Last season was very unlike a Tom Thibodeau-coached team — the Knicks won with their offense.
They were tied for third in the NBA in offensive rating and 19th in defensive rating.
So far this season, it has been the opposite, a regression to the mean in both categories.
Thibodeau, known for his defensive schemes, has one of the best defensive teams in the sport through eight games, while the Knicks are 23rd in offensive rating.
They are second in points allowed per 100 possessions (105.3), second in opposing field goal attempts (84.8), fourth in defensive rebounding rate (35.9), fifth in steals (9.0), seventh in fewest fouls committed (18.2) and eighth in forcing turnovers (15.6).
“It’s really big for us,” Julius Randle said. “We had games where we won with our offense, but we have to be able to win multiple ways, and defense is one of those.”
Defensive rebounding is something that Thibodeau has emphasized because if you play well on a possession, it doesn’t matter if you don’t finish it out by securing the rebound.
The Knicks were tied for 10th in defensive rebounding percentage last year at 72.7 percent, so while they were tied for second in opposing field goal percentage (45.9), they allowed extra possessions. This year, they are first in defensive rebounding percentage at 78.8.
“I think Mitch [Robinson] has really grown in that area. I also think [Josh Hart’s] rebounding is important. But our guards, [Immanuel Quickley] gets rebounds, Donte [DiVincenzo] is a good rebounder,” Thibodeau said.
“Everyone is making a big deal about the size, and obviously, we want to be as big as we can be. But the unique thing about Josh is he rebounds extremely well. I think we’re quick to the ball. That’s probably been the biggest thing.
“The defense, the rebounding, the thing that hurt us early on was we were high turnover, which we normally aren’t. Getting that where it should be, that puts you in position to win regardless of how you shoot the ball and now we’re shooting the ball better. That will be helpful.”