Too Little, Too Late: Knicks Fall to Raptors

The Knicks lost to their division rival from the north, the Toronto Raptors, 90-85, at MSG, in a game they definitely should have won.

One excuse some might have for the loss is that Amar’e Stoudemire did not play for the second straight game, as a result of a sprained ankle, but they easily beat the Sacramento Kings without him.

The Knicks shot way too many shots from long distance, once again, only making 10-35 (27%), which needs to stop. They had a chance to win in the last minute, but they should only shoot 20-25 three-pointers in their next game. In addition, the 36 percent shooting for the game needs to be improved.

Stoudemire will obviously be able to be counted on to score 20 points, but the Knicks need more scoring options besides Carmelo Anthony and Toney Douglas. Anthony, dominated the game by scoring 35 points, pulling down 11 boards and dishing out four assists, but he also made a few questionable plays. Douglas had a solid game with 22 points, four rebounds and four assists.

Douglas seems like he will be reliable, but until Iman Shumpert returns late this week, I would play Jeremy Lin as the point guard off the bench, because Mike Bibby is not giving the team much. Lin, the second year pro out of Harvard, will be able to hustle, penetrate to the basket, find open teammates and make open shots.

Another theme that was similar to the other two losses was that they failed to play defense consistently throughout the game. Whenever they stop playing defense, they should look back to the fourth quarter of the win over the Celtics. The Knicks repeatedly let Demar DeRozan (21 points) and Andrea Bargnani (21 points) do whatever they wanted to on offense.

At half-time, the Knicks were down 51-34 and that was a result of not enough ball movement, too many forced shots, as well as what Clyde Frazier would call Swiss cheese defense.

The Knicks regained some momentum back in the third quarter, when Landry Fields had a pass to Tyson Chandler to set up a dunk, followed by a steal and fast-break lay-up by Douglas with 9:45 left in the quarter. A few minutes later, a play that appeared critical happened when Douglas made a 3-pointer with 6:05 remaining and nailed the free-throw after getting fouled for the four-point play. Fields would then drive to the hole to make it a six-point game.

Toronto was only winning by three, after the Knicks had played solid defense for a few minutes, but James Johnson hit a corner three as a result of the Knicks’ taking the play off. As of 1:52 left in the third, Douglas had scored 12 of his 19 points in the third quarter. It was downhill for the Knicks from that point on as the Raptors were winning by nine at the end of the quarter because of low percentage shots and lackluster defense.

Bill “Sky” Walker hit a clutch 3-pointer, off of another assist from Fields, with 9:14 remaining in the fourth to decrease the Raptors’ lead to four. With 5:29 left in the game Melo had made four of his nine 3-pointers and was on his way to taking over the fourth quarter in the same way that he did in the win over the Celtics on Christmas.

Douglas showed his offensive prowess once again, as he sunk a jumper with 1:34 left off yet another pass from Fields to make it a three-point game. The combination of Fields and Douglas dished and swished numerous times, so that was a highlight.

With 34 seconds remaining Melo proved he can pass, as well, as he made a smart pass to Tyson Chandler to set up an easy slam dunk. However, with 10 seconds left, and the Knicks down by three, Anthony took a three much too early, not coming close, causing the Raptors to go up by five after two Anthony Carter free throws.

Obviously, if Melo would have made the shot the game would have been tied, but this makes me wonder about his decision making since he could have gone to the basket for the conventional three point play to tie the game.

Fields had a productive overall game, pulling down three boards, dishing out five assists, to go along with two steals and two blocks, but he needs to take high percentage shots as he only went 1-7 from the field.

The Knicks will, without a doubt, be a better team when Baron Davis joins the starting five, but they need to be able to be at least a .500 team until then. They need more bench scoring, which should improve when Shumpert returns. Also, it doesn’t make sense that D’Antoni did not play Renaldo Balkman at all, since he has been a productive hustle player off the bench, rebounding the ball and cutting to the basket to create easy points.

It takes time for a team with only two returning starters to gel and it seems like at about game 10 they should have more of their issues figured out.

New York will play their next four games against teams that finished last season under .500. Their next game is against the Charlotte Bobcats, on Wednesday. They will see the Bronx native, Kemba Walker, who led UCONN to the National Championship last year.