Mike Woodson has been saying during the Knicks' recent inconsistencies that he's not worried about the offense, but about the defense.
But some of the Knicks' defensive struggles have been sparked partly by their offensive flaws, which were exposed again on Sunday during their 102-88 loss to the Clippers.
It all started in the first half, when the Clippers burst out into the open court easily and capitalized in transition. They scored eight fast break points and a few more in quick half-court set formations, with the Knicks trailing behind. This has plagued them lately, and their opponents have been looking to run.
"I think a lot of that is shot balance, maybe shooting it too fast at times, and we don't have good defensive balance to get back and get the ball stopped in transition," Woodson said.
The main reason why the balance has been off is because Woodson continues to go to Carmelo Anthony early and often in games, with his teammates cleared out to the perimeter awaiting feeds for 3-pointers, and teams have countered to defend that setup. Opponents, like the Clippers, don't worry as much about Melo and instead focus on containing his teammates' 3-point looks. Case in point: The Clippers had offensive balance from their first to second unit, whereas Melo accounted for nearly half of his team's points.
"We stuck to our game plan," Chauncey Billups said. "Melo was having a huge night, but that's what we were giving up...He's such a great player and he's going to, at some point, get his numbers, but we can't let him get his numbers and everybody else make 15, 16 threes."
The Knicks haven't been generating enough ball flow lately like they were doing earlier in the season, especially to the weak side. Factoring in the longer rebounds -- which happens with 3-point-friendly teams -- opponents, like the Clippers, have looked to attack. Teams also know that the Knicks can be too complacent on offense, awaiting Melo's moves, and they have a tendency to get back slower on defense.
"Everyone else gets out of rhythm when (Anthony) dominates the ball in the iso situations," a veteran NBA scout said. "All the other teams know that Carmelo is going to shoot the daylights out of the ball. They also know that the rest of the players are going to stand and watch because there's no weak-side movement in the offense. The attitude of the players change with a stand and watch. Therefore, there is a lack of defensive transition."
Woodson responded to the team's recent offensive flaws, saying, "It hasn't been that way all year."
Still, it's time for some adjustments with the second half of the season coming up, and it starts with the coach. Here's an NBA scout's take:
"I think (Woodson) should run more sets where players get a chance to come off of curl screens, flares and crosses," he said. "There is no downstream action, no pick the picker, no back screens for leapers. J.R. (Smith) would be so much better coming off curls and flares."
On Sunday, while Smith had six points, his sixth man counterpart Jamal Crawford had 27 -- many off designed plays for him to get open. Woodson needs to help his role players more, getting them good shots in motion, instead of positioning them beyond the arc.
The Knicks were dominated by the Heat in last year's playoffs by one-dimensional, Melo ball. That can't happen again.
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