Now riding a winning streak, Jeff Hornacek’s New York Knicks seem unstoppable at the Mecca of basketball: Madison Square Garden.In what has been an up and down season early on for the New York Knicks, a divide in their play is becoming abundantly clear: they are nearly unbeatable at Madison Square Garden.
The Knicks are a staggering 6-2 at home this season, tied for the second-best record in the Eastern Conference with the Atlanta Hawks. Two key wins over the Hawks and Blazers in their past two home contests have underscored just how well the Knicks play in the World’s Most Famous Arena, revealing a trend that many New York fans would love to see continue.
Considering Derrick Rose’s inspiring post-game interview celebrating the Garden faithful after the win against Portland, it’s safe to say these Knicks love playing at home.
Nonetheless, it raises the question, what makes New York so successful in their home arena?
As an offensive-minded team, the Knicks obviously thrive when they’re scoring points, and that’s exactly what they do in droves in MSG. New York is averaging 104.8 points per game at home, compared to just 100 points on the road.
While that may not seem like a lot of points, for a team that has a -3.2 point differential per game this season, that offensive gap could mean the difference between winning and losing.
Realistically, the difference in the offensive production on the road comes down to two starters: Kristaps Porzingis and Courtney Lee. Both KP and Lee are averaging nearly four points per game fewer on the road than they do at home.
While Porzingis’ struggles as a young player are somewhat understandable, Lee is a veteran who needs to get back on track away from New York. Hopefully, a return to Charlotte, his former team, over the weekend can help correct his offensive woes.
However, despite a slight downtick offensively for the Knicks, the biggest gap between their home and road performances has been defense. At MSG, the squad is allowing just 101 points per game, which ranks 12th in the NBA, a staggering ranking for a team that employs as many possessions as New York does.
On the road, it’s a completely different story. New York is allowing 112.5 points per game, which ranks 25th in the league. Certainly, they’ve faced a tougher schedule on the road, with the only match up with a
New York is allowing 112.5 points per game, which ranks 25th in the league. Certainly, they’ve faced a tougher schedule on the road, with the only match up with a nonplayoff team from last season coming on a trip to the Wizards in the second leg of a back to back. However, the gap in their defensive performances from at home to MSG is simply inexcusable.
In fact, the 11.5 point per game gap in points allowed at home versus on the road ranks the Knicks dead last in the NBA (tied with the Philadelphia 76ers) for the largest gap of any defense in the league. Certainly, “The Process” is starting to take shape in more ways than one, but being lumped in statistically with a team in the midst of the worst three-year stretch in NBA history is not somewhere Knicks fans want to see their team.
The good news is, it appears Jeff Hornacek is well aware of this issue. When asked about the team’s road struggles following the win against Portland, Hornacek responded, “I think it’s simple. I think it’s just mentality,” via NorthJersey.com. “You can’t go out there when you’re on the road and just think you’re going to go out there and show up and win the game. It’s a different mentality where every play counts. You’ve got to do it right from the start. Whenever you go on the road, the home team always shoots the ball better. So you’ve got to be focused from the tipoff. You think this play doesn’t matter, that play doesn’t matter. Four, five plays in the game, that’s 10 points. I think they’ll get it”
Knicks fans will have to hope their coach knows what he’s talking about.
Certainly, any New York fan would take a 7-7 record 14 games into the season for the Knicks, but the gaps in their home and road performances have been astonishing. Hometown fans have been treated to incredible performances from the Knicks, while the road has become an absolute gauntlet for an aspiring playoff team.
If the Knicks want to make a push for the playoffs this season, they will have to correct these road woes, without sacrificing the fortress they’ve built at MSG.