By Ryan Schneider
» More Columns
Carmelo Anthony, Danilo Gallinari, Chauncey Billups, Raymond Felton, Amar’e… it doesn’t matter who you throw out there because the Knicks can’t beat the worst team in basketball. In what should have been an avoidable bump in the road that leads to Miami, the New York Knicks performed at a disappointing level last night. The young, exciting, hard-playing team from before the trade deadline couldn’t do it. Most recently the revamped, superstar-laden team couldn’t either.
Sitting four thousand miles away, in a tiny bedroom, watching the game on a 13-inch computer screen, I was embarrassed. How could you not be? This was a kick in the gut…you start feeling good about something, you start having expectations, and then BAM, here’s a nice blind-sided shot to the head.
Take a deep breath, it’s only been 72…Ya know what? No, I’m not going to take a deep breath. This team has two of the best players in the NBA. They have no excuse for the loss tonight. Were they out of synch offensively? Yes, and at certain points it was painful to watch the choppy, awkward possessions. ‘Melo and Stoudemire both struggled, misfiring on a combined 26 shots from the field. But…despite their offensive struggles, a gritty, fourth quarter offensive performance by Chauncey Billups still got them to 109 points.
109 should be more than enough to outscore a Cavs team that has averaged merely 95.5 points per game. On top of an anemic offense, their point differential for the year is negative 10.6. That’s 3.7 points worse than the next team. So their offensive numbers are horrible, their rebounding numbers are almost as bad…this is a team that is without any semblance of a true center. The rebounding margin is negative 4.6, which is completely understandable considering they only grab 39 boards a night.
The lethargic Knicks were out-rebounded by 20 (which is inexcusable)…3 of which came in the fourth quarter off of missed Cavs free throws, giving the hungry Cleveland squad a second possession. That’s really what it came down too…the Cavs were far more interested in winning the battle on the boards.
Would you believe me if I told you that rebounding wasn’t even close to the biggest problem of the night for the Knicks? The defense was atrocious. Is there a better word than atrocious? If there is plug it in. Let’s use the biggest defensive possession of the game as an example of how staggeringly poor it was. The Knicks cut it to 107-105, 49 seconds left…Cavs come down the floor swing the ball through Antwan Jamison to Boobie Gibson 25 feet out on the right wing. Jamison sets a ball-screen and Billups goes under anticipating that Stoudemire will step out with a hard hedge, cut off Gibson, let Billups catch up and recover to Jamison. STAT decides to give an 8-foot cushion, leaves Billups on an island and Gibson gracefully shoots in a dagger, pushing the Cavs lead to five.
27 losses into the season and I continue to see a blatant disregard for employing basic defensive principles into the game plan. Play a fast-paced style, get up and down, score a lot of points, fine! But in the last six minutes against any team, good or bad, you need to get stops. A hard hedge, communicating, rotating after a baseline drive, are all things that are absent. ‘Melo found himself guarding a few pick ‘n roll situations in the fourth quarter and seemed utterly confused on what to do.
After the game when asked about getting the Knicks accustomed to playing with one another Coach D’Antoni said, “There is a learning curve and you can’t get around it, we know it’s going to take us a little while.” Against the Cavs, being acclimated to one another wasn’t the reason the Knicks lost…sadly they played without a purpose on the defensive end, and were outworked on the glass. These are two aspects of the game that can be properly executed by any 5 guys playing pick-up on a Saturday morning.
What did you think of the Knicks’ loss? Sound off in the comments below…