Zach’s Film Notes: Knicks vs Hawks

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Zach DiLuzio provides us with some film notes after rewatching the Knicks win over Atlanta.


The Hawks are trash, but trash teams still win 20-30 games, unless you’re the prime Process Sixers. Winning a game is something to celebrate regardless of who it’s against. The Knicks played well, and blew the Hawks out of the water. That’s a great start to the Fiz era!

Now we officially have 48 minutes of game film to break down. That means it’s time to pick it apart, isolate stuff we can learn from, and form a knowledge base that we can build off for the rest of the season. This is something I’m hoping to do on a fairly regular basis; normally, I’ll be including good stuff, bad stuff, and everything in between. But on Wednesday night, there really wasn’t much bad stuff. Let’s take a look.

ALLONZO TRIER

This guy really is something. We all saw the highlight dunk. His scoring ability jumps off the page. I’m not here to tell you the obvious stuff. What we’ve seen from Trier, from Summer League until now, is a player in search of balance. Toeing the line between selfish scorer and Ron Baker. If (when?) Trier finds that balance, he’s going to make a pretty significant leap.

To illustrate this: watch this play.

Notice how Trier, after driving baseline, has drawn two defenders to his immediate vicinity, and an another dude is cheating off Knox in the corner.

As a general rule, if you see three guys within five or six feet of you, that means one or more of your teammates is WIDE OPEN. With 15 seconds on the shot clock, nobody should be taking that shot. Trier did. That’s the kind of stuff Trier showed in Summer League that had us all mad as hell.

Literally one possession later:

The window dressing is different, but this is almost exactly the same situation. Trier drives baseline and brings two defenders with him. This time, he makes the right decision and finds an open teammate. It’s a snowball effect from there — Hezonja attacks the closeout well, draws the help, and dumps the ball off to Vonleh for a dunk.

Trier’s box score did not change from this play. But this is the exact type of play he needs to learn from. I hope the video coordinator pulled this clip and made Trier’s screensaver. If Trier can edge away from play #1 in favor of more stuff like play #2, his ceiling rises quite a bit.

OFF BALL DEFENSE

A big reason the Knicks played such effective defense (when the game actually mattered) was because of excellent ball denial by several players throughout the entire game (Lance, Burke, Baker, and Ntilikina) that kept Atlanta from getting into an offensive rhythm.

Here’s an overly simplistic but useful example:

All that happens is Baker getting his hand in the passing lane, which forces the ball to the other side of the floor. But this is super helpful, for a bunch of reasons:

1. It forces the ball away from the playmaker (in this case, the primary playmaker in the Hawks’ lineup, Jeremy Lin). Get the ball away from the primary playmaker, and that’s a win. Dorsey got open here after an apparent miscommunication, but in the aggregate, doing this kind of thing makes a big difference

2. It can potentially ruin an opposing playcall. A lot of plays rely on the initial swing from one wing to the other. Disrupt that, and you can disrupt the entire play; at the very least, you can potentially make the timing all screwy. Smart teams can avoid this, but they can’t avoid it forever, and even tiny delays add up over the course of a game. Disrupting rhythm is hugely important on the defensive end.

3. It just flat out wastes time. Pressure a ball handler full court and deny the swing pass, and all of a sudden the opponent’s secondary or even tertiary ball handler has the rock with 14 left on the shot clock and no play to run.

Cheating too far can backfire — that’s how you get back cuts for layups — and that will happen (and did). But this is something the Knicks basically never did as a team under Jeff Hornacek. I like the aggressive mentality on defense.

FIZDALE’S PET PLAY

The first regular season game means we get to see the first assortment of regular season plays. I always love looking for a coaches pet play — Jeff Hornacek, for example, LOVED to bring double drag screens in transition. That was his thing. And I think I’ve already figured out Fizdale’s.

If you’re gonna have a pet play, it’s gotta be reliable, versatile, and effective. This one fits the bill. It’s a simple one — it’s essentially a double pindown to the corner from a small and a big. But it has a decent amount of reads built in, ones that account for several potential defensive coverages. The more shooters involved, the better. You can run this for any ball handler on the team, to either side, and it doesn’t require much organization, so it’s something you can use in transition as well.

The above play is the cleanest view I saw of it unfolding in real time. In that one, Knox probably could have dumped it off to Vonleh for a dunk, so I’d consider it a success despite scoring zero points. But you can see from the various ways that same set played out during the game that there’s a ton of potential reads and secondary actions you can move to, depending on how the defense reacts.

This is something I’m looking forward to monitoring the rest of the season. This play becomes exponentially more difficult to defend with a floor spacing screener, so I’m excited to see what happens once Kristaps is incorporated into the fold. Maybe Fizdale throws Luke Kornet out there one of these days if the offense is a complete disaster.

That’s all for now! As always, I’d love to hear any thoughts on any of the above. Hopefully we’ll have a lot more good to unpack after the double slate this weekend.

Make sure to follow @zjdiluzio