Knicks fall to Raptors amid 3-point flurry

Towards the end of the first quarter on Monday, Julius Randle, the beefy Knicks forward, got up and took a 25-foot shot. It was the kin...

Towards the end of the first quarter on Monday, Julius Randle, the beefy Knicks forward, got up and took a 25-foot shot. It was the kind of shot that perhaps would have sent him to the bench in an earlier basketball era, or even in a former team coached by Tom Thibodeau. Monday was Randle’s fourth 3 point in 12 minutes.

It was also an iconic Knicks new-look move: this year’s version takes 3 points. Many of them. In the first quarter alone against the Toronto Raptors on Monday, 13 of the Knicks’ 19 shots – and five of Randle’s – were behind the 3-point line. The approach was the hallmark of the new era Bing Bong of the Knicks, and that’s part of the reason Thibodeau’s side are off to a 5-2 start, the franchise’s best since the 2012-13 season.

In their second game, the Knicks set a team record for most 3 points in a game with 24, en route to a 121-96 victory. This year, the Knicks are shooting 40.6 deep shots per game; It is good for the eighth in the league and that’s 10 more per game than last season, when the Knicks were ranked near the bottom of the league in attempts.

“With the 3, you can regain some ground quickly,” said Thibodeau. Or not. On Monday, the Knicks tried 36, made less than half and absorbed their second loss of the season, a 114-103 loss to the Raptors.

While the Knicks didn’t try as many 3s last season, they were precise in how little they shot: 39.2% overall, good for third place in the NBA This year they are at again near the top in precision, but with more volume. At their current pace, the Knicks are on track to place in the top five for the first time since this 2012-13 team.

The Knicks also picked up their pace, if only slightly. Last season the Knicks were dead last in quick break points. This year, they are 22nd.

“I think it’s the fastest game I’ve seen them play in a long time,” Toronto coach Nick Nurse said ahead of Monday’s game.

The Knicks’ early positive feedback of the season is the clearest indication that Thibodeau – a coach known for his stubborn adherence to his physical basketball brand – is able to adapt to the new realities of the modern NBA. He reinvented the team’s offensive identity with a simple mantra.

“Drive the ball, get your spacing, get your rim read – keep the game simple,” Thibodeau told reporters on Monday, adding, “When we do that, we’re really good.”

Still, the transition to a heavier 3-point attack wasn’t just a case of telling the team to shoot more of them.

Thibodeau received significant help – or according to some interpretations, had his hand forced – by a change of personnel. Last season, the Knicks playmaker was Elfrid Payton, a non-shooter that opposing defenses often overlooked on the perimeter, clogging the paint for Randle and leaving him more susceptible to double teams. This year, Kemba Walker has occupied that spot, and he entered Monday night shooting an unbearable 57.9% almost assuredly. on 3 points.

It’s not just about having better shooters. Walker and Evan Fournier are superior ball handlers, and their arrival, along with the improved RJ Barrett, makes it easier for the Knicks to break through defenses and create open opportunities on the outside.

Having a healthy Mitchell Robinson in the starting lineup was also a boost. At 7 feet, Robinson is drawing attention to the rim as one of the Knicks’ best basket threats. This gives the Knicks more room around the perimeter to create open looks.

If there is a worrying sign, it’s on the defensive, where the Knicks were below par – something very unusual for a team coached by Thibodeau. While the Knicks took plenty of 3s, they also give up a lot – more than all but two NBA teams

Their new acquisitions – Walker and Fournier – are not known for their defense. On Monday, the Knicks gave up looks – and points – inside and out to Raptors forward OG Anunoby, who scored 36 points. While Toronto only managed 14 of their 42 3-pointers, that was enough to swell a double-digit lead in the second half.

Seven games is not a huge sample size. Inevitably, some set numbers, like Walker’s, will come back to earth. But the new-look Knicks, with a sleek, contemporary attack, seem to have the staff to deserve their early optimism.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Knicks fall to Raptors amid 3-point flurry
Knicks fall to Raptors amid 3-point flurry
Newsrust - US Top News
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