So here we are, Game 1 of the season against the NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers in Cleveland on the night of Game 1 of the World Series.
Nothing like trial-by-fire, huh?
As insurmountable of a task as this seems, there is a way to win and throughout the season we'll plan on giving you TKB's "3 Keys to Victory."
- Defend the perimeter: Obviously, easier said that done. The Cavs were 2nd in the NBA in field goals made last year (880), third in attempts (2428) and 7th in percentage. With J.R. Smith back in the lineup the Cavs bring back their top 10 3-point makers and have also added Mike Dunleavy to the mix to add depth. The Knicks should expect to see at least 30 three point attempts and need to be prepared to defend against most all of them if they hope to be in this game.
- Get out in transition: The Knicks have shown the propensity early to push pace, finishing 8th in the NBA in pace this preseason (26th last year), which has allowed them to be 5th in offensive rating (104.6) as well. The mantra of Jeff Hornacek has been to push pace to get easy baskets and the Cavs can be run on. If the Knicks can get out early and maintain a good pace and make early shots, it will allow them to selectivly implement half court sets and take advantage of the Cavs in the half court as well as they get into Cleveland's second unit.
- Rebound: The biggest advantage the Knicks have this game is on the glass on both ends. The Cavs were not a great defensive rebounding team last year finishing 11th (33.9 pg), and thus far this year in the preseason they were 23rd per NBA stats. The Knicks were 4th in the preseason at 13 offensive rebounds per game and you can expect a similar effort with Joakim Noah and Kristaps Porzingis attacking the glass for 30 minutes each tonight. Extra shots lead to extra possessions as much as pace does, and when you increase both you should see a big spike in scoring opportunities, especially from the three point arc where the Knicks were just 23rd in the league last year at 21.5 per game. Through the first 6 preseason games, the Knicks were 10th in both three point attempts (27.0) and three point percentage (36.4).