Coach Tom Thibodeau on How the Knicks Will Fix their Defense

After beating Toronto 136-130, the Knicks are coming off a stretch where they have allowed 146, 133, and 130 points in their last 3 games — losing to Milwaukee 146-122, losing to Boston 133-123, and now beating the Raptors.

This after the Knicks were one of the best defensive teams in the NBA for the first 19 games of the year.

Ater the loss to Boston, coach Tom Thibodeau said “we gotta fix our defense”. After the win over Toronto, he said “we have to continue to work on our defense.”

He was asked how they would fix it.

Thibs answered:

“Just a little more urgency.

  • We have to fire out a little harder.
  • We have to contain dribble-penetration.
  • We have to challenge shots better.
  • We got to rebound.
  • We have to put our bodies on people.

Pretty much the whole gambit.”

Making Minor versus Major Changes to Defense

Thibs differentiated between the need to fix the defense by making minor changes versus major changes:

“I always tell our team this. The first two things I’ll look at are

  1. Is the intensity correct; are we going hard enough, and then
  2. Are we executing the schemes correctly.

Cause sometimes you do those 2 things and then you say, that’s when you (make a major) change. Until you can answer those two things. Sometimes it’s one guy is a step slow or doesn’t read the ball correctly, or not moving on the flight of the ball. It’s everyone working together in unison. And so We have to fly around. We don’t have to be perfect. the hustle makes out for a lot too. So we have to get that back into us.”

Part of It is Knicks Are Expending their Energy on Offense

“Part of it is,” Thibs continued, “You look at it and say, OK we’re scoring the ball a lot better; we have to keep that edge to us defensively. I think we’re playing very unselfishly; I think that’s huge. We’re putting points up on the board. A lot of points. But the other end — we can’t be who we need to be unless we’re strong on both sides of the ball.”

“I don’t want to lose sight of the part about the winning,” added Thibs. “The winning is the most important thing. Often times people ask what are the numbers are the most important. Well net rating is the most important thing to me. And you win games different ways. Sometimes you win it with your defense. Sometimes it might be your offense. You like to think it’s both. On the nights you don’t shoot well we’d like to still have a great chance to win, and if you defend and rebound and keep the turnovers down we’ll be in position to win.”

With Mitchell Robinson now out 8-10 weeks with ankle surgery, the Knicks will be hurt on rebounding and defense — especially offensive rebounding. Isaiah Hartenstein is no slouch and he will step into the main center role with the athletic 6’10 Jericho Sims stepping into the backup center role.

Thibs has fashioned a team with excellent defenders and rebounders — everyone who plays on the Knicks is a great rebounder for his position, including Julius Randle at power forward, RJ Barrett at shooting guard, Jalen Brunson at the point, Josh Hart at guard off the bench, Immanuel Quickley off the bench, Quentin Grimes at the guard — even Donte DiVincenzo has an excellent nose for the ball. This is one of the reasons why both Obi Toppin and Cam Reddish were moved.

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