Guess all that talk about a great practice on Tuesday means that’s where the Knicks left their game — this 92-88 Raptors loss was probably the worst they’ve played all year. That’s saying a lot considering the cluster of bad defeats NY has suffered this year to teams like Houston and Chicago. There was no ball movement, defense and worst of all no consistent energy nor effort. And no, we simply can’t look at this as an aberration from a team looking ahead to the All-Star Break. This was just another example of the inconsistent play (and coaching) plaguing this team.
WHO WAS THE TEAM COMING OFF A BACK TO BACK?: Coming into last night, the Raptors were less than 24 hours removed from a grueling one-point road win against the Nuggets. Their fatigue showed early with them settling for long, contested jumpers. The Raptors shot an atrocious 4/19 in the quarter and scored just 14 points.
That would have been good for the Knicks, but their ineptitude was nearly as bad. The Knicks, coming off two full days of rest, could only manage 7/21 from the field for 18 points. Raymond Felton was aggressive at least, but outside of that it was bricked jumper after bricked jumper.
NOVAK THE EXPLOITER…AND THE EXPLOITED: Steve Novak came into the game early in the second and Toronto promptly reeled off six straight points on him. Guys like Rudy Gay and Alan Anderson drove right by Novak in embarrassing fashion. But to his credit, Novak contributed on the offensive end to the tune of three treys to help the Knicks get out to a 35-27 lead.
Suprisingly, the one game where Novak appears to be hot from downtown, Coach Woodson sits him for most of the second half when we were in desperate need for offense.
3RD QUARTER WOES: Even with the lazy all-around effort, the Knicks held a 42-37 lead at halftime. That was promptly erased in a third quarter where the Raptors outscored the Knicks 28-18. Melo couldn’t hit anything (including three straight missed free throws) and neither could any other Knick. Even the ejection of Kyle Lowry couldn’t help as John Lucas III and Alan Anderson continued destroying our Knicks backcourt.
MELO HURT AND NO ONE STEPS UP: As everyone has probably heard, Melo suffered a deep contusion to his right arm in the first quarter after a collision with DeMar DeRozan. His arm went numb and it affected his shooting the rest of the night. That didn’t stop Melo from shooting (to the tune of a horrid 5/24), but it’s not like he had much help elsewhere. Although JR Smith had 26 points, a lot of those points came with the game already decided. When the momentum hung in the balance, he missed key free throws and defensive close outs on the Raptors.
LOWER-LEVEL PLAYERS FEAST IN MSG ONCE AGAIN: This was the most distressing thing about the game. It’s becoming tradition for bench and role players to have career games at the Garden because of our bad perimeter defense. Alan Anderson was 6/8 from downtown (many of them wide open) and finished with 26 points. John Lucas promptly came in for the ejected Lowry and hit a three to set the tone. Late in the fourth, he iced the game with a fadeaway jumper.
TIME FOR ANOTHER LINEUP CHANGE: Jason Kidd is still a valuable piece to this team, but it isn’t as a starter. At 40 he does not have the foot speed to keep up with opposing guards and it’s one of the main reasons we have a lot of bad defensive switches and end up with mismatches. To make matters worse, he’s in one of the worst shooting slumps of his career — last night he had 0 points on 0/3 shooting.
What this team needs is a balance of offense and defense. The first experiment I’d go with is putting Iman Shumpert at shooting guard, moving Melo back to his natural position of small forward and Stoudemire back to starting at the 4. And giving Ronnie Brewer another shot at the rotation (Lord knows his defense is needed).
The good news is that even with losing 3 of their last 4 games, the Knicks still hold the #2 spot in the East. But I hope everyone on the team takes this break to do some soul-searching, get healthy, and gear up for a second half of the season that will require them at their best.[youtube http://youtu.be/0eyLH7_c1yc]