The Knicks dished out thirty assists in Thursday night's win over Cleveland. While New York is plainly still getting used to running the Triangle offense, its implementation appears to have already resulted in more ball movement. Of the Knicks' thirty assists, ten appear to have been created as a direct result of a Triangle action. We aren't at peak triangularity yet, but it's a start. Here's what it looks like when the Knicks get the offense humming.
Our first example is a relatively simple action. Pablo Prigioni brings the ball up the floor with Iman Shumpert acting as the lag option. Because Cleveland decided to apply halfcourt pressure, Matthew Dellavedova is over-playing Shumpert at the top of the key.
Jason Smith makes the right decision and flashes to the free throw line to potentially initiate the 'backdoor step' action. Prigioni enters the ball to Anthony on the wing and cuts to the corner. This is known as 'strong side entry, strong side fill' for those of you who love playcalling terminology. The triangle is formed with Anthony in the wing, Prigioni in the corner, and Amar'e Stoudemire in the post.
Smith is moving towards Dellavedova to screen for Shumpert to cut to the rim, but take another look above at the paint. It's completely open. There literally isn't one player protecting the paint, because Tristan Thompson is fronting Stoudemire. Anthony recognizes this and throws a nice lob pass over the top to Stoudemire. Kevin Love realizes what's happening as the pass sails through the air, but is unable to stop Stoudemire from finishing the dunk over his head. Here is that play in GIF form, via Bronx Chica:
This is repeatable offense that does not require much spent energy on the part of the Knicks' leading scorer, Anthony. The Knicks struggled to create offense without Carmelo initiating plays last season under former coach Woodson, but the Triangle offense offers more opportunities for other scoring weapons to get involved without disempowering Anthony.
This next action is an example of how the Knicks can use Anthony's 'gravity' to create easy opportunities for his teammates. J.R. Smith brings the ball up the floor and enters to Quincy Acy at the wing. Prigioni fills the corner, and Anthony fills the post to complete the triangle.
Shawn Marion is pushing Anthony far from the basket, but Acy enters the ball into Anthony anyway. Keep an eye on LeBron James here. He is defending J.R. Smith, and cannot leave Smith too much space at the top of the three point arc. As Anthony prepares to work Marion over on the block, Varejao comes over to double him. Aldrich quickly reacts by executing the backdoor step and rubbing his defender off of a quick Acy screen. Anthony hits Aldrich with the pass, and after a slight fumble Aldrich gathers the ball and finishes the layup through two defenders.
The last action we look at here is a little more complicated, but it's an example of the Knicks trusting the system to generate a good shot. Shane Larkin begins here by bringing the ball up the floor and making the lag pass to Shumpert. He cuts to the strong side corner while Shumpert enters the ball to Anthony at the wing. Samuel Dalembert cuts across the lane in an action known as center opposite to form a triangle with Anthony and Larkin. Instead of feeding Dalembert in the post, Anthony makes the fourth-option pass to Larkin and cuts baseline while Larkin and Dalembert begin a side pick-and-roll.
Larkin comes off the screen and passes to Shumpert at the top of the key, but Shump mishandles the pass and misses the opportunity to either pass to Acy by the rim or Anthony open in the corner. With the options now closed, Acy shapes up in the post and forms a new triangle with Shumpert and Anthony.
Shumpert passes to Larkin at the top of the arc and Larkin initiates another pick-and-roll with Dalembert. While the defense (and most importantly: LeBron) is watching this action unfold, Shumpert sets a down screen for Anthony who comes up from the corner. James stands no chance at recovering in time and has to switch with Dion Waiters, who can only watch as Anthony drills the jumpshot off of the pass from Larkin.
These three examples show how many variations emerge from a well-run Triangle. Everybody on the floor becomes an active member of the offense, and there isn't as much ball-watching as we've previously seen with Carmelo Anthony-led teams. These aren't plays in the traditional sense; the Knicks merely follow the path of least resistance to an open shot. There is still a long way to go before the team fully buys in, but the very early returns are encouraging.