No Melo + No Defense = Ugly Loss to the Thunder

The New York Knicks lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder, 104-92, and Carmelo Anthony’s absence, due to his sprained right ankle, was a significant reason that they lost, but it would have also helped if the team played some defense.

New York let the Thunder shoot 48 percent for the game, as the 2010-2011 scoring champ, Kevin Durant, scored 28 points, on a very efficient 10-13 from the field. James Harden, who is averaging 17.4 points in his third season in the league, was the second leading scorer with 24 points, and only missed four of his 12 shots. The fact that Durant and Harden only missed seven shots proves how the Knicks’ defense needs to improve.

On the other hand, it also didn’t help that three of the Knicks starters, Bill Walker, Amar’e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert went a combined 11-35 for the game. Stoudemire, the teams only offensive star with Melo out of the lineup, had a lackluster game all around, continuing his slow start to the season. He shot only 7-19, had five turnovers, didn’t play much defense and only scored 14 points. The Knicks should also cut down on the 20 turnovers that they committed.

Stoudemire should be able to improve when Baron Davis is healthy and starting. Stoudemire was an MVP candidate last season before Anthony joined the team, but he was playing better the second-half of last season than he has been in the first 12 games. He has not been very far from his normal stats and it seems like he will be able to bounce back.

The Knicks could not contain the Oklahoma City Thunder offense in the first quarter, as the first 12 minutes ended with the Knicks down 32-22. This would be the most amount of points that the Thunder had scored during the first quarter so far this season. The score was tied at 13 with 4:30 remaining in the quarter and it was all downhill from there.

Amar’e Stoudemire had another unnecessary technical foul called on him in the beginning of the second quarter. He needs to learn how to not talk to the refs so much.

The Thunder had a 16 point lead, 56-40, with 2:51 remaining. They scored five quick points as Harden nailed a three assisted by Russell Westbrook and then a few seconds earlier, before a Shumpert miss, Durant made a short jumper assisted by Westbrook.

Westbrook hit a three to close out the first-half as the Thunder scored by far their most points in a half. The Knicks let the Thunder shoot 58 percent on their way to a 23 point lead at the intermission (70-47). It also didn’t help that the Knicks shot 44 percent and committed 10 turnovers in the first-half.

Westbrook had 17 points, eight assists and seven rebounds with 8:35 left in the third quarter. That proves that he is an elite point guard, but also that D’Antoni could not come up with a decent plan for slowing him down since those should have been his numbers for the whole game.

With Stoudemire struggling, as he was 6-16 with 6:40 left in the third quarter, with five turnovers to that point, and nobody else really stepping up on the Knicks besides Josh Harrellson, it was an ugly first portion of the third quarter.

Lackluster defense and no offense to speak of would help the Thunder take a 30 point lead with 6:19 remaining (before Tyson Chandler made two free throws).

The Thunder had 22 points off of 14 New York turnovers with about three minutes left in the third quarter.

Oklahoma City would go on to win 104-92 but the final score was never really in doubt. Similar to the game against the Grizzlies, on Thursday, the Knicks would make a run in the fourth quarter outscoring Oklahoma City 27-12 to make the score seem respectable.

Even though Renaldo Balkman only played for 12 minutes, he proved that he should be playing 15-20 minutes during most games. He finished with 12 points, four rebounds, two steals and even added a three. He always hustles and provides constant energy on the floor. Balkman cuts to the basket so that his teammates can find him for easy baskets.

Harrellson was one of the few bright spots for the Knicks, in addition to Toney Douglas and Tyson Chandler. Harrellson, the rookie out of Kentucky, scored 12 points, with two 3-pointers, four rebounds and three steals. He is able to score in many different ways and has been more productive than many would have expected when he was drafted in the second round.

Oklahoma City is obviously a better team than the Knicks right now, even with Melo playing, since they were in the Western Conference Finals last season, and have a good shot at returning, but the Knicks should not have been down by 30.

Something needs to change besides the Knicks obviously having to play better defense since they allow too many easy shots. These include lay-ups and virtually open jumpers. Also, D’Antoni should give Jeremy Lin some or all of Mike Bibby’s minutes and Balkman should get more playing time than he did during this game.