Sam SpiegelmanIf you’re having trouble recognizing the Knicks who took down the defending NBA champion Heat Thursday night, you’re not alone.
The Knicks have won four of their past give games — including games against San Antonio and Dallas — playing a different brand of basketball then they were earlier in the season. In addition, they’re finally getting help from players not named Carmelo Anthony.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, the three major elements of the Knicks’ recent turnaround are the emergence of Iman Shumpert, improved defense and better looks on the offensive end.
Shump, named this week’s Knicks Blog Player of the Week, has shot better than 50 percent over the past five games, and as a team the Knicks are outscoring opponents by 58 points with Shumpert on the floor.
Over the past five games, Shumpert has averaged almost 16 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists. Of course, against the Spurs he set a career-high with 27 points.
Onto the defense, which is supposed to be head coach Mike Woodson’s forte. The Knicks have helped opponents to 92 points per game during this five-game stretch, more than seven points fewer than they allowed in the first 30 games.
Interestingly enough, Tyson Chandler’s respiratory illness has kept him out for the majority of these games.
Finally, the Knicks offense is getting easier looks on the offensive end. The team is averaging 6.5 more points per 100 possessions over the last five games, and about four more points in the paint per game than they did during the first 30 games.
Can the defense hold up? Will Shumpert continue to be a reliable contributor? And will the offense continue to make points in the paint a focus? The next three games are against teams with records below .500 before showdowns with the Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers and Brooklyn Nets.