BOSTON, MA — Considering it was “Friday Night Knicks” AND Friday the 13th, another ridiculous and painful loss should have been expected. After a masterful third quarter filled with excellent ball movement with our frontcourt of Melo (26 points), Bargnani (22 points) and Stoudemire (18 points) carrying the scoring load behind nice pick n’ rolls and sweet passes from the likes of Pablo Prigioni, it all went to hell in the fourth with ice-cold shooting, broken plays, and a fatigued Melo trying to bail the team out with seconds remaining on the shot clock (he couldn’t). As you can deduce from the title, the bulk of this defeat falls on our backcourt and the coaching rotations of Coach Woodson.
BACKCOURT INEPTITUDE: Let’s get started with the reason the game was lost. Our guards shot a combined 3-20. Prigioni was 1-6 (although he did contribute 8 assists), Iman Shumpert 1-8 (including several airballs), and JR Smith went 0-1 despite playing 26 minutes and the entire fourth quarter (he sheepishly said afterward he was trying to get his teammates involved). There’s no way a team can win getting that little from their guard rotations.
The main issue that stood out is when the defense tightens, none of our guards can break down their man and get to the rim. This leads to a lot of passing on the perimeter that fails to set up the plays and leaves Melo, the only player that can consistently take his man one on one, being left to try to make something happen (many times 20 feet away from the basket). Secondly, our backcourt can’t keep anyone in front of them, putting a lot of pressure on a frontcourt that isn’t the most savvy defensively with Chandler still out.
4TH QUARTER CHOKE: The Knicks had a 73-68 going into the quarter but had to go at it without Kenyon Martin , who left the game limping with an abdominal strain. That hurt on the defensive end because K-Mart was having a strong game altering lay-ups and snatching down rebounds (8 points, 7 rebounds). Our defensive rotations got sloppy and the Celtics went on a 13-2 run to tie it at 81. A Melo drive for a three-point play would give NY their last lead to 84-81. Open back to back threes from Courtney Lee (18 points) and Avery Bradley (13 points) put the Celtics up for good 86-84. New York had their opportunities — Bargnani had a few open mid-range jumpers that bricked, and Melo’s pass out of a double team for an open JR Smith three could have put the Knicks back in front. The team could only manage 13 points in the quarter and were outscored 22-13.
STAT POSITIVITY: Amar’e Stoudemire continued his excellent offensive play, shooting 7-9 (18 points) and nabbing 5 rebounds. Once again, he seemed to be phased out for much of the 4th despite hitting a bailout jumper to put the Knicks up 81-78. We’ll all continue to be skeptical in wondering if his knees hold up, but so far he’s looking spry and strong in the post. As a precaution, he’ll likely sit today’s game against the Atlanta Hawks.
MORE HOPE ON THE HORIZON: From comments yesterday, it appears that Tyson Chandler will return this coming week. That won’t fix everything, but at least the interior defense and rebounding will get a boost.
The Knicks are back at the Garden tonight to face the Hawks at 7:30 p.m. ET.