NEW YORK -- Sure, Arron Afflalo was happy with how he played on Sunday.
Thirty-eight points on 14-for-17 shooting will put a smile on anyone’s face.
But in the big picture, Afflalo would probably trade his breakout performance against the Hawks for a month full of 15-point games.
“Consistency is more important,” he said Sunday evening. “... The more I can be counted on night in and night out, I think, the better it is for the team.”
But toward the end of December, Afflalo struggled to make shots -- and the Knicks took a bit of a nose dive. In the six games prior to Sunday, Afflalo hit just 32 percent of his shots (20-for-63). Not surprisingly, the Knicks went 1-5 during that stretch.
The correlation between Afflalo's scoring and the Knicks' success has been strong this season.
The Knicks are 8-17 when he scores fewer than 15 points and 8-2 when he scores 15 or more.
Some may see that stat and conclude that Afflalo is some sort of X factor for New York. But to Derek Fisher, the number is an indication that Afflalo -- and all other Knicks -- have the chance to succeed when the club executes its offense properly.
“Whenever you have a stat like that for an individual guy, it still always comes back to how the team played," Fisher said. "... That means on those nights they probably played the game the right way."
The Knicks (16-19) have shown signs of playing the game "the right way" at times this season. But overall, they've been consistently inconsistent. They've had three separate losing streaks of at least three games and two separate four-game winning streaks.
That's why the word you hear most often around this team right now is "consistency."
“The challenge is how to become Atlanta and Cleveland and Golden State and San Antonio,” the coach said. “... How do you [move the ball well] 60 nights out of the season as opposed to however many we end up with this year? That’s what we’re trying to work toward.”
The Knicks, of course, are nowhere near that goal at the moment. They’ll enter play Monday in 12th place in the Eastern Conference and probably will need everything to break right to earn a playoff berth this season.
But in a big-picture sense, the Knicks have taken a small step forward in their rebuild. New York won its 16th game Sunday; last season, the club didn’t get win No. 16 until the second-to-last day of the season.
So there are indications that things are trending in the right direction for Phil Jackson’s club. And the Knicks don't need Arron Afflalo to score 38 points every night to keep moving in that direction.
But if he can find his shot on a consistent basis, it would certainly help.