In a way, statistics are to writers as voters are to politicians. So long as they are needed, they receive attention. But when they aren’t needed, well, you know the story.
The reason I bring this up is the utter disappearance from Seattle newspapers of the “Sonic defense stinks” story during the course of the recent 3-game winning streak. You would think from reading the pieces in the paper that – after about a week of stories regarding the woeful state of Seattle’s defense this year – that Weiss & Co. had resolved that irritating problem.
Well, yes and no. Prior to the win streak, I wrote a piece claiming that by allowing opponents to shoot 49% the Sonics had no chance at winning. Want to know what the Sonics have allowed during the past 3 games?
And now the yes. What I also noticed was how the Sonics have improved their perimeter defense. In the 3 losses before the win streak, opponents shot 20 for 41 from 3-point range, nearly 50%, a ridiculously high number. In the 3 wins, that has dropped to 20 for 61, a more normal 33%. Is it luck? Is it the law of averages? Is it improved defense? I have no idea, but it makes a heck of a big difference when the other team hits only 33% beyond the arc. 50% of 20 3’s is 30 points, a nine-point difference over 33%. That nine points is the difference – as Pacino’s character says in Any Given Sunday – between winning and losing, between living and dying.
Anyway, the Sonics play the Knicks tonight. In addition to being Retro Night, it’s also Hefty Bag night, so bring your garbage ban and waive it in support of Jerome James. The Knicks are also rumored to be in the Kevin Garnett sweepstakes, prompting one “ESPN Insider” to bet that he’d be in MSG by February. An interesting thought, especially considering the glut of bad moves that Isaiah Thomas has made in his career.
In any event, the Knicks have rebounded from their atrocious 2-7 start, going 3-4 in their past 7 games. Still, New York is all of 2-8 on the road this year, and I can’t expect they’ll add to that win column tonight.
The Knicks play a slow-down type game, as indicated by their 93 points a game and opponent FG% of less than 45. They also like to pound the ball inside (59% of their shots come off of jumpers, compared to 72% for Seattle), which could pose a problem with Seattle’s poor interior defenders. Take special note of rookie Channing Frye, the guy I said the Sonics should stay a country mile away from, who is now a candidate for Rookie of the Year (do I know my draft picks or what?). Frye’s +/- on the season is an astounding +23.5 and he has proven to be adept scorer and, surprise, rebounder.
However, with Seattle’s recent run of improved energy, I like the Sonics’ chances. Best of all, Da Fort is apparently healthy enough to go, which means there’s gonna be some rumblin’ going on.
Here’s my guess: Sonics 98 – Knicks 87.