[Video] Same Old Story: Hawks 108, Knicks 107

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Photo Credit: USA Today Sports Images

Play hard but not smart and lose in crunch time. We’ve seen that statement play out repeatedly this season with the Knicks being on the wrong end of buzzer beaters. This afternoon it was a three-pointer from Dennis Schroder and multiple botches on New York’s game-winner attempt to lose 108-107 at Madison Square Garden. Now six games under .500 at the season’s halfway point, the Knicks are looking at the very real possibility that this team needs to be blown up.

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PERIMETER DEFENSE: The irony of it being a three-pointer that did the Knicks in. Derrick Rose and Brandon Jennings were absolutely atrocious defensively. They couldn’t get through screens, leading to defensive collapses and wide open jumpers. Schroder and our old friend Tim Hardaway Jr. combined for 48 points. And Kris Humphries of all people was 3/3 from downtown! Although neither team ever lead by double digits, giving up opens shots and 13 pointers is difficult to overcome.

GIVETH AND TAKETH AWAY: Despite shooting nearly 50%, the team shot itself in the foot with poor ball-handling. The team had 18 turnovers, with Melo accounting for 5 and Rose with 6. Part of this can be attributed to the new starting lineup Hornacek went with that featured Rose-Baker-Kuzmiskas-Melo-Noah.

Despite a few rookie mistakes (Baker was gunning a bit too much late), Kuz and Baker helped more than they hurt. Kuz had 14 points on 6/10 shooting, and all of Baker’s 12 points came from downtown.

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MELO’S MISS: Despite all the defensive and ball-handling issues, the Knicks had this game. All Melo had to do was hit a short jumper about 2-3 feet from the rim. Of course, he clanked it and Noah couldn’t secure a tip-in, allowing the Hawks escaped with a win. Before Melo got the ball, Rose had been fouled on a drive but you know MSG refs swallowed their whistles.

That shot sums up this season for Melo. He had 30 points on 10/16 shooting, but it just isn’t enough. He can’t carry this team on his own. It’s a shame he’s become the scapegoat for all the team’s problems, but that’s New York for you.

The schedule gets no easier as the Knicks face the Celtics on Wednesday.

 

 

 

Melo’s 31 Points Lifts Knicks Past Hawks 104-94

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Photo Credit: USA Today

Sunday’s game had the chance to be a defensive disaster when news hit that Joakim Noah was out. Dwight Howard did run rampant, but Carmelo Anthony’s 31 points and sound team defense gave the Knicks an impressive 104-94 win over the Atlanta Hawks at Madison Square Garden.

NOT WAVERING: The Knicks were locked in on defensive rotations. Outside of a few open treys, the Hawks had to work for every basket and only managed 40% from the field. Billy Hernangomez (7 points, 8 rebounds) and Kyle O’Quinn (8 points, 8 rebounds) harassed Dwight Howard (18 points, 18 rebounds, 6/12 FT) and made him work at the free throw line. And Derrick Rose (14 points, 7 assists) dominated his matchup with Dennis Schroder (0/8, 1 point).

MELO LEADS THE CHARGE: Melo’s offense set the tone, but it was team effort to get this one. Four of the starters hit double figures, including Porzingis with another double double (19 points, 11 rebounds). Courtney Lee chipped in 14 points and was excellent slashing to the rim and using his three-point shooting to stifle several Atlanta runs in the second half.

FOUR STRAIGHT AT HOME: The Knicks have done a fantastic job protecting home court by notching their four straight at Madison Square Garden. The challenge in channeling the focus on the road where too many times we’ve seen a lethargic ball club.

Next up is another home stand against the struggling Trailblazers, who are 1-4 over their last five games but come in off a 129-109 beatdown of the Brooklyn Nets.

 

[Video] This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things – Knicks 100, Cavs 106

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We had the perfect stage set. The Atlanta Hawks had choked and lost a game to the Raptors the preceding Sunday afternoon. The Cavaliers were coming into the Garden without their best player, Kyrie Irving. And what do the Knicks do? Play an excellent first half of basketball and then revert to the wretched defense and putrid iso offense that has sunk them most of this season.

Under normal circumstances, a trap/letdown game like this happening after winning 8 straight wouldn’t be that bad. But with the Knicks fighting for the 8th seed with under 15 games left, the margin for error is so small that losses like this are completely inexcusable. It’s even more disheartening that this horrible effort happens after the Knicks were scared late against the Sixers just a few days ago.

2ND HALF MELTDOWN: After going up by as much as 17 in the first half, the Knicks settled on a 61-46 halftime lead. They shot 59% over the first 24 minutes, incluiding 8/11 from downtown.

Just two minutes into the third, the Knicks gave up a 9-0 run that turned the contest back into a game. Felton and Melo hit a few timely threes to hold onto the lead, but the Knicks were still outscored 31-23 and clung to a seven-point lead headed into the fourth.

And what happened in the fourth? How about the Knicks were outscored 29-16. So who was doing all the damage, you ask?

JARRETT JACK RUNS AMUCK: There is absolutely no excuse for a player like Jarrett Jack, who’s averaging 9 points for the season, should go for 31 points and 10 assists. Jack kept doing the same pick and roll move to kill Raymond Felton and force mismatches. Iman Shumpert’s defense was sorely missed here as Felton had Jack looking like the league MVP.

Jack’s backcourt mate in Dion Waiters didn’t do too shabby either in dropping 22 points, making them a combined 53 points on the night.

