Who knew Madison Square Garden was hosting a weeklong Halloween special? Nightmare week featuring the Knicks is finally over, after the ‘Bockers lost in double overtime to the Denver Nuggets, 119-114. They finish their four game home stand losing all four games and push their losing streak to six. In the first matchup between these two teams since their blockbuster trade last February, Danilo Gallinari scored a career high 37 points and pulled down 11 rebounds, in his return to MSG. Carmelo Anthony scored 25 points on just 10-for-30 shooting in his first game against his former club.
As evident by the final score, this game was tight throughout. Amar’e Stoudemire had quite a cryptic game. He began the game scoring six points, making three of his first four shots. However, as has been the case too much this season, he was nowhere to be found on defense, allowing the Nuggets to get easy baskets down low. Then, from the second quarter on, he was alive on defense, clogging up the lane and making life difficult for Nene. STAT ended the game with 11 rebounds, two steals and a block. The problem was that his offense left the building, as he managed just six points the rest of the way. But we’ll get to that later.
The real story of this game might be the 2nd quarter. It was one in which Bill Walker scored 13 points, making all five of his shots. But more importantly, the Knicks’ ball movement in that quarter was by far the best it had been at any point during the season. And all that was happening with Carmelo Anthony on the bench. When Anthony returned to the game with 5:11 left in the half, the Knicks turned into an ISO machine again, with neither the ball nor any players moving, and Knicks fans booing Anthony when he tried to force the offense, instead of passing. The Knicks would score 30 in the quarter and take a 54-46 lead into halftime.
The third quarter was more reminiscent of what Knicks fans have seen this year. The team shot 6-for-20 (30%), with Anthony missing his three field goal attempts and committing three turnovers. The Nuggets outscored the Knicks 26-18 in the quarter to send the game tied into the fourth quarter.
In the last period of regulation, Anthony found his stroke, scoring 12 points, helping offset the 15 points Al Harrington scored for the Nuggets in the period. The Knicks seemed doomed, down six late in the game. However, down 2 with 7.4 seconds remaining, Anthony knocked down a jumper, despite having three defenders on him and a wide-open Iman Shumpert on the other wing. Shumpert had a strong game with 18 points, seven assists, four rebounds and two steals.
Both teams scored just seven points in the first overtime (including a miracle 31 foot three from Andre Miller with the shot clock expiring), forcing a second OT. Tyson Chandler had fouled out in the first OT, proving critical for the Knicks. The Nuggets would outscore the Knicks in the second OT, 14-9.
Before we look at the bad, there was some good. Landry Fields had his second straight strong performance, this time with 18 points and seven assists, and we’ve already mentioned Shumpert’s strong game. But of course, with these Knicks, there is some bad. The Nuggets shot 31-43 from the free throw line, with Gallinari going an absurd 18-for-20 at the line alone. Meanwhile, the Knicks made just 15-of-21 free throws. Giving up 16 extra points to your opponent from the free throw line is a recipe for disaster. Knicks were also out-rebounded 58-50.
But the biggest issue of all was the disappearance of Stoudemire. Count me as one who is not on the Mike D’Antoni bandwagon. I believe championships are won with defense, so I was never on board with D’Antoni’s hiring. However, how can the best offensive mind in basketball not find a way to get his $100 million power forward shots? Stoudemire didn’t attempt a field goal in the 4th quarter or first OT. The Knicks are not going to win playing the ISO game with Melo. And speaking of Melo, he heard the boos and groans of the MSG crowd when he was holding the ball and not passing. Is the honeymoon between Knicks fans and Melo over? What’s going to go through his head if the boos get louder and stronger?
Next week could prove to be a critical week for the team. The Knicks now go on the road for four games, with a meeting with the Miami Heat set for next Friday night. When the Knicks return home on Jan. 31, will the losing streak be at 10, will this team have figured out their issues… will there be a new head coach? Stay tuned.