The New York Knicks’ second half explosion in Game 2 this past Tuesday – a massive 30-2 run that lasted from the end of the third quarter through the majority of the fourth quarter – will be credited and mostly remembered by Carmelo Anthony’s transformation into a scintillating fireball. Anthony, who’d been struggling shooting, suddenly came alive, knocking down 6-8 shots from all distances on the court for 16 points. Anthony was marvelous, as was the team’s overall defense, another factor that will be credited.
What went somewhat overlooked, however, was the brilliance of Pablo Prigioni during the run. From the last 30 seconds of the third quarter to the 1:24 mark of the fourth quarter, a span of over 11 minutes, Prigioni racked up 8 points on 3-3 shooting, grabbed 4 rebounds, dished 3 assists, and collected 1 blocked shot. It was this 11 minute stretch that made up for the majority of his totals of 21 minutes, 10 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists. And no turnovers, either.
Furthermore, it all happened when Prigioni helmed the offense by himself, with Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd on the bench. A few months ago during the grind of the regular season, it would’ve been unfathomable to imagine Woodson giving Prigioni minutes as the only point guard on the floor in anything less than a 20-point game. No one could’ve foreseen such a scenario happening in the playoffs.
But Tuesday’s game is just a primary example of what’s become a trend in this postseason: the Knicks are better with Prigioni on the floor.
His overall stats are up across the board:
- Regular season: 16.2 mpg, 3.5 ppg, 45.5% FG, 39.6% 3FG, 1.8 rpg, 3.0 apg, 0.9 spg, 1.1 TO
- Playoffs: 22.1 mpg, 5.7 ppg, 43.8% FG, 47.6% 3FG, 2.3 rpg, 3.1 apg, 1.7 spg, 0.7 TO
Even with those increased numbers (besides for overall FG%), his stats may not blow most people away. However, his advanced stats tell the tale of his on-court worth for the Knicks this postseason.
According to NBA.com/Stats, with Prigioni on the floor, the Knicks have their highest Offensive Rating (points per 100 possessions) and their best Defensive Rating (points allowed per 100 possessions). When the point guard is on the floor, the Knicks’ Offensive Rating (OffRtg) is 109.4, while their Defensive Rating (DefRtg) is 85.4 This makes Prigioni’s Net Rating (NetRtg) on the floor 24.0, the highest of any Knick receiving regular minutes. (Only James White has a higher NetRtg, and he’s played just nine minutes all playoffs, thus making his stats easily inflatable). With Prigioni off the floor, the Knicks’ OffRtg and DefRtg fall to 94.2 and 98.2, respectively, meaning, basically, the Knicks are losing when Pablo isn’t playing.
The numbers are impressive in other areas as well. According to NBA.com/Stats, the Knicks’ Rebound % (available rebounds collected when a player is on the floor) is at its highest when Prigioni is playing. It’s tough to pinpoint why this is, but it could possibly be from Prigioni’s aggressiveness in going after boards, or perhaps sound box-outs on fellow guards. It could also be that each of the five Knicks’ starters have the five highest Reb% of any regular rotation players, meaning those five as a group rebound the best.
When Prigioni is on the floor, the Knicks have an assist-turnover ratio of 1.77, best on the team. The Knicks’ better ball movement and decision-making may also lead to a higher True Shooting % (shooting percentage adjusted for the value of free throws and 3-point field goals). When Pablo is playing, the Knicks’ TS% is 55.5% – once again, the best on the team.
It’s impressive for a rookie to come to the NBA and adjust so well to a time when so many young, inexperienced players crumble under the pressure of the playoffs. However, given Prigioni’s experience playing in Europe and Argentina on major stages (Euroleague championships, Olympics, and World Championships), it’s not too surprising that Pablo is excelling at a time when many of the Knicks’ top guns are playing below their usual level.
The combination of Prigioni’s heady passing, careful ball-handling, efficienct shooting, and sound defense and rebounding have made him an indispensable part of the Knicks’ rotation. Mike Woodson would be smart to look at Pablo’s team-leading stats and give him some of the minutes going to less effective players.