NEW YORK -- It’s early, but there might already be a blueprint out there for how to slow down the New York Knicks' new offense: pressure the ball.
The Washington Wizards employed the strategy to perfection on Tuesday night. Their ball pressure helped hold the Knicks to 37 percent shooting in a 98-83 win.
“Tonight, their pressure caused us some problems,” Knicks coach Derek Fisher said after his team fell to 2-2. “I think it got frustrating for all of our guys out there, not to be able to execute the things that we’re capable of doing.”
The Knicks' offense is predicated on well-timed cuts, ball movement and proper spacing. Washington used pressure defense on the perimeter and strong denials in the passing lanes to disrupt things on Tuesday.
The Wizards’ game plan was eerily similar to the strategy the Chicago Bulls used in their blowout of the Knicks on opening night.
Tom Thibodeau also instructed his team pressure the ball and deny the passing lanes. The Knicks didn't handle it well then either, falling to Chicago by 24 points.
“We’ve got to figure out how to counter the pressure,” Amar'e Stoudemire said.
It would be an overstatement to say this is Fisher’s first strategic challenge as Knicks head coach, but it’s certainly something worth monitoring. After all, the Knicks shot a combined 37 percent against Washington and Chicago.
“As time goes on, we’ll get better at it,” Fisher said. “We saw some of it in preseason, struggled initially with it, but figured out a way to get better. We’ve gotten better a little at it the last month or so. But some teams with length and athleticism at certain positions can cause more problems. We saw it out there tonight.”
The ball pressure seemed to bother the Knicks most in the third quarter against Washington. In particular, the Wizards seemed to take away the pass from the lead guard to the wing or high post in the third quarter. That pass serves a crucial role in initiating the triangle offense.
So it's no coincidence that New York missed 16 of 22 shots in the quarter and finished with zero assists, getting outscored 32-15. A five-point halftime lead turned into a 12-point deficit by the start of the fourth. In those 12 minutes, all of the positive energy from the Knicks’ 2-1 start seemed to be sapped out of the building.
“I think they just came out more prepared than us in the third quarter from an energy standpoint, effort standpoint,” Carmelo Anthony said after missing 15 of 23 shots against Washington. “I thought they just sped us up, took us out of our rhythm, our flow.”
Chicago did the same last week.
It's early, but it looks like a blueprint has indeed been established. How will Fisher and the Knicks adjust?
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