The Knicks are in a really bad place right now. I’m not over-exaggerating to a bad loss, or even a few bad losses. After starting off the season an astounding 18-5, the Knicks are now 14-15 in their last 29 games. They’ve lost 4 straight games and the upcoming late season schedule is brutal. November seems like eons ago.
Coming off Wednesday’s abomination in Indiana, the Knicks had a rough night tonight in Toronto. I actually thought the energy was pretty good tonight, but the execution was not. Defensively, we saw the same deficiencies we have seen all year. For the most part, I thought the Knicks gave a strong effort on defense. However, the constant switching and un-necessary double teaming left them out to try on too many occasions tonight. Give Toronto credit, they did some nice things on offense and took advantage of the Knicks putting themselves at a disadvantage. No one play was more evident of this than Kyle Lowry’s game winning bucket with 28 seconds left. Toronto ran high pick and roll, the Knicks switched and Lowry hit a really tough shot over Chandler. That one play symbolized this game in a microcosm. You pulled your hair out when the Knicks switched, thought they might be okay when Chandler had good position on Lowry and cursed when Lowry hit the shot anyways.
Here are my notes from the game:
- Between Raymond Felton taking a bad three, Carmelo taking a bad three and Chandler missing a free throw, the Knicks late game offensive execution was porous. With 28 seconds left, Mike Woodson drew up a not so hot play for Anthony, and one everybody knew was coming. It was the same cross screen, left wing isolation play for Anthony that we saw against Brooklyn and Dallas. Anthony actually made a good play to bullet the ball into Chandler, in that the Knicks got foul shots out of it. Given that the Anthony was 0/2 the other times the play was run and that he’s notoriously a better shooter from the right side of the floor, I’m okay with that. Obviously you want Chandler to hit the free throws, but it’s not like you’re putting Dwight Howard on the line. Chandler isn’t a great free throw shooter, but he had hit 16 straight before missing tonight. Regardless, it was a bad play call from Woodson. If you’re going to isolate Anthony, do it on the right side of the floor. Preferably I’d like to see the Knicks run a play, but I understand him wanting to put the ball in Anthony’s hands.
- When the Knicks lose, you notice Carmelo Anthony’s laziness/deficiency on defense a lot more than you do when they’re winning. Now I’m not bashing Melo, or not trying to, but it’s something I could help but notice tonight. I don’t think he had a bad game, he scored 32 points on 24 shots, but I thought he had some really bad possessions on defense. If you read much of the more analytical minded people who study the game more so than root, there is a good sized faction of people that don’t believe Anthony is a star. I don’t necessarily agree, but I don’t necessarily disagree. I can totally see the argument that giving up 6-8 points directly a game, and possibly more indirectly through bad switches and stuff offsets his offense, which is often times inefficient. If you think about it, giving up 8+ points on defense and using up 24 possessions to score 28 points does result in a net negative. I’m not saying that’s necessarily what happened tonight, but I didn’t think Anthony was as effective as what 32 points would indicate. I thought he was about a net neutral player tonight.
- Amar’e Stoudemire was a net negative player tonight. His offense wasn’t terrible, but his defense was and it very well might’ve cost the Knicks the game. Whether it was being completely lost defending an inbounds pass or getting driven on time and again throughout the game, Stoudemire was absolutely detrimental on that end of the floor.
- Not everyone played like crap tonight. I thought JR had a good game. His defense was very solid and he was efficient on offense. Smith hit some big shots down the stretch and was a huge part of why the Knicks were even in the game. I also liked how Prigioni played tonight, though he only got 12 minutes of playing time. Chandler had some really great plays on defense, although he got into foul trouble early in the 4th quarter.
- I think it might be time for JR Smith to start. Yes, I know it sounds insane, but the Knicks need a shakeup and this might be the best way to do it. With Stoudemire coming off the bench, and yes he should continue to come off the bench, I think the Knicks can afford to start Smith. I’d be fine with either Kidd or Shumpert sitting, but them starting together is not working right now. Shumpert is lost, 15 scoreless minutes tonight, and Kidd clearly is feeling the affects of age and has been marred in a terrible shooting slump. If Woodson makes a move, I’d think he’d put Kidd on the bench and go Felton/Shump/Smith/Melo/Tyson as the starting five. The Knicks need to start games better and starting Smith might be the way to do that.
Tonight was rough, and honestly the last two months have been rough. Against poor competition, the Knicks have been very average and they seem to be trending downwards. They’ve got to right the ship and soon.
Follow Taylor on Twitter @tarmosino