Winning formulas, like experiments, are only as valuable as a team's ability to replicate the results. There will always be instances where a flawed formula might be able to produce the outcome the team was hoping for, in the case of sports the outcome is usually a victory, but the inability of a team to continue to use the same formula to guarantee themselves victories in the future will usually expose both the team and the formula they used as frauds.
Over the two contests previous to Monday's match-up with the Boston Celtics, the Knicks had been using a flawed winning formula, relying on unsustainable data in order to add to their season win totals. On Tuesday, however, the Knicks employed a more reliable winning strategy that can be utilized with success in the future. In defeating the Boston Celtics 114-88, the Knicks were efficient on offense and defense in ways they have not displayed in the same contest since earlier in the month.
That the Knicks were able to score 114 points is no surprise and that they also scored 121.6 points per 100 possessions should not come as much of a surprise; Tuesday's game was the fourth straight game in which the Knicks went over the 100-point threshold and also scored at an above-league average rate. As the season progresses, the Knicks are demonstrating an ever growing ability to be incredibly efficient on offense thanks to their improved shooting from the field and their ability to rebound a good percentage of their misses; even when the Knicks do miss a shot, it does not mean an end to their possessions.
Against the Celtics, the Knicks had five players score at least 10 points, led by Carmelo Anthony's 24 points, in addition to posting a true shooting percentage of 61.9 percent. As impressive as those final statistics are, the Knicks' recent performances have spoiled us so much that we have come to expect that they will play well on offense.
Where the Knicks really stepped up their game was the way they locked down the Celtics' offense for the entire four quarters. Instead of turning a below-average offense into an elite one, the Knicks actually made the Celtics look like a below-average offense. For the season, the Celtics have scored just 101.2 points per 100 possessions, the 25th-worst mark in the NBA to this point, and against the Knicks, they only scored 93.2 points per 100 possessions, well below the mediocre rate at which they are accustomed to scoring.
For a team like the Knicks who have been largely allergic to playing defense all season, it was a tour de force performance even though it came against what is, at best, an opponent with a middling offense. However, one should not pin too many qualifiers on this Knicks defensive performance since they did hold the Celtics to 8.0 points per 100 possessions below their season mark, which was an impressive feat.
Now that the Knicks have hopefully discovered how much easier winning is when they mix in a little defense with their offense, perhaps they will embrace playing defense as much as they have playing offense this season. In the victory over the Celtics, the Knicks have latched onto a sustainable winning formula; it is important that they continue to replicate it in order to make a run at the postseason.