The Knicks snapped a four-game losing streak by defeating the Philadelphia 76ers, and retaining first place in the Atlantic Division. Heading into the game, the Knicks had been mired in a major slump on both ends of the floor, undoubtedly playing their worst basketball of the season. A last-minute loss to the Toronto Raptors on Friday seemed to be the tipping point, the time where the panic button ought to be pushed. Granted, it was against a weaker opponent, but tonight’s win over the Sixers displayed better effort and determination for longer stretches than we’d seen in recent weeks.
Anytime a team exceeds expectations, it’s natural to point to two things: a great coaching effort and good personnel changes. While the Knicks are in a bit of a tailspin at the moment, one of the things that make it such a big deal is that up to this point the Knicks have greatly exceeded expectations. As of this writing, the Knicks are 32-20, 12 games over .500, despite their current four-game losing streak. Last year, after 52 games, they were 26-26 and they finished the season just six games over .500, barely making it into the Eastern Conference playoff field. The Knicks entered this season with a roster built around the same three core stars, having lost Jeremy Lin and Amar’e Stoudemire starting the season on the sideline. There were hopes that the Knicks would respond well to a full season under Mike Woodson, but few prognosticators had the Knicks in line to win the Atlantic Division. While the Knicks have benefited from both excellent coaching and some good moves by management, perhaps the most significant change has been to the offensive game of their returning star, Carmelo Anthony.
The Knicks’ slow starts are no longer a trend, but a trait. Since beginning the season in near-dominant fashion, running out to an 18-5 record, the Knicks are just 14-14. Though many of their problems have stemmed from injuries and having to work new players in and out of the rotation, the Knicks have been pretty consistently out of rhythm since 2013 rang in, and Mike Woodson has found few answers to solve their arrhythmic play.
These problems could be traced back to Carmelo Anthony’s various absences, Jason Kidd’s gradual deterioration, Raymond Felton’s month-long absence, the continual injury bugs plaguing Rasheed Wallace and Marcus Camby, the rotational additions of Amar’e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert, and the up-and-down play of J.R. Smith, Steve Novak, and Ronnie Brewer. Piled on over the course of a month and a half, these problems add up, and it’s showed in the Knicks’ play.
For awhile, the team was executing nicely on offense, but struggled mightily to get stops on defense. In the last game before the All-Star break, the Knicks smothered the Toronto Raptors’ offense, but couldn’t figure out a way to score the ball, shooting just 35% from the field and 36% from three-point range. Last night against the Indiana Pacers, arguably the most embarrassing loss of the season, the Knicks took a collective dump on the floor, shooting 33% from the field, 17% from downtown, and giving up 125 points to the seventh least efficient offense in the NBA.
It’s safe to say the Knicks are in a state of total ineptitude.
While the body of the Knicks’ players were in Indiana, apparently their brains and souls were still vacationing. In a performance lacking of effort, the Knicks were destroyed by the Indiana Pacers 125-91 in both of the teams’ first game since returning from the All-Star break. First time All-Star Paul George led the Pacers with 27 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two blocks. Tyson Chandler led the Knicks with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Carmelo Anthony, the NBA’s second leading scorer, had just 15 points on 7-for-21 shooting.
The Knicks had somewhat quietly won three games in a row before bursting out with a 39-points squashing of the Sacramento Kings this past Saturday. The Knicks continued to make noise tonight, winning their fifth straight game – and their fourth by double-figures – by knocking out the Detroit Pistons tonight, 99-85. A fiery hot start for New York blasted them off to a 20+ point lead for most of the first half and, thankfully, buoyed them through a sluggish second half. When the Pistons cut it close in the fourth quarter, some timely three-pointers – a trend on the night – kept them at bay and gave the Knicks the win.
In a possible preview of a first round playoff series, the Knicks defeated the Milwaukee Bucks at Madison Square Garden last night by a score of 96-86. The Knicks entered the game second in the Eastern Conference while the Bucks entered seventh in the conference standings. The Knicks were led by Carmelo Anthony’s 25-point, eight rebound, six assist performance. The Bucks were led by Ersan Ilyasova, who stuffed the stat sheet with 19 points, seven rebounds, four steals and three assists.
Tonight could qualify as one of those “ugly, grind-it-out” wins that are so often referred to when a basketball team squeezes out a victory by the skins of their collective teeth. Said games, however, are usually given such a description when both teams struggle to score the ball, and actually have to play ugly, hustling, desperate basketball in order to get the win. The Knicks and Hawks had to battle each other quite a bit tonight, but instead it consisted of two decent offenses going back and forth while the respective defenses played half-heartedly, with lackluster execution on both ends polluting the quality of play.
