The Knicks beat the Thunder Friday, which was neat. With Kevin Durant sidelined, New York's primary objective was to handle Russell Westbrook: a tough proposition!
And yet the Knicks held Westbrook to 11-29 shooting. How? Pretty simple. Contain. Westbrook is a terror at the rim, and can get hot from downtown, so the Knicks did their best to invite shots between the arc and the paint -- quite clearly the poison a defense should pick -- and mostly succeeded in doing so. Because Jose Calderon can't keep up with Westbrook in the pick-and-roll (like everyone else on Earth, but more so), the Knicks had him ICE screens, directing Westbrook's drives into a pocket backed by Robin Lopez.
Here's what we're talking about:
Steven Adams wants to send Westbrook left, but Calderon jumps ahead of the Adams screen (that's the ICE) to push Westbrook's drive right, where Lopez is waiting. Key here is that Lopez picks a good position around the free throw line, offering Westbrook anything he wants above the paint, and giving himself the latitude to contest any attempt around the rim. And in the event that Westbrook did attack the rim, Lopez showed enough quickness and discipline to make his shot difficult.
The two problems here are:
1. Good defense on an attempt at the rim often exposes the glass and permits an offensive rebound. Or, like, 21 of them.
2. Westbrook is really good and will finish some of those anyway.
Still, the effort was worthwhile, and Lopez did a pretty tremendous job of sustaining it. Here's what it looks like when Westbrook gets over a screen at full speed and doesn't see a helper in his way.
Too high or too low and that dude's always gonna score.
But for the most part, he didn't. The Knicks played Russell Westbrook very well because the guards did their best to direct him and the bigs -- Lopez in particular -- made sure his shots were as low-percentage as possible.