Over at CBS New York, John Schmeelk has some interesting thoughts about the Knicks’ eight-game winning streak, noting that much of it has been the result of an improved offense. Though the defense has been on the uptick as well, it’s been the offense that’s been operating at an elite level and spurring their recent run:
The wins have come largely because of an improved offense led by J.R. Smith, and some very poor competition. The Knicks have averaged 104 points per game, almost five points ahead of their season average. Their shooting percentage has jumped five percent to 49 percent. During the streak, the Knicks’ offense has been the best in the NBA, averaging 117.7 points per 100 possessions. Their three-point shooting has jumped about 4 percent, and the team is shooting about two more free throws per game. Are any of those numbers sustainable?
Honestly? Probably not. During the eight-game winning streak, five wins came against teams that ranked 30th(Bobcats), 26th(Magic), 23rd, 23rd (Raptors twice) and 21st (Jazz). The Celtics were playing without their best defensive player and leader in Kevin Garnett to account for two more wins. The final game came against Memphis, which has no asterisk. To think this type of offensive output is going to continue against some of the best defensive teams in the league is probably not realistic.
The whole thing is worth a read, though Schmeelk is more optimistic than the passage I’ve flagged might suggest. For me, the whole question as to whether the Knicks can sustain their momentum hinders on how real this transformation is in J.R. Smith. His improvement hasn’t been just in making more shots, it’s been with the type of shots that he’s been taking. I’m not sure how many games exactly it will take before I just accept that this is the J.R. we have now, but I know it hasn’t quite been reached.
Which is still to say, I think there’s been more to the win streak than just hot-shooting and bad opposing defenses, though I’m sure both have played their role, but I’m just incredibly fascinated to see if Smith continues to play on this other-worldly plane he’s somehow tapped into because it’s both totally unexpected and equally game-changing for the Knicks.