By the Numbers:
New York Knicks offense scores: 111.5 points per 100 possessions
Brooklyn Nets defense allows: 101.5 points per 100 possessions
Pace: Brooklyn Nets 90.88 possessions per game, New York Knicks 93.50 possessions per game
New York Knicks offense: 53.1% eFG%, .254 FT Rate, 12.0% turnover rate, 22.6% offensive rebound rate
Brooklyn Nets defense: 49.3% eFG%, .258 FT Rate, 16.2% turnover rate, 29.0% offensive rebound rate
New York Knicks: #1
No matter how you slice it, the Knicks have been the league's most efficient offense so far. They're first in offensive rating and lead the league in points per play overall and in the half-court. They're second in the league in effective field goal percentage, first in turnover percentage, they're shooting 42% from deep as a team, and are outscoring opponents by a clean eight points per game. They're tough to stop for anyone, especially an average-at-best defensive squad in Brooklyn.
Stopping Carmelo Anthony
For all the criticism I and others have levied on Anthony in the past few years, he's been one of the most devastating offensive forces in the league this year, and he's the best offensive player on the league's best offense. Anthony has spent over 50% of his possessions in isolation-style plays -- in isolation off the dribble, and posting up. Anthony, who's always been a deadly post-up player with his combination of size, strength, and speed, has made a more concerted effort to get into the post, and it's working: he's scored over 50% of the time he puts his back to the basket, in the 86th percentile of the NBA.
Anthony is listed as a power forward with Amar'e out, but Avery doesn't see it that way. "Carmelo Anthony is a 3," Johnson said pre-game. "He can play some small 4, but Brewer's more their 4 guy, no matter how they use it. ... Carmelo, he looks like he plays a 3 to me in their starting unit. I don't know of many 4's that can come down and do what he does behind the three-point line."
Containing Melo, especially when he's playing the way he is now, is its own challenge. The Nets will start Gerald Wallace on him and presumably keep hounding him throughout the game. Though Wallace is the team's best defender -- inside and out -- he has had a tendency to bite on pump fakes on the perimeter this year, and that could hurt him against a crafty scorer like Anthony.
The best way to defend Anthony in previous years was simply to let him beat himself: keep him out of the post and entice him into a barrage of inefficient, long two-pointers. It doesn't seem like he's doing it this year, and he's been a terror as a result.
Reggie Evans: rabid rebounder... perimeter stopper?
The main reason the Knicks have had such success this season has been their red-hot shooting from beyond the arc. Though they've cooled a bit after the first few games, the team still has hit the most threes in the league and boasts the second-best three-point percentage at 41.8%. The Knicks have six -- yes, six -- players shooting over 40% from beyond the arc, with Jason Kidd (who is out tonight) and J.R. Smith both an even 50%.
Looking at the team's plus-minus numbers, there is one player in the rotation that, when he plays, opponents shoot poorly from beyond the arc. But it's not a perimeter player: it's backup power forward Reggie Evans.
Reggie? Yes, Reggie. The Nets regularly allow opponents to shoot 34.3% from beyond the arc normally, but in the 222 minutes that Evans has played, that number shoots down to 25.3%, with opponents making just 4.1 three-pointers per 48 minutes It's the lowest on the team among players with at least 100 minutes.
Though it's surprising that a big man could affect a team's perimeter defense so starkly, a look at Evans's defensive philosophy sheds some light. Evans is a willing pick-and-roll hedger, attacking guards off screens quickly to cut off ball-side passing lanes and open looks at the basket. He's also a yeller; Coach Johnson has said numerous times that Reggie barks out defensive assignments with a rabid decibel level that his teammates should imitate. The team's defensive rating is over 14 points per 100 possessions better with Evans on the court.
With Kidd out and Kurt Thomas likely getting a majority of his minutes, it may behoove the Nets to give Evans significant time on the floor tonight, to check power forwards, get rebounds... and limit the damage on the perimeter.