New York Knicks: Road Struggles Start With Inconsistent 3-Point Defense

The New York Knicks have been inconsistent so far this season. They’re an impressive 6-2 at home, but a disappointing 1-5 on the road. Part of the Knicks struggles on the road are due to their extremely inconsistent 3-point defense.


For the New York Knicks, this Thanksgiving weekend back-to-back against the Charlotte Hornets will be a microcosm of the teams struggles so far this season. The new-look Knicks have been predictably inconsistent so far; looking brilliant at home in Madison Square Garden, but awful on the road.

The Knicks are No. 22 in the NBA in opponent 3-point field goal percentage, allowing teams to shoot 35.9% from beyond the arc. How well teams defend the 3-point line is generally indicative of how good defenses are in the modern era. Given that the 3-point shot is one of the most efficient shots in the game, good defensive teams prioritize protecting the 3-point line.

It’s not surprising then that the Knicks struggle to contain perimeter shooters, given their much maligned defense this season. The Knicks are currently No. 26 in defensive efficiency, allowing a mammoth 107.4 points per 100 possessions.

It gets interesting, however, when you look at the home and road splits for New York’s 3-point defense.

At home, they’re No. 2 in the NBA in opponent 3-point percentage, limiting teams to 31.3 percent shooting. On the road they’re last in the NBA in opponent 3-point percentage, allowing teams to shoot an absurd 42.8 percent from downtown.

This 11.5 percent differential is the biggest in the NBA, and the average home/road differential for the other 29 NBA teams is 3.7 percent.

Teams always shoot better at home, and so this will have an impact on a defense’s ability to defend the 3-point line on the road, but this is true for all 30 teams in the NBA. While this home team shooting percentage boost accounts for higher shooting percentages by home teams, it doesn’t explain the severity of the Knicks’ home/away differential.

How can you be one of the best teams in the league at defending the 3-point line in one zip code, and simultaneously the worst team at defending the 3-point line in all other zip codes?

14 games is a small sample size, and that league-leading differential will likely shrink as the season goes on. The interesting question is: in which direction will it shrink? Which version of the Knicks’ perimeter defense is real?

The encouraging home-court version or the worrying road version?

Assuming it’s the home-court version, there’s no reason why defensive fundamentals, schemes, and effort shouldn’t travel well. New York has shown it can defend at a high level at home, but in order for the Knicks to rise up the Eastern Conference standings, they’ll have to find some defensive consistency away from Madison Square Garden.

The Knicks opponent this weekend, the Hornets, are Top 10 in the NBA in both 3-point percentage (No. 9) and 3-point attempts per game (No. 7). How New York defends the perimeter will play a huge part in the Knicks’ success this weekend and the rest of the season.

Can the Knicks bottle up some of that MSG intensity and defend consistently both at home and on the road?

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