A BAD MOVIE: Melo (32 points, 8/20 FG) had been a great closer during the winning streak. But last night, he went 0/5 in  4th quarter field goals and had a very costly offensive foul on the last-minute that sealed New York’s fate. And Melo wasn’t the only one who was ice-cold — JR, Hardaway Jr. and Felton all missed wide open shots

MARGIN FOR ERROR DRAWS SMALLER: It can’t be emphasized enough how much of a blown opportunity this game was. The Knicks can only hope they ignite another long winning streak and the Hawks to keep losing. Should New York lose 2-3 more games, this playoff race is likely over.

Melo the Closer – Knicks 111, Hawks 106

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The Knicks overcame the heartbreak of Friday’s defeat in Boston by putting together a wholly efficient offensive performance to take a 111-106 victory over a red-hot shooting Atlanta Hawks team at Madison Square Garden. Outside of one moping player, all was well in NYC last night.

 

GOOD AND BAD DEFENSE: The Knicks did an excellent job of disrupting the Hawks offense with deflections and steals. They forced 12 turnovers in the first half and 27 for the entire game. It was completely necessary to offset the scorching shooting of the Hawks, who shot around 60% for most of the game. The percentage was due to the inside dominance of Paul Millsap (18 points, 8 rebounds) and Al Horford (17 points, 6 rebounds) coupled with the Knicks guards amazingly losing Kyle Korver on the perimeter (13 points, 4-9 from three).

THE SPARKS: We know Melo will get his, but the question with this Knicks team is who backs up our star player. Last night it was Tim Hardaway Jr. (13 points) who was aggressive getting to the rim for several dunks in the first half. Stoudemire (9 points, 5 rebounds) had a quieter game by his recent standards, but his output was great in getting the Knicks breathing room in the second quarter despite the Hawks shooting around 56% in the first half.

MELO THE FOCUS BUT TEAM EFFORT: The second half is where the team has had problems and in the third bad defense reared its ugly head. The Knicks had a 62-48 lead after the first few minutes, but left Korver open for back to back treys to help ignite a 15-6 run. ATL could not miss from the perimeter and were just behind 81-77 going into the fourth.

Up until that point, Melo had shot 9/15 from the field. There were a few rushed shots from him, but outside of that the team made his job much easier. Prigioni was dishing sweet passes to Melo and Bargnani. And speaking of Prigioni, his shooting kept the defense honest, dropping 11 points (3-6 from downtown). This gave NY a nice 15-point cushion late — under those cirmcumstances, Melo’s heat-check three, which went in to make the lead 106-93, was welcomed. Melo ended with another good stat line of 35 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists.

The reason for the seemingly close score was Atlanta hitting four straight threes in less than two minutes of garbage time.

SULKING JR: Although JR Smith got the starting assignment at small forward, he managed just 1-8 from the field in 24 minutes (benched for all of the 4th). He looked like he was at a funeral on the sidelines with Prigioni trying to console him. This comes on the heels of JR just attempting one shot against Boston.

A lot of fans are ready to ship JR out, but my memory is not short. His bench play last year was key in our team finishing at the second seed. With the knee surgery, I’ll give JR at least until the All-Star break to get it together.

1ST HALF HIGHLIGHTS

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[Video] Bargnani’s Threes Lead Knicks Over Hawks 95-91

Oh, man, it was a great way to kind of get back on track. Any time you can win on the road, that’s always a big win. Much better effort than we put forth in that San Antonio game. I’m glad to see that we responded in that fashion and put that game behind us. – CARMELO ANTHONY

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Despite playing their worst 12 minutes of the season in the third quarter, the Knicks regrouped under the sharp shooting of Andrea Bargnani and Carmelo Anthony to post a sorely needed victory over the Atlanta Hawks last night at Philips Arena. Team owner James Dolan guaranteed a victory and the squad didn’t disappoint in spite of making the contest much harder than it needed to be.

FIRST HALF EXCELLENCE: Even with the specter of  Iman Shumpert being traded, the team came out composed and very efficient. The ball movement was strong and JR Smith in the starting lineup added another much-needed weapon (JR went 3-4 from downtown in the opening 12 minutes). Melo was abusing Paul Millsap inside and Andrea Bargnani (20 pts, 11 rebounds) was actually boxing out and taking down rebounds (making up for his shot getting swatted by Kyle Korver of all people). Speaking of Korver, the Knicks held him scoreless in the first half, much of it behind Shumpert’s close-out defense.

3RD QUARTER FUTILITY: The Knicks came out lifeless for the third quarter and were outscored 10-23, allowing the Hawks to erase a 10-point halftime deficit (55-45) to take a slim 68-63 lead into the fourth. The Knicks offense became stagnant isolations with most of the chucking coming from Melo (9-25, 25 PTS), who was out of sync in the paint and on the perimeter. On defense, the inability of Raymond Felton to keep Jeff Teague in front of him allowed Atlanta to get several fast break points and repeated slams off cuts from Horford.

BARGNANI CLOSES THE SHOW: With the main starters on both teams resting, New York tightened up their defense and took advantage of Hawks point guard rookie Dennis Schroder, who committed four turnovers. Pablo Prigioni played a huge part in this area by being his usual pesky self. The Knicks shooting return to form behind Bargnani, who hit a few three-pointers to put the game out of a reach (the dagger being a bank shot to put the Knicks up by 9 with two minutes remaining). It was a true team effort with everyone doing their part to destroy all the momentum the Hawks had built up in the third.

SHUMPERT ‘S WELL-ROUNDED CONTRIBUTIONS: Shumpert didn’t have much in the way of points (1-4, 5 points), but he had a key three-pointer in the fourth to start the Knicks run, and he kept the offense going with his passing (9 assists). He also added 4 steals and 6 rebounds. I love Kenneth Faried too, but show me a game he can contribute in these varied ways.

The Knicks don’t get to rest on their laurels. They’re back in action tonight against old friend Jeremy Lin and the rest of the Houston Rockets.