The New York Knicks have allowed opponents to shoot 42.7% from three point range, the worst mark in the league. The Hawks' Kyle Korver entered last night's game 13 of 22 (59%) from outside the arc on the season. That ominous combination led to Korver predictably erupting against the Knicks, scoring 27 points on just 12 field goal attempts to complete Atlanta's second half comeback. How is it that Korver, perhaps the most well-regarded shooter in the league without the Curry surname, shook free for six made threes? Let's look at some examples.
Korver's first three point attempt comes in delayed transition. Shane Larkin does a decent job sending Jeff Teague to the baseline on his drive, but what the hell is Tim Hardaway, Jr. doing here?
I swear Hardaway started this possession defending DeMarre Carroll. I do not know what Tim is now doing. His lost focus here could have resulted in an open three for Carroll, but Iman Shumpert gets burned instead. He turns his head and appears to be hunting a steal when Teague passes to Korver. Kyle nails the lightly contested three over the outstretched arm of Shumpert.
Korver's next shot comes as he is being defended (and I use that term loosely) by Hardaway. Watch as THJ, like Shumpert before him, makes the mistake of taking his eyes off of Korver. Can't do that. Somehow, Kyle misses the three strong right.
J.R. Smith and Hardaway have earned reputations as poor defenders because of mistakes like that one. Their lack of focus and communication is a big reason why the Knicks struggle to defend the three.
Here's an example of the pair defending Korver and Carroll respectively. They don't have to worry about either Hawk creating a shot off the bounce here, so Smith and THJ should be switching this down screen.
They do not communicate this, and both end up stuck on Carroll while Korver gets an open three. Kyle, of course, knocks it down to trim the Knicks' lead to just three.
Some of these miscues are just coming off of silly gambles. Below, Anthony flies out to defend Millsap's three point attempt and seems to be racing up court afterwards to cherry pick. The offensive rebound is tapped out to Teague, who calmly passes to Korver for a wide open three. Kyle misses the open shot, perhaps to convince us that he is human.
The Knicks didn't just struggle to guard Korver in the halfcourt either. He found himself open too often in transition. Here, Al Horford brings the ball up the floor and is picked up by Quincy Acy, who forces Horford to give up his dribble. Samuel Dalembert should recognize this and switch to Millsap. Larkin could then recover to Teague, and Carmelo Anthony can switch onto Carroll. But...
Instead, Dalembert gets lost in the paint as the Knicks rotate. Kyle hits the open corner three while Dalembert offers a feeble contest.
Korver's final three came with about five minutes left in the game. Carroll is pushing the ball in transition, with Korver trailing. The Knicks have weak floor balance because J.R. Smith just hit the deck after attacking the rim. This is where the Knicks' lack of veteran leadership rears its head.
The Knicks had no team fouls committed to this point. Hardaway should have taken a foul on Carroll here to stop the fast break. This would give the Knicks a chance to collect themselves and put the Hawks in a halfcourt set. Instead, Carroll drops the ball off to the open Korver for a three that just breaks the spirit of the Knicks.
The bright side of all these mistakes is that these are largely fixable errors. Communication is the key to defending an elite shooter like Korver. Until they learn to talk on defense, however, it's difficult to imagine the Knicks exiting the NBA's defensive cellar.