait until Stoudemire had found his way to the rim. Regardless, the Heat dedicated more than just one player to the task of guarding Stoudemire, fully aware of what that would do to the Knicks’ offense.

Putting a lot of defensive pressure on Stoudemire creates two basic problems for the Knicks: it takes away their most reliable half-court offensive weapon (the Felton-Stoudemire pick-and-roll) and it forces Stoudemire to make smart, crisp passes out of double teams, something he has never seemed comfortable doing.

Definitely click through to read the whole thing. Mahoney goes on to mention Stoudemire's tendency to bull through help defense, as well as his shaky passing ability if and when he does kick to the perimeter. Both Miami and Cleveland banked on those two tendencies, and it paid off mightily. Early in the season, it seemed like Raymond Felton solved these issues by holding the ball for a beat or two longer and feeding the perimeter himself. At that point, it's on shooters like Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler to can open jumpers. (Check out Mike Kurylo's breakdown of how the whole thing unfolds.) The Knicks desperately need their wingbros to be reliable from outside, but, as we saw on Saturday against the Cavs (Gallo was 1-10 from outside, Chandler was 2-6, and Toney Douglas was 1-5), that's not always the case. When either end of the inside-outside symbiosis buckles, all bets are off.

Thankfully, the Knicks have a few days to mull this over and rest their noodly little legs before battling with Oklahoma City on Wednesday. OKC isn't the best squad defensively, but they'll more than likely employ a lot of the Amar'e-centric defense highlighted by Mahoney and Kurylo. With luck, those days of rest and film study will reinvigorate the Knicks and get that inside-outside game working once more.