Andrea Bargnani may have turned the New York Knicks season around, and it did not involve him scoring a point or grabbing a rebound.
Last Wednesday in a loss against the 76ers, Bargnani drove the lane and attempted to dunk but was fouled and hit the floor hard. Bargnani composed himself to make the free throws, but a later MRI revealed the fall caused a torn ligament in his elbow. Bargnani is out indefinitely, according to the New York Knicks.
Since Bargnani’s injury the Knicks have won 4 games in a row. The run has been sparked by the Knicks’ small ball lineup, which features Carmelo Anthony at the power forward and Raynond Felton and Pablo Prigioni in the back court.
Woodson has chosen to start Bargnani with Anthony and Chandler in the front court when all have been healthy, but the offensive numbers since Bargnani has gone down are staggering.
Since the injury, the Knicks are scoring 125 points per 100 possessions. Before the injury, the Knicks were only scoring 105 points per 100 possessions. Carmelo Anthony is shooting 53 percent and averaging 37.5 points during the 4 game winning streak.
Anthony is producing at the level he did last year when he averaged 28.7 points per game playing primarily the power forward position. Anthony’s isolation attempts are limited when the Knicks have two point guards on the floor, who increase ball movement.
J.R. Smith has also shown signs during the winning streak that he is returning to form. Smith is shooting 47 percent and averaging 16.5 points over the last four games.
Tim Hardaway Jr. has been a reliable three point shooter for the Knicks all season, shooting 41.6 percent. He spaces the floor in the smaller lineup off the bench, and scored a career high 29 points in a blowout win over Cleveland on Thursday.
It took Bargnani’s injury for Mike Woodson to start the Knicks most efficient lineup of the season, but the success of the lineup should persuade him to stick with it even when Bargnani returns.
Anthony and Bargnani are not ideal fits offensively, because they both like to operate in the mid-post area and Bargnani is shooting 27.8 percent from three so he can not capitalize on Anthony’s passes out of double teams to the perimeter.
Bargnani can still be an asset for the Knicks, but he should come off the bench and play in different lineups than Anthony. Injuries are a negative part of the game, but this one could end up being a positive for the success of the Knicks and Bargnani.