Well, at least we didn’t get blown out by 20-plus points. The Knicks’s losing streak has extended to three as they remain winless on this five-game West Coast swing. JR Smith urged the team to find their hearts after getting drubbed by the Nuggets on Wednesday. While the team did fight, there were some key bad stretches to put this game out of reach.
IT STARTED OFF WELL: The Knicks came out with lots of energy and ball movement courtesy of an inspired Raymond Felton, who was returning to Portland for the first time and got greeted with boos every time he touched the ball. He penetrated often and Kenyon Martin was the main recipient in notching 8 first quarter points. The isolation plays that did happen were for Chris Copeland, who made sure to take it to the rim. He had 6 points and the Knicks nursed a 30-22 lead after one stanza on 62% shooting.
The big bright spot for the Blazers was Damian Lillard, who had a few three-pointers to keep his team in it. The Knicks’s second unit did a strong job with Pablo Prigioni working the pick and roll to perfection with Marcus Camby, who got about four easy layups inside. In addition, Camby crashed home a putback dunk that had me checking the calender, as it was straight out of his ’99 form.
NO ADJUSTMENTS: Unfortunately for New York, once Portland stepped up their defense and clamped down on the pick and roll, the Knicks offense degraded into shambles. The Knicks led by as much as 13 (41-28), but Portland went on a 8-1 run to get back in it, and then a crushing 13-0 burst to close the quarter and go up 51-48 at halftime.
The Knicks spent way too much time on the perimeter during this stretch and there were costly turnovers. Coach Woodson, for whatever reason, kept Copeland on the bench which hurt our opportunities to score with Steve Novak completely off from three-point land.
3RD QUARTER OFFERS NO RELIEF: Over this losing streak, the Knicks have had at least one quarter where nothing goes right. I have no qualms with anyone picking the second, but for me it was the third. The Blazers outhustled them badly for rebounds and loose balls. There was zero guard penetration for the Knicks and the Blazers reeled off another game-changing run (11-2) while the Knicks’s shooting dipped to 42%. Overall, the Blazers outscored the Knicks 27-14 in the quarter and took a big 78-62 lead into the fourth.
THE LAST STAND: You can’t say the Knicks didn’t make a go of it. Copeland hit a three followed by two more from JR Smith and a layup that brought the deficit to 80-73. Prigioni’s energy was essential during this climb back — he made two key steals, one of which was converted into another Smith three to bring the Knicks within 4 (80-76) with about seven minutes left.
Prigioni’s decisions weren’t all good — he had a fast break on the first steal but opted to reset on the perimeter with the defense closing in, and had a turnover on a bad pass. But Woodson made a mistake pulling him, since as soon as Felton came back in, Lillard burned him for a three-pointer.
Felton, much like he did in the games against Jeremy Lin, got caught up in trying to prove himself and his decision-making lead to more turnovers. The ball movement relied on long jumpers which were cold while the Blazers sizzled behind the arc with the likes of Nicolas Batum going off. By the time the barrage ended, the Knicks were down 78-95 with just four minutes remaining.
As a fitting conclusion, Felton bricked a three-pointer for the Knicks’s last possession.
ANOTHER INJURY: As if matters couldn’t get any worse, Kenyon Martin left the game with what was later diagnosed as a bone contusion in one of his knees. No word yet on if he’ll miss any time.
Right now I’ll say the Knicks are at the lowest point they’ve had all season. There is no identity on defense or offense, and the team’s confidence is suffering for it. We can only hope they’ll focus on the good play they had in the first quarter and early part of the second for the next game (Clippers in LA on Sunday).[youtube http://youtu.be/puIKJE-89Jg]