Gather around for I have a tale to spin, but before you sit down, it would be best if you would leave your disbelief by the door. Even though the story I am about to tell seems fantastical, and seemingly impossible, you have my word that it is all true so there will be no need for your skepticism. Now that you have sat down and are quietly anticipating the beginning of what I have to say, we are now ready to begin.
Knowing what we know now, it seems incomprehensible, but there was a point just two weeks ago when it seemed like the New York Knicks had turned the corner and were ready to behave like an NBA team not just in their lifestyles, but in their play on the court as well. Yes, I will be the first to admit that I fell victim to the fact the Knicks strung together five straight winning performances in a row and ignored what I had been taught about randomness and regression.
Even though I realized that a five-game stretch in an 82-game season is not really representative of anything, if it is not also backed up by a larger sample which the Knicks' winning streak was not, I still thought the Knicks had improved as a team. Foolish I was to believe in a team without waiting longer to see if they would be able to sustain their newfound level of efficiency.
Now that time has continued to pass and the Knicks have continued to play games, it is becoming obvious that the Knicks' play over the first two weeks of the month was nothing more than an illusion, a mediocre team misdirecting our attention by masking itself in the clothes of a respectable one.
With the illusion having run its course, the Knicks are back to doing what they have done so well this season: playing worse than their opponents. On Wednesday, the Knicks dropped their fifth straight game, and their latest defeat came at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers who outpaced the Knicks by the final score of 110-106.
As the final score indicates, it was not the Knicks offense that led them to a defeat, but it was the defense that once again failed to show up in any meaningful way. The 76ers scored 115.7 points per 100 possessions, well-above average for an NBA team this season.
Of course, over the course of their last five games, the Knicks have gotten incredibly adept at letting their defense cost them victories. In each of the last five games, the Knicks have allowed their opponents not only to score at an above-average rate, but they have also allowed their last five opponents to score more than the horrendously bad 108.8 points per 100 possessions they have allowed for the entire season. Incredibly, the Knicks have managed to make their defense even more porous these last five games.
Embarrassingly, the Knicks were not even playing a quality offense on Wednesday and still turned the 76ers into an elite offensive unit; for the season, the 76ers had scored just 99.9 points per 100 possessions, the 29th-worst mark out of the NBA's 30 clubs. Wednesday's lackluster performance by the Knicks was a testament to bad defense everywhere; by now, the Knicks could probably write a doctoral thesis on the best way for a club to allow opposing teams to score while providing the most miniscule amount of resistance.
Perhaps the return of Knicks forward Kenyon Martin will herald the return of mediocre defense rather than mind-staggeringly, almost unbelievably terrible defense since the Knicks have allowed just 100.4 points per 100 possessions when he is on the floor.
What is certain, though, is that the Knicks will not be winning any time soon if they cannot even muster up the effort to limit their opponents' scoring. No matter where the solutions to their defensive woes come from, it is imperative that the Knicks come up with some answers soon or risk losing even more games this season.
While the Knicks might have fooled me for two weeks, until their defensive intensity improves and lasts for the rest of the year, I will not bring myself to believe that any win for them is anything more than happenstance. I suggest that other NBA enthusiasts follow my example, lest you risk believing in an illusion as I did.