The Knicks need to become an inside-out team again.
The New York Knicks locked up a “vintage” win over the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday night. They controlled the pace, defended well, and played from the inside out. They looked like the 2020-21 version of the Knicks for one of the first times this season.
The Knicks put an emphasis on the three-point shot early on this season. They currently rank 10th in the NBA in three-point attempts after finishing 27th in that category last season.
New York needs to start reverting back to last year’s form, a season in which they finished third in three-point percentage.
This isn’t an anti-analytics argument. The three-pointer is a valuable weapon for every team, but for the Knicks to succeed, they need to focus on attacking the rim — play from the inside out.
Head coach Tom Thibodeau understands that it all starts with dominating in the paint. Hell, his entire defensive ethos revolves around protecting the paint. Thibs referenced RJ Barrett and Julius Randle‘s collective willingness to attack in his postgame comments.
“I think the big thing for RJ – it was incredible the way he started the game. With both guys the most important thing was them attacking the rim,” Thibodeau explained to reporters. “The game will tell you what to do. If you attack the rim, either you’re going to get the opportunity to score or you can make a rim read and spread it out to open a three point game. If we settle for shots, it’s going to cause problems. If we’re attacking the rim, it makes us different. And then it allows us to set up our defense and do a lot of things. I think that the aggressiveness of RJ attacking the rim, and then for Julius to do what he did today was just remarkable.”
Barrett and Randle combined for 62 points on 24-for-40 shooting from the floor. Attacking the rim, taking open mid-range looks, and avoiding an over-reliance on the three-pointer should be the goal for this duo.
Both guys are capable of getting hot from three, but it all starts with what they can do inside the arc. The Knicks as a whole, but these two especially, need to focus on playing from the inside out. Barrett echoed his coach’s sentiments in his postgame comments.
“I just try to be aggressive, that is really it,” Barrett said. “When you get into the paint and make reads, you can either finish or kick out, and it puts pressure on the defense. The whole defense collapses and it is easy basketball after that. That is what we are trying to do.”
When the Knicks are hot from deep, they should fire away, but Tuesday’s win was a good example of when they should dial it back. They were 4-for-18 from deep in the first half (2-for-14 if you take away Barrett).
The second-half focus shifted to attacking the rim and it paid off (only 10 three-point attempts in the second half). The aggressive mindset and physicality wore down the Pacers and ended up paying dividends on the defensive end. New York held Indiana to 39 points in the second half and just 17 in the fourth quarter.
The Knicks don’t need to abandon the three-pointer entirely, but they need to show a willingness to adjust when the shots aren’t falling.
Stop settling for contested threes and attack the basket. Eventually, open threes will come. It’s a simple formula.