The lone remaining unbeaten. Their first 4-0 start since the 1993-94 season. League leader in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Winning by an average of 17 points per game. Time to start planning a parade down Broadway?
Hold your rope, Knickerbocker fans. The Knicks have only played 4 games, the fewest of any NBA team, and 3 of those came against teams playing without their superstar. The Knicks twice took advantage of a Sixers squad without Andrew Bynum, and on Friday they dispatched the Dirk Nowitzki-less Mavericks.
Yet despite the small sample size, the Knicks have given fans reason for optimism. They have shown considerable improvement in 2 of their worst offensive categories from a season ago: turnovers and 3-pointers.
Last season, the Knicks were 27th in turnover rate, committing roughly 14.9 turnovers per 100 possessions. So far this year, they lead the NBA with a turnover rate of only 10.9, aided by phenomenal starts from Jason Kidd, Ronnie Brewer, and J.R. Smith. Kidd’s personal best turnover rate came in the 2004-05 season, when he turned the ball over about 15.1 times per 100 possessions. This season he’s currently averaging an unsustainable 4.7 turnover rate. Meanwhile, Brewer and Smith hold 2.6 and 6.2 turnover rates, respectively, through 4 games, both significantly better than their previous season bests.
After shooting only 33.6% from downtown last season, the Knicks have drained a league best 43.6% of treys so far this year. Streaky J.R. Smith has hit an unbelievable 11-of-16 (68.8%) from behind the line, despite a career mark of only 37.1%.
Keys to Tonight's Game in Orlando
In addition to continued success with ball-handling and 3-pointers, the Knicks will be looking to exploit some Magic weaknesses:
The loss of Dwight Howard has most notably hurt the Magic in defensive rebounding. After finishing last season with the NBA’s 2nd best defensive rebounding rate (75.5%), the Magic have only come away with 69.9% of available defensive rebounds so far this year. The Knicks themselves have not excelled at offensive rebounding thus far, but they must crash the offensive boards if they hope to get a tough road win tonight in Orlando.
Jameer Nelson has missed the Magic’s last 5 games and is a game-time decision tonight. His absence has been significant, as Orlando turned the ball over 18 times in their last home game, a 39-point loss to Brooklyn. The Knicks lead the NBA in generating 17.1 turnovers per 100 opponent possessions. If they can continue creating takeaways tonight in Orlando, they have a great shot at improving to 5-0.