Mike Woodson and Larry Drew, the Hawks’ head coach, would probably both like their chances of getting a win if they knew their teams would shoot over 50% from the field and over 40% from three-point range. Instead, the outcome of the game hung in balance until the final buzzer. The Knicks used a heroic offensive performance from Carmelo Anthony, with some great bench production from J.R. Smith and Amar’e Stoudemire to make up for the fact that their defense begged the Hawks to take the game. A last-minute three-point play and a final stop (even with some poor defense) ended up tilting the game in the Knicks’ favor as they escaped with a win to move to 27-15.
This one was over before both team’s starters could even break a sweat. The Philadelphia 76ers embarrassed the Knicks last night, routing them by a score of 97-80. Sixers first time All-Star Jrue Holiday led Philly with a career high 35 points while dishing out six assists and grabbing five rebounds. Carmelo Anthony led the Knicks with 25 points but shot just 9-for-28 from the field.
Cheers, mates! The Knicks’ one-game stint in London proved to be a fun, albeit sloppy one as they took care of the Detroit Pistons, 102-87. The team took another step in the direction of full health by welcoming Iman Shumpert back into the rotation in a game that featured some entertaining moments. The lowly, perhaps jet-lagged, Detroit Pistons team never really made much of a ballgame out of it as the Knicks used a number of offensive bursts and just enough defensive clamping to ensure they’d receive their 25th win of the season.
The Knicks were undoubtedly more spritely to open up the game, boosted by the debut of Iman Shumpert, O Flat-Topped One. Granted, the Pistons are a bit of a sorry bunch – 16th in offensive efficiency and defensive efficiency doesn’t quite summarize their on-court transactions – but the Knicks looked far more energized than we’d seen in recent weeks.
New York got things going in a grand fashion. Some dishing and swishing around the perimeter led to a Jason Kidd three, some stopping and popping from Carmelo Anthony twice from downtown, some paint points from Tyson Chandler and Chris Copeland, a nice welcome-back corner three from Shumpert. The Knicks quickly ran out to a 16-2 lead. The offense stalled a bit thereafter, but they were diligent in preventing Detroit from catching up too much by allowing just 15 points the rest of the way.
After the hot start, the Knicks’ tempo slowed and they were plagued by especially sloppy basketball for a stretch. The Knicks committed six turnovers in the first quarter and prevented themselves from ringing up 30 or more points. They finished the first quarter up 29-17.
The Knicks as a whole have struggled lately, apparent in their three-game losing streak that was just snapped in a blowout win over New Orleans. There are an abundance of themes in these games that are troubling to have to watch, even in this past win. One being Carmelo Anthony’s abysmal shooting. This comes as a surprise to Knicks fans, possibly the biggest of all in this regression that goes far past a few consecutive losses. In their first ten contests, the Knicks held an 8-2 record. The next ten? 7-3. The next 6-4, and finally we arrive to these past seven games, where the Knicks have a record of 3-4.
Breathe, breathe, breathe…. Okay. Excuse my blood pressure, still soaring to Everest-like peaks after that one. On a night when the Boston Celtics would be without their best player, Rajon Rondo – serving a one-game suspension for bumping a referee – all of the Knicks-Celtics rivalry talk seemed a little forced. After all, despite numerous close games in the past, the Knicks have never been on the Celtics’ level in previous years, and when the Knicks are finally an elite team this season, the Celtics have been struggling. However, the difference in the standings had no effect on the intensity of this one. An up-and-down, back-and-forth affair led to a battle of offense and defense, while both teams got heated, scratching at each other’s throats. Ultimately, it was the poise of the Celtics, the cold shooting of Carmelo Anthony, and a few daggers delivered by Paul Pierce that gave the Celtics the win.
After a slow start, the Knicks fought back to beat the Orlando Magic tonight at the Amway Center by a score of 114-106. Carmelo Anthony led all scorer’s with 40 points while adding in six rebounds and six assists. Jameer Nelson and Aaron Afflalo both scored 29 points to lead the Magic. The Knicks got a double-double from Tyson Chandler (14 points, 12 rebounds), 18 points from J.R. Smith off the bench and an all-around game from Jason Kidd (15 points, eight rebounds, 7 assists). Nikola Vucevic lead all players with 18 rebounds for Orlando.