PORTLAND, OR. — The Knicks’ three-game West Coast swing started with their sixth straight defeat as the Trailblazers, behind hot, efficient play from guards Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews, burned the Knicks for a combined 40 points. Outside of Carmelo Antony having another double double (34 points, 15 rebounds) and Kenyon Martin of all people being the high man in assists (6), there wasn’t much to applaud on the Knicks’ end.
FLAT 1ST HALF: The Knicks went down by as much as 22 points in the first half courtesy of bad help defense in the post (primarily Andrea Bargnani), and no offense outside of Melo. Portland went on a 12-0 run to go up 22-12 with 5 minutes left in the first quarter and NY wouldn’t get it to single digits again until midway through the 4th quarter. A 17-4 run in the second quarter got the Blazers their biggest lead, 44-22, before settling on a 56-39 halftime lead.
A SOLID THIRD QUARTER FOR A CHANGE: The Knicks slowly began chipping away late in the third behind inspired play from Melo. Instead of doing damage on the scoring front, he got three consecutive assists, two of them 3s from Udrih and Bargnani, that kept the Knicks within a 13-10 point striking range headed into the fourth.
THE BACK-BREAKER: A Bargnani three trimmed the lead to seven (81-74) early in the fourth, but then the momentum collapsed in less than a minute. Metta World Peace touched the ball after the shot, leading to a technical on a second delay of game. A broken fast break on the Knicks’ next play lead to Blazers exploiting the team’s bad transition defense for an easy Batum dunk, and then a Shumpert missed three lead to Wesley Matthews sinking one on the other end to put the deficit at 88-74.
The Knicks’ effort was never the same after that outside of Melo, who managed to get to 98-91 off a jumper with 1:47 remaining. Lillard promptly hit two shots, a mid-range jumper and floater in the paint, to ice the game.
SHOOTING GUARD HOLE: This is where the Knicks were hurt the most on offense. Iman Shumpert is playing like a man with broken confidence and it’s evident in his stats last night (0 points, 1 steal, 2 TOs). JR Smith wasn’t much better off the bench, managing just 6 points on 2-8 shooting and 5 fouls.
PG PLAY: Beno Udrih improved from last game, going for 13 points and 5 assists. Still, our guards overall have to improve defensively and offensively for the team to prevent big deficits going forward. Pablo Prigioni didn’t have it this game — the veteran contributed 0 points and just 1 assist in 17 minutes.
STOUDEMIRE: Amar’e had his usual defensive woes (giving up a four-point play opportunity in the first half), specifically trying to guard LaMarcus Aldridge (18 points, 14 rebounds). However, he was active and showed life on offense, dropping 10 points off jumpers, post moves and rolling to the basket.
I’ve worked my butt off to get in tip-top shape and to be able to compete at the highest level. To work that hard and to be losing like we are, it’s not a great feeling. – CARMELO ANTHONY
The criticism is starting to quiet about Melo. While his defense will never be standout, his shot selection is improving, and his rebounding has been the best of his career while trying to pick up the slack for Tyson Chandler. The man needs help badly and unless JR, Iman and Bargnani match his effort, this losing streak will not end anytime soon.