Wednesday night, the Knicks continued their early season struggles as they lost to the Charlotte Bobcats 118-110. Boris Diaw (yes, that Boris Diaw) looked like a fat, french Larry Bird tonight. He was 12-15 from the floor in a 27 point performance. Carmelo Anthony was the high point man with 32 points and 6 boards. Amar’e Stoudemire returned to the lineup after missing two games with an ankle injury. Stoudemire had 25 points and 12 boards but was abused defensively. Rookie Iman Shumpert returned to the lineup after injuring his MCL on christmas day. Shumpert shined on both sides of the ball and brought some great energy tonight for the Knicks. Despite the returns of Stoudemire and Shumpert, the Knicks were unable to consistently get stops and were abused on defense.
Here are some notes from the game
- Stoudemire finally got inside tonight. Early in the game, Stoudemire’s jump shot was off, as it has been this season. Unlike some early games, GSW and LA, Stoudemire adjusted and took his offensive game to the paint. Stoudemire was 7-8 on shots at the rim while he was only 1-4 on shots between 16-23 feet. The important thing is that Stoudemire ditched the mid-range and started getting to the rack. He is unstoppable when he wants to drive and tonight he was more aggressive getting to the paint. However, just a nitpick on my part, there were multiple possessions where he should have taken Byron Mullens, yes the big, white, weird looking, lanky, horribly mustached Byron Mullens, off the dribble and to the rack and he passed the ball out. Stoudemire still needs to be more aggressive driving the ball but tonight was a good start. As a result of playing the way he should, Stoudemire was an efficient 10-19 from the floor and picked up 3 offensive rebounds. It’s funny how these things work out.
- Toney Douglas reverted back to, well Toney Douglas. After his great showing in Sacramento, Douglas has reverted back to the shooting guard from Florida State rather than the point guard the Knicks desperately need. He had only 5 assists in 39 minutes tonight. Thats an average of 1 assist per 7.8 minutes. By comparison, DJ Augustin, who was fantastic tonight (more on that later), had 10 assists in 32 minutes. Douglas is no where near where he needs to be right now. He forces bad shots, he stops his dribble too early and he has no concept of what a proper pick and roll should look like. Douglas shot 6-17 from the floor including 1-6 from 3. That won’t get it done. I love Douglas’ confidence shooting the ball but in nights like tonight, where he was clearly cold, he needs to stop shooting. To add insult to his already poor performance, Douglas missed a contested layup badly that would have put the Knicks down 5 with 40 seconds left. Poor game tonight for Toney.
- Tyson Chandler got 4 shot attempts tonight. By contrast, Toney Bricklas took 17! Chandler was 4-4 from the field tonight. Early in the game, Chandler was very involved catching 3 alley oops. After the first quarter, the Knicks seemed to forget they had Chandler on their team and barely went to him at all. I said this after the Raptors game and I’ll say it again: Chandler needs to touch the ball on offense more. The team is better when they can run some pick and roll action through him or go to him down low. 4 shot attempts is simply not good enough and Chandler’s lack of involvement is a big reason the Knicks offense has struggled.
- Speaking of bricks, Fields was poor again tonight. Landry Fields is a player that I think can be a great piece on this team. Unfortunately, Fields is giving me no way to defend him or claim his upside. Like Douglas, Fields has been horrid since his great performance against Sacramento. Tonight, he was 2-5 with 5 points and 3 turnovers. Fields was abused defensively by Gerald Henderson all night and struggled to get involved with any offensive efficiency.
- Iman Shumpert was great tonight. In 30 minutes tonight, Shumpert scored 18 points on 4-6 shooting from 3. He brought energy on both ends and was aggressive in the offense. Shump even dished a little bit tonight with 3 assists and some other nice passes in the game. People keep talking about how Shumpert should be starting but I disagree. I really like Shumpert coming off the bench because right now he could be our scoring 6th man. We have no other consistent scoring option on the 2nd or 3rd units. Bibby has been garbage, Jorts is inconsistent and Walker sucks. If you move Shumpert into the lineup alongside Douglas, you lose that scorer off the bench. I think Shumpert’s aggressiveness in taking a high volume of shots would be disastrous if he was playing big minutes along side superior scorers Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire. However, with the 2nd unit Shumpert will and should be encouraged to try and get the ball in the hoop. I’d rather see Shumpert put up 15 shots playing with the backups than see Balkman or Jeffries ever shoot the ball. Walker is purely a 3 point shooter and doesn’t do anything else well. Jorts and Novak only can really shoot the 3 ball and Bibby can’t seem to make much of anything these days. Shumpert off the bench would give the Knicks a versatile scorer that can keep the games close while Melo and STAT catch their breath on the bench.
