The Knicks lost 98-90, to the Cavs, who were previously 4-18 in their last 22 games. This was Amar’e Stoudmire’s first game back after missing 12 games, so this loss proves that it will take time for the defense to get back to what it was before his return.
The Cavs shot 46 percent from the field and for periods of the game it looked like the Knicks were not even trying on defense. It seemed like this would be an easy win coming into the game, since the Cavs were only 20-41, but the whole team, including Stoudemire, had an off game. Anthony looked lost at times as he fumbled a few passes, while only scoring 12 points on 5-13 from the field.
They were 8-1 against teams under .500 with Woodson as the coach. The key to a successful team is beating the opponents that you are supposed to beat.
This loss will make it much harder for the Knicks to get to the sixth seed, as they are currently half-a-game ahead of the 76ers for seventh place, but are 3.5 games behind the Magic for sixth place. The Knicks only have three games left, while the Magic have four, so New York will basically have to win their remaining games against the Hawks, Clippers and Bobcats, while hoping the Magic lose all of their games.
It is a possibility that the Magic will lose their remaining games because they play the Jazz, Nuggets, Bobcats and Grizzlies without Dwight Howard. If the above scenario happens then the Knicks will get to avoid the Heat and the Bulls in the first round, which will improve their chances of reaching the second round. However, if they can play the way the have the past few weeks then anything is possible.
During the game against the Cavs, Stoudemire usually played when Carmelo Anthony was on the bench, which makes sense in the beginning, but Stoudemire will have to play defense at the improved level that Melo has. The Knicks had won three of their last four games, so this loss to the lowly Cavs can be blamed on the return of Stoudemire. They will need him to play at a high level if they want to make a playoff run like the team did in 99.
Mike Bibby got his second consecutive start as Baron Davis missed another game with a stomach virus. At times, he was able to shoot like he did earlier in his career.
JR Smith made an open 3 to help the Knicks take one of their few leads, 20-17. However, the Knicks did not play the kind of defense the Woodson preaches after that as they looked like a team that was taking it easy after clinching a playoff spot.
Omri Casspi helped the Cavs take a 25-20 advantage at the end of the first quarter as he had a put back dunk. On the previous possession Melo’s lay-up attempt was blocked, so that was a four-point swing.
Stoudemire made his first basket of the game on a dunk early in the second quarter. That is a good sign, but he was only able to make 1-4 shots in the first half. He finished with a solid 15 points, four blocks and three rebounds, but he will obviously have to improve his defense and rebounding.
The Knicks went through a 10 minute stretch in the first and second quarter where they only made three baskets. They did not go to the basket enough, which led to this scoring drought.
About half way through the second quarter Tristan Thompson drove right through the Knicks defense for an easy dunk. The Cavs got many easy shots in the first half, as JR Smith (who has become the second most reliable scoring option) basically gave up on a play giving Kyrie Irving, who is a solid 3-point shooter, an open shot from long distance.
At the end of the first two quarters, the Cavs were leading 45-34, as the Knicks were being out rebounded 33-18, and only made 31 percent of their field goals.
The Knicks did not play with any urgency on the defensive end and Toney Douglas also played more in the first half than he has recently. They will have to improve with him on the floor.
A Manny Harris 3 with about 4:30 remaining gave the Cavs a 63-48. Harris, who was undrafted, was only averaging five points, but at that point had 10 points and 11 rebounds.
The Knicks needed a spark and Novak came to the rescue to help them get some momentum. He would make two straight 3’s to cut the deficit to nine.
Towards the end of the third, the Knicks played Swiss cheese defense helping the Cavs go on a 7-0 run, leading to them taking a 72-56 lead.
Stoudemire had an impressive block as it appeared that the Knicks would get possession, but Casspi seized the ball and then had a powerful dunk. That gave the Cavs a 16-point lead as nothing was really going the Knicks way.
One possession later, Harris sunk a 35 foot jumper as the shot clock expired. Harris is yet another average player elevating his play against the Knicks.
A telling stat is that the Knicks had given up 46 in the paint, but had only scored 22 as of about six minutes left in the fourth. Melo and Chandler basically sat for the whole fourth quarter.
The Knicks were gaining momentum, after improved play by Fields, and had cut the lead to single digits, but Luke Harongody made only his fourth 3-point of the season.
It seems like whatever could go wrong did go wrong for the Knicks in this game.
The Knicks were down by eight with about two minutes to go, but a dagger in the comeback attempt was that Toney Douglas made a dangerous pass that led to a turnover as he tried to start a fast break.
It is unacceptable that the Knicks lost this game, but if the loss helps Stoudemire learn how to play defense like he needs to then it could help the team win their remaining games. They need to go into the playoffs with momentum and not ruin what has possibly been the best month of Melo’s career.