We can’t say we didn’t have our chances in this one. Despite the uneven defense and streaky offense, the Knicks were down by just two points (89-87) with 1:30 left following back to back treys from JR Smith and Tim Hardaway Jr. But an inability to get stops resulted in New York dropping their third straight game and now sitting at the 10th spot in the East with no relief in sight.
BENCH OUTPLAYS THE STARTERS: Our bench took full advantage of the Blazers’ weak second unit, dropping a total of 50 poitns with several guys hitting double figures: Stoudemire (15 points), Hardaway (12 points), and JR (18 points). Outside of Melo (26 points) and Prigioni (5 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists), our starters just didn’t get it done. Shumpert was held scoreless while Chandler botched several layups and only managed 2 points in 31 minutes. Raymond Felton wasn’t as horrible as he had been against the Bucks, adding 7 points and 3 assists in 21 minutes.
JR lead a great second quarter surge, utilizing dribble penetration to feed Stoudemire and Jeremy Tyler for several big slams. The defensive intensity picked and was a key reason the Knicks were down just one point (46-47) at halftime despite a late 9-0 Blazers run.
MELO GASSES OUT: Melo had a hot start, dropping 14 points on 6/7 shooting in the first quarter. He was also active on the defensive end, getting a big block on Wesley Matthews that lead to a fast break dunk. And even in the third with the Blazers threatening to pull away, Melo dropped 11 points to keep NY in it. Unfortunately, all that expended energy left him weakened in the fourth when his offense was needed most. He missed all four of his shots while the Blazers executed just enough to squeak by.
For Melo, it must have been an eye-opener to see how a complete team like the Blazers picks up the slack when their star is having a bad night. LaMarcus Aldridge shot just 5/17 from the field (15 points), but his struggles were negated by big contributions from Nicolas Batum (20 points), Wesley Matthews (18 points), and defensively from Robin Lopez (3 blocks). Melo got no such help from his starting crew.
MORE THAN ENOUGH CHANCES: Melo and Hardaway had multiple chances in the fourth to swing the momentum in NY’s favor. Each missed open shots and with every one, you could see the confidence in winning deflate from the team. Aldridge’s fadeaway over Chandler with 35 seconds left took the remaining fight out of the team.
Friday Night Knicks is in effect tomorrow with NY hosting the Denver Nuggets.