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The Knicks are missing, but they're missing better shots

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This may come as a shock to you, but the Knicks are in the midst of yet another losing streak. Sunday night's loss to that smirking crap weasel Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat marked New York's fourth loss in a row. They haven't won a game since defeating the 76ers on Nov. 22...and it's not as if beating Philly is some praiseworthy accomplishment.

Worse yet, the offense has completely gone into the toilet of late. The Knicks had been merely mediocre on that side of the court over the first 14 games of the season, but the current four-game skid has dropped them all the way down to 23rd in the league in O-Rating. Given their well-chronicled deficiencies on defense, that is a recipe for disaster.

No big surprise, right? New York was missing Carmelo Anthony for the better part of three of those games, doomed to fart away possession after possession without the help of their top gun.

Here's the weird thing, though: The Knicks might just have been running their most intelligent offense of the season over the past four games, at least in terms of shot selection.

Hard to believe, I know...but bear with me a moment.

New York's offense this season has been almost hopelessly anachronistic -- a lumbering dinosaur in the sleek, modern NBA. The Knicks have been feasting on mid-range jumpers while ignoring both the paint and the three-point line. Just look at where they rank relative to the rest of the league:

FGA per game NBA rank
Restricted Area 20.7 29th
Mid-Range 32.0 1st
3P 19.0 23th

That profile has changed quite a bit during the last four games, however:

FGA (First 14 Games) FGA (Last 4 Games)
Restricted Area 19.9 23.3
Mid-Range 33.1 28.3
3P 17.6 23.3
FTA 18.1 18.7

Hey hey! The Knicks are trending in the right direction in every category! While some of this could be attributed to Melo's three-game absence, it should be noted that New York shot 24 threes (six by Melo) and 20 free throws (10 by Melo) in Sunday's loss. Whatever is happening to the Knicks, it would appear that Melo is down with the program.

Personally, I see three recent trends that appear to be playing a role in the Knicks' improved shot selection:

  1. Jose Calderon finally arrived. Better point guard play -- not to mention Jose's penchant for launching threes -- has clearly made a difference.
  2. Less Jason Smith. The Mid-Range Goblin has gone from averaging 17.9 minutes and 6.3 field goal attempts in his first 14 games to 11.3 minutes and 4.0 field goal attempts in his last four.
  3. Fewer pick-and-pops. This one is based simply on the eye test, but it seems the Knicks are running fewer plays designed to get mid-range looks for bigs, whether it be Smith, Amar'e Stoudemire or Quincy Acy. When the bigs are shooting, they are doing it closer to the rim.

Ah, but if the Knicks are taking better shots, why is the offense crapping out? This might have something to do with it:

Watching one's favorite basketball team develop a new offensive identity often requires a massive leap of faith. The Knicks shot well on their jumpers -- pretty much unsustainably so -- through the first 14 games of the season, yet their overall offensive efficiency numbers weren't particularly impressive. They seem to be taking smarter shots of late, yet those shots are not going in. Such is the nature of the beast.

I do believe, however, that the Knicks possess one of the finest collections of three-point shooters in the NBA. They are not going to keep missing those looks. Hopefully Melo can get healthy and at least one (hopefully more) of the J.R. Smith/Iman Shumpert/Tim Hardaway Jr. trio breaks out of their horrendous collective shooting slump. If these things finally come together, the Knicks could be on the verge of an offensive renaissance.