New York Knicks Stat Monkey Brief: Knicks/Timberwolves (2/8/13)

J.R. Smith recently said that the Knicks play down to their opponents. Is he right? Eric Mayo decided to find out.

So after we congratulate the Knicks for taking care of business in a five game homestand against inferior opponents, the Knicks come back with an uninspiring 106-96 loss to the Wizards. The Wizards are a far better team with John Wall than without, and Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster shot well above their career norms from behind the arc (10-16 combined).

This time, not only did the Knicks start the game slowly, they started every quarter slowly. They were down 16-5 with 7:38 left in the first. With 7:35 left in the second, the Knicks had scored 4 points. The Knicks followed that up with 2 points in the first four minutes in the third, and started the fourth with a Wizards 15-7 run.

Lack Of Effort?

After the game, the general reaction from the Knicks was the loss was due to a lack of effort. Many had similar quotes to J.R. Smith, who said “"We expected to come in here and win, and I think that's part of our problem… we just expect teams, when we come in the building, to lay down and not play, and we can't do that."

I found the quote surprising, because the Knicks had just come off a homestand against mediocre to bad teams and had won each game by an average of 16 points. Never the less, like any good statistics minor, I set to find out whether the Knicks have indeed lacked effort against inferior opponents.

To do that, I decided to look for a relationship between scoring margin and opposing winning percentage (as of now, not when the two teams played). Logically, as you play tougher teams, you should be winning by less, or not winning at all. Here is the Knicks chart:

New York Knicks

The linear regression line, which is basically horizontal, shows that for the Knicks, there is no statistically significant relationship between the opponent’s winning percentage and the scoring margin. Compare that to two of the Knicks fellow Eastern Conference foes, the Brooklyn Nets and the Miami Heat:

Brooklyn Nets

Miami Heat

Both of those linear regression lines have negative slope. If you test significance, you do find that there is a statistically significant relationship between the two variables for both the Nets and the Heat

Scouting Minnesota

What’s the best way to escape the oncoming Snowmageddon named after a lovable cartoon fish? By flying to Minnesota, of course.

The Timberwolves are similar to the Wizards in that they’ve both been hampered by injuries. Kevin Love, Andrei Kirilenko, and Chase Budinger are all not expected to play Friday, and that doesn’t include the fact the Timberwolves were missing Ricky Rubio for the first two months of the season with his torn ACL.

Rubio is a more gifted passer than Wall, but while the Wizards showed their strength on the perimeter, the Timberwolves leading scorer in the non Kevin Love division is center Nikola Pekovic. While Pekovic has had success against the Knicks (42 points and 30 rebounds in their last two meetings), look for an energetic Tyson Chandler and Amar'e Stoudemire to stop the Timberwolves inside.