It finally came back to bite us in the ass. Playing pathetic defense and letting trash teams hang around has happened a few times this season, most notably in December on the road to the Bobcats and Suns. But each time, the Knicks played great fourth quarter D and JR Smith hit heroic buzzer-beating shots to steal the games. Well, this time we got to feel the heartbreak ourselves with James Johnson heaving up a miracle three to snatch away what would have been the greatest comeback in Knicks history. Personally, this game still has me pissed off and these are the reasons why.
LESSON LEARNED: You play two halves of basketball for a reason, New York. I don’t know if the Knicks were thrown off because of the last start time (10 p.m. ET time) or what, but their defense in the first half was the worst it’s been the whole season. Coach Woodson was incredulous watching Kings guards essentially having an open look shooting drill from the three-point arc. You had guys like Jimmer Fredette coming off the bench and scoring 15 points in 12 minutes off 6-7 shooting from downtown. The Knicks had no effort on each side of the ball and our ineptness was puncuated by Chris Copeland getting blocked on a fast break by little guard Aaron Brooks. And not to mention that block lead to a Kings fast break and a three-pointer.
It doesn’t matter that we were missing a good chunk of our starting lineup; giving up 71 points at the half to the Kings is not acceptable. In the second half, the Knicks held Sacramento to 35 points. I hope the lesson that Woodson crashed home in the postgame is that if we had of played any semblance of defense in the first half, this would have been a Knicks blowout win.
KIDD’s KEY MISTAKE AND CRITICAL MISSED SHOTS: Jason Kidd is our glue, but last night 2 of his 5 turnovers resulted in us not being able to steal the victory. Kidd turned the ball over twice, the last in trying to get a lob to Chandler, that lead to Kings forward James Johnson hitting his first three-pointer of the season. In hindsight, our last three possessions went heavy on isolation and trying to wear the clock down instead of ball movement to maximize scoring opportunities. Chandler made several offensive tipbacks to give us extra possessions but we failed to convert on any which would’ve iced the game.
The other problem is the missed free throws. Chandler was a beast everywhere else in getting 21 points and 18 rebounds, but his 3-9 at the free throw line (including a key miss in the final minutes), came back to haunt us. The rest of the team was no better as we shot 12-20 (60%).
IF SOMEONE ELSE GETS INJURED I’LL SCREAM: How much more bad luck can we have? The early word from last night was that Tyson Chandler was seen limping in the locker room due to a sprained ankle. He won’t miss any time but I’m really desperate, as most Knicks fans are, to see this squad at full strength. Melo, Rasheed Wallace and Amar’e Stoudemire are all scheduled to come back sometime next week, with the first two expected to be back on January 1. Their presence is sorely needed.
THE BRIGHT SPOTS: Chris Copeland’s first half defense was trash like everyone else’s, but his scoring was very impressive. He had the jumper working and was aggressive in dropping 23 points. JR Smith continued his excellent play with a season-high 28 points coupled with 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Marcus Camby didn’t have a strong rebounding game (just 2 boards), but his 11 minutes were key in our comeback as he had four emphatic blocks around the rim.
In the end, we’re still 21-9 despite the erratic play of the last two weeks. In a few days we’ll start 2013 with several of our most important players back and our best perimeter defender in Iman Shumpert is scheduled to make his return by mid-January. It would have been great to end the year with our greatest comeback in overcoming a 27 point deficit, but Knicks fans have many reasons to be hopeful in the New Year.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJrkWXweDjw&feature=youtube_gdata_player]