- DJ Augustin killed the Knicks. I thought the Bobcats point guard was excellent tonight. His 14 points and 10 assists were impressive but I really liked the manner in which he controlled the offense and distributed the ball. Augustin was everything tonight that Toney Douglas needed to be. Augustin tonight and the Raptors Jose Calderon Monday night both showed floor general ability that Douglas does not have. I think a big reason the Knicks defense struggled against Charlotte and Toronto is the play of the point guards. The Knicks last season showed the ability to defend isolation heavy teams like Miami and Atlanta. I believe that guarding isolation is just a matter of effort. The true measurement of strong defense is how you play against floor general point guards and so far the Knicks have been porous. Going back to last year, the Knicks still have no answer for Rajon Rondo. Baron Davis killed them last season with the Cavs. Early in this season, Jose Calderon and DJ Augustin have killed the Knicks. While these players aren’t slashers and scorers, they get their offenses in the right sets. Many times tonight, Augustin set up the offense in a way that resulted offensive mismatches versus the Knicks. Since the Knicks seem content to continue switching on every pick (*forhead slap), Augustin was able to get his team in sets in which they had size and quickness advantages (i.e. Boris Diaw being guarded by Toney Douglas and STAT guarding Augustin). The Knicks must adjust their defense *cough Mike Woodson cough* in order to not be caught in these bad match ups continually throughout games.
- The Knicks do not seem to understand the concept of a four-quarter game. Against Golden State and Los Angeles, the Knicks got up early in each game only to fall apart in the second half of each game. Against Toronto and Charlotte, the Knicks have fallen behind early in each game and have been unable to complete second half comebacks. Their energy seems to fluctuate throughout games and I do not understand why. In the last two games, they seem to have only come alive in desperation times. The Knicks must find a way to balance their energy and play 4 solid quarters every game.
- D’Antoni’s rotation tonight was very questionable. As you all know, I do support D’Antoni. I think he is a very bright coach, I think Knick fans give him a raw deal for being unsuccessful in his first 2 years. Nobody could have gotten those teams to the playoffs. However, my support of D’Antoni does not make him exempt from criticism. Tonight, I must criticize him. His rotation tonight was dangerous and made no sense to me. He played Shumpert, just coming off an injury, for 30 minutes tonight that resulted in Shumpert cramping in the 4th quarter. He played Stoudemire, coming off an injury, for 41 minutes. D’Antoni played Chandler 40 minutes for the second straight game. D’Antoni’s bench was too short tonight. Balkman, Walker and Shumpert played rotation minutes. Bibby and Steve Novak, who have gotten rotation minutes, did not play tonight. Josh Harrellson, who has been serviceable the last few games, played all of 3 minutes tonight. YOU WERE PLAYING CHARLOTTE IN GAME 6 OF THE SEASON. Why the hell is D’Antoni playing with a short bench and playing injury prone players 40+ minutes. It is so early in the season and these games are important but not crucial. The NBA regular season, if you are a good team, is more of a formality than regular season in other sports. I understand trying to get the guys to gel together, I understand trying to win the game but this is a regular season game against Charlotte. There is no conceivable reason why STAT, Chandler and Shumpert should have played the minutes they did. There is no conceivable reason why D’Antoni, coaching against the worst team in the NBA, played a short bench tonight. I am a D’Antoni fan but I am not in support of the minutes he relegated to his players tonight and I hope that I am not blogging about this issue throughout the season. This type of rotation management is dangerous and D’Antoni must be careful with his players.
- The Knicks perimeter defense was horrible tonight. The Charlotte Bobcats were 21-40, or 52.5%, on shots from 16 feet and beyond. They were 7-11 from 3 point range. Your eyes do not deceive you. The CHARLOTTE BOBCATS, losers of 4 straight coming into the game, shot 7-11 from 3 point range. That is unbelievable and unacceptable. Mike Woodson, who for some reason is being called for by some Knick fans to replace D’Antoni, has to get this defense playing better on the perimeter or else games like this are going to plague the Knicks all season.
- Speaking of defense, why the hell do the Knicks continue to switch on every pick? Every once in a while, this is a good strategy to make sure a shooter coming off a screen isn’t wide open but for the most part this defensive strategy is killing the Knicks defense. DJ Augustin abused the Knicks all night by getting good offensive match ups for the Bobcats. The Knicks have done this all season and they continually put themselves in tough spots. This team is already mediocre defensively. They aren’t helping themselves by putting themselves in a worse position to defend.