By John Schmeelk
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I sure hope the Knicks learned a valuable lesson last night when they lost to the Indiana Pacers. They lost that game because they stopped trying hard in the fourth quarter, and their intensity dropped down a few notches. Alan Hahn said it best on the Knicks post game show: “They took their foot off the gas pedal.” You heard similar things from Tyson Chandler and Landry Fields after the game. With the losses of Amar’e Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin, the Knicks can no longer afford those types of lapses. They simply don’t have the talent to make up for extended periods of uninspired play.
The Knicks, more than ever, need to win with defense. Since Mike Woodson, it’s something they’ve done. If Mike Woodson wants to keep his job next season, it’s something they must continue doing. Giving up 40 points in a quarter will lose a basketball game nearly every time. This isn’t the run and gun Mike D’Antoni Knicks anymore. Without their starting point guard, this team doesn’t have the firepower to keep pace if the defense is poor.
The Knicks offense has boiled down to a lot of Carmelo Anthony and not much else. A lot of people have been grumbling that this is simply Mike Woodson returning to his “Iso-Joe” days with the Atlanta Hawks, but that’s not fair. Mike Woodson really has no other choice but to put the ball in Carmelo Anthony’s hands and let him create. Luckily for the Knicks, he has regained his scoring touch at just the right time and looks like the old Carmelo Anthony again. 31 shots might be a big excessive, but 17 makes is a good percentage, especially when no one else was making any shots.
The Knicks just don’t have anyone else that can make a play with the ball. (Except JR Smith, who can turn a possession into a low percentage step back jump shot like it’s nobody’s business) Baron Davis moves around like he has an eighteen wheel tractor trailer attached to him. Tyson Chandler needs a penetrating point guard to get him touches near the basket. The Knicks don’t have one. Mike Bibby might as well be a member of the 7th avenue squad. (Though that might be an insult to the 7th Ave squad considering how fresh their legs are). Landry Fields can’t create anything. Iman Shumpert is still only a rookie and developing his offensive game. Carmelo Anthony is the only answer.
Is it ugly basketball? Yes. But it is the only way the Knicks are going to win right now. Baron Davis said it the other day and I think he’s right: The Knicks are going to win games by slowing it down, playing great defense, rebounding, and running the offense by grinding it out through their playmakers. That’s only going to work if the team constantly gives ultimate effort on defense and on the boards. If there’s anything to learn from that Pacers game it’s that if they don’t, this team is not going to make the playoffs and they will get Mike Woodson fired.
Of course, any learning experience at this point of the season is a costly one. The Knicks simply don’t have a lot of margin for error with only a game and a half lead over the Milwaukee Bucks for the final playoff spot with twelve games to play. The Bucks have a much easier schedule the rest of the way. The injuries probably away any chance the Knicks might have had to win the Atlantic or get the sixth seed and avoid the Bulls or Heat in the first round. But the team can still get in, and if they good defense and Carmelo Anthony gets hot, who knows. But if that’s going to happen there can’t be anymore lapses on defense, or dips in intensity. That’s what happened in the 4th quarter against the Pacers. That’s why they lost.
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