Thursday, January 27 2022
Ricky Rubio Alec Burks cropped 11/7/2021

Ricky Rubio Alec Burks cropped 11/7/2021

What’s wrong with the Knicks’ defense?

Julius Randle has a theory.

“I think it’s our energy, our fight, our will,” Randle said after the Knicks’ 17-point home loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“I said it from the very beginning (when) I talked to you guys on the first day of (the season). I said, ‘We’ll be fine if we play defense.’ That’s just really what it is. Offensively we’ve got enough talent on that end. I feel like we can be better on that end as well.

“But — especially early in the season — we’re going to win games with our energy, our fight, and getting stops on that defensive end.”

The Knicks didn’t have any of that at MSG, where Ricky Rubio lit them up for 37 points and 10 assists off the bench.

Randle and company entered the weekend ranked among the bottom five in defensive efficiency. They looked every bit of a bottom-five club Sunday, when Rubio and rookie Evan Mobley got nearly whatever they wanted on offense.

“Our defense wasn’t very good. Our rebounding wasn’t very good. And if we’re gonna rely just strictly on offense, we’re gonna pay a price for it,” Tom Thibodeau said afterward.

The Knicks offense has been very good. They rank fourth in points per 100 possessions entering the week.

Nov 7, 2021; New York, New York, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen (31) dunks over New York Knicks guard Derrick Rose (4) during the fourth quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY SportsNov 7, 2021; New York, New York, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen (31) dunks over New York Knicks guard Derrick Rose (4) during the fourth quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 7, 2021; New York, New York, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen (31) dunks over New York Knicks guard Derrick Rose (4) during the fourth quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

But Thibodeau and the group have a lot to clean up on the other end of the floor.

After the loss, Randle put the onus on himself.

“I’ll take accountability,” Randle said. “I’ve got to be better. As the leader of the team, I’ll be better. I gotta talk more. Play with more energy.

“Whatever I gotta do. I’ll look at the tape and I’ll figure it out. Because at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is winning.”

MORE MINUTES FOR TOPPIN?

Obi Toppin was one of the few bright spots for New York. He scored seven quick points in four minutes of court time in the first half and finished with 11 points over 11 minutes.

It’s often foolish to look too closely at single-game plus-minus, but the Knicks outscored Cleveland by five with Toppin on the court.

Toppin made some mistakes on defense but he puts pressure on opposing defenses. To give him more minutes at power forward, Thibodeau would have to decrease Randle’s minutes or play Toppin and Randle together in small-ball lineups.

Something worth keeping an eye on moving forward.

Whether it was Toppin, Randle, or any other Knick, Mobley had his way on offense.

He had 26 points on 15 shots, nine rebounds, and five assists.

It’s easy to see why the Detroit Pistons did a lot of pre-draft homework on Mobley before taking Cade Cunningham with the No. 1 overall pick. Mobley has a great feel for the game at a young age.

Source: Yahoo Sports

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