While it’s important to keep the Knicks’ Friday night loss to the Rockets in perspective – it was only their third of the season after all – many of the team’s flaws were exposed and there were plenty of times we saw “the old Knicks” re-emerge in Houston.
What catapulted the Knicks to an 8-2 record coming into Friday night’s tilt was good ball movement and solid defense, both of which were non-existent. We saw the return of the Carmelo Anthony iso offense, with Melo continuing to try to back his way to the rim even while getting doubled and hoisting pull-up jumpers after seconds of stationary dribbling. After a few nice inside looks early on, the Knicks devolved into their former “3-pointers only” mentality. Even though they’ve been featuring the 3-pointer as a prominent scoring feature, they were mixing it in with pick and rolls and inside cuts, during their initial success this season.
A quick look at the box score shows how poor the Knicks played defensively, but that doesn’t even begin to describe how bad it actually was. The Rockets had already reached 100 points in the third quarter, thanks to an unexpected hot night from Chandler Parsons and an expected one from James Harden. More often than not, Harden was able to slice through the Knicks’ interior and get easy lay-ins. While many will frame their stories about this game on Jeremy Lin “getting revenge” on the Knicks, he was a non-factor. He didn’t need to be, though, as New York had no answer for everyone else.
Omer Asik led the way with 14 boards and the Rockets out-rebounded the Knicks 49-30, leading to a lot of easy second shot opportunities. It was a taste of the usual medicine for the Knickerbockers, who rank 28th in the league in rebounding.
Tyson Chandler and Carmelo Anthony didn’t help matters by consistently complaining throughout the game about every call, either. Sure, some of them were missed calls, but Anthony had the most pathetic display of the night when he continued to complain about a call all the way down the court, leaving his back turned for a wide open dunk, then got a technical on top of it. Something like that just can not happen at any level on the basketball court.
Chandler, too, let his frustrations boil over, elbowing Asik in the face and receiving a Flagrant-One foul. Asik was initially whistled for a loose-ball foul, which would have given the Knicks possession, but instead the Rockets got two shots and the ball.
There probably aren’t enough adjectives to describe just how awful the Knicks looked Friday night, like Robert Silverman said. A blowout loss looks the same in the win-loss column as a nail-biting defeat, though, and the good news is the Knicks are still 8-3. No game is a must-win at this stage in the season, but a loss to the Pistons at home on Sunday would do a lot to continue to deflate New York’s sense of accomplishment.
If Melo and company can improve on their rebounding, get back to playing smart defense, and move the ball at the pace they were before this road trip started, they’ll have no problem taking care of Detroit and returning to their winning ways. If the Knicks continue to play like they did in Houston, like the “old Knicks,” then it could be a long, long season.