As we continue to move through the 2012-13 NBA season, the New York Knicks continue to impress. And as surprising as their hot start may be, they're showing us that it can be sustained in the long run.
Maybe in the first week or so you could have pinned the Knicks' success down to luck, but it's becoming clearer and clearer that this team is for real. Here are six reasons why New York will continue to play at a high level throughout the campaign:
1. Taking and Making Good Shots from Outside
You only have to have seen the Knicks play a few times this season to notice that a lot of their offensive success has come down to their shooting from beyond the arc.
Generally, hot outside shooting is considered unsustainable for a full season—especially at the level the Knicks are shooting—but in this case, things may be different.
It's not like the Knicks are getting lucky with their outside shooting. Their success from beyond the three-point line has been by design, and as a result they continue to get good looks.
With so many shooters posing a threat to the opposition, good ball movement is all the Knicks need to get their guys some space. That, and some double-team inducing play from Carmelo Anthony.
In fact, even when Anthony has missed time this season, the Knicks have had some success, mainly due to their veterans at the point guard position and throughout the roster.
Here against Miami, the Knicks proved to the league that their play from downtown is sustainable, knocking down 18 without Carmelo:
2. Reinforcements are Coming
For a team to sit atop their division after the first quarter of the season, you'd generally expect that health had been on their side through the initial contests. Not for the Knicks.
What makes their early run so shocking is that it has come without the play of Amar'e Stoudemire, Iman Shumpert and—for the most part—Marcus Camby.
All three players were slated to play big roles on the Knicks, with STAT and Shump starting last season, but the Knicks have managed to excel without them.
With Stoudemire looking set for a Christmas return (via InsideHoops), and Shumpert expected back some time around January (via the New York Post), the Knicks' rotation is set to become that much deeper.
Players of this caliber can have a major impact on their teams if used correctly, and with Mike Woodson showing a knack for getting the best out of his players, this may well be the case.
If anything, the Knicks' weaknesses early in the season have been rebounding, inside scoring and getting to the line. Coincidentally, those are the assets that these three players bring to the table.
3. This Run Started in March, Not November
One major misconception about the Knicks' early success is that it started against the Miami Heat on opening day.
The Knicks have been playing this well since Mike Woodson took over as head coach back on March 14. That means we have a half-season's worth of sample size to base this on, rather than just a quarter.
Just as they are now, the Knicks were winning to end last season with Carmelo Anthony at the 4 and defense being played at a high level by all. There may be some new faces on the roster, but New York is winning in the same way it was towards the end of their last campaign.
Melo actually won the Player of the Month award back in April, and took that form to the Olympics with him, where he put up a record performance off the bench. Once you consider that, his MVP start to the 2012-13 season suddenly looks like something that can be extended throughout the season.
As this intense performance against the Bulls from last year shows, Melo and the Knicks have been doing this for months:
4. They're Beating the Teams They Should Beat
Over the last couple of seasons, one of the main criticisms of the Knicks has been that they've played down to the level of their opponent on a consistent basis, which has held them back from being the top-tier team they could be.
So far this season, however, the Knicks are making that a thing of the past, with an emphasis on taking things one game at a time. As cliche as that may be, the added focus on each individual opponent is something that will continue to help them moving forward.
The Knicks have the talent to beat a lot of teams in the NBA with relative ease, and it's the presence of experienced players like Jason Kidd (as well as a demanding coach in Mike Woodson) that has allowed them to do it consistently.
Put simply, the Knicks finally have their heads screwed on, and that alone will guarantee victories against most weaker opponents.
5. Home Court Dominance
When you look at great teams in the NBA, the priority tends to be winning at home, and then working things out on the road. It's a formula that leads to success, and the Knicks' hot start has shown this.
Winning the majority of your home games gives a team a huge head start in terms of reaching the 50-plus win total the Knicks should be aiming for. A continued emphasis on home dominance will go a long way to helping New York meet its target.
And with Madison Square Garden returning to what it once was—a fortress of basketball, that is—it's easy to see that the Knicks will continue to emerge victorious on their home court.
As Steve Novak says (via KnicksNow), "You look around and every seat is full. If you can’t get up and play here, you can’t play anywhere. The fans have been great." MSG has always been known for its atmosphere, and that should be enough to get these players pumped to play at their best at least 41 times a season.
6. Efficiency and Consistency Have Been Key
In the opening quarter of the season, the main thing that the Knicks have done is establish their identity and what they need to do to win.
The Knicks' success has come down to strong defense, and an offense based around ball movement, three-point shooting and the offensive juggernaut that is Carmelo Anthony.
With a slight change possibly coming when Amar'e Stoudemire returns, this is going to be the team's identity all season long.
What the Knicks are also doing is reducing their turnovers and making sure that the shots they take are good shots. It's a simple plan, but when executed the way the Knicks have done—thanks to the help of their veteran roster—it can and will lead to wins.
As it stands, the Knicks sit in the top five for offensive efficiency league-wide, with both Melo and Tyson Chandler sitting in the top 12 players in terms of PER.
Those are indications that the Knicks' success is coming from good, systematic basketball. Once coupled with the sheer talent on this roster, playing such efficient basketball will turn this hot start into a fantastic season.
Stats used in this article were accurate as of Dec. 11, 2012.
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