Rebounding a key issue for Knicks

NEW YORK -- Everything seemed to go right for the New York Knicks on Monday night.

They hit 56 percent of their shots in a 22-point win over the Utah Jazz, including 50 percent from beyond the 3-point line. Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, two stars with alleged chemistry issues, combined for 65 points on 77 percent shooting. New York led by double figures from midway through the first quarter until the final buzzer against the Jazz.

But there was one stat from Monday's game that Mike D'Antoni would probably like to throw out: his team was outrebounded by Utah 22-9 on the offensive glass.

The number may be a little misleading because the Jazz missed 14 more shots than the Knicks, giving them 14 more opportunities to grab an offensive rebound.

But it illustrates a nagging issue for a team that has dreams of a deep playoff run. The new-look Knicks, same as the old Knicks, have been soft on the boards.

"That's a definite area that's always going to be a concern," D'Antoni said after practice on Tuesday.

The Knicks face Memphis on Wednesday night and Dallas on Thursday night, a grueling set of back-to-back road games. Their ability to rebound will be put to the test in both cities.

Memphis power forward and ex-Knick Zach Randolph is third in the NBA with 12.9 rebounds per game and has the Grizzlies (36-29) in eighth place in the Western Conference. Fortunately for the Knicks, Rudy Gay, who averages six rebounds per game, will be out with a shoulder injury.

Less than 24 hours after the Grizzlies game, the Knicks will take on a Dallas team that features 7-foot-1 Tyson Chandler, who's pulling down 9.4 rebounds per game. The Mavericks (46-17) outrebounded the Knicks by 20 in a 101-102 win at the Garden on Feb. 2.

"It's going to be a tough challenge," Stoudemire said.

It seems like every night is a challenge on the glass for the woefully undersized Knicks.
They have just three regulars taller than 6-9 in Stoudemire, Jared Jeffries and Ronny Turiaf, who has missed the past three games with a sore left knee. They've also missed Chauncey Billups, who was pulling down 4.8 rebounds in four games with the Knicks before he went down with a left thigh bruise against Orlando on March 1.

"We've got to gang rebound," Jeffries said on Tuesday. "I think a lot of times we get caught in rotation, we get beat off the dribble. Sometimes I might go contest [a shot] or Amare goes to contest [a shot] and our guys get rebounds."

The Knicks (33-29) entered play Wednesday being outrebounded by an average of 3.2 rebounds per night, tied for the fifth-highest total in the league.

They've allowed opponents to pull down an average of 44.1 rebounds per game, the third-highest total in the league. This stat is no doubt aided by D'Antoni's up-tempo offense, which produces a high number of shots (and misses).

But a more troubling number is that the Knicks are rebounding just 48.1 percent of missed shots per game, the sixth-lowest percentage in the league entering play on Wednesday.

D'Antoni admitted Tuesday that rebounding is a "weakness" for his club, but the third-year coach believes the Knicks can overcome it. New York, which entered play Wednesday half a game ahead of seventh-place Philadelphia in the East, has 20 games to get it together.

Three of the Knicks' four potential first-round playoff opponents (Orlando, Chicago, Miami) rank in the top 10 in rebounding differential. And Boston, the other potential first-round foe, has outrebounded the Knicks by a total of 20 in two games this season. Not surprisingly, the Knicks are just 17-21 when outrebounded by an opponent.

"A lot of it is will and effort," D'Antoni said. "And that's the part that, if we want to be a contender, a serious team, then we'll have to find a way to overcome it."

Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.