A Crisis of Leadership: Pelicans 110, Knicks 96

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Photo Credit: USA Today Sports Images

You know its bad when one of your stars is taking unscheduled PTO time. Disaster begets more disaster when it comes the the Knicks, who embarrassed themselves last night at the Garden in losing 110-96 to the lowly Pelicans.

I won’t recap the specifics because you’ve been hearing them constantly throughout this streak of futility. The Pelicans got open threes (12/27), Anthony Davis absolutely torched us (40 points, 18 boards, 3 blocks), and two of our players (Melo, O’Quinn) got ejected while Derrick Rose went M.I.A. before the game for what was later deemed a “family situation.”

Who’s running the asylum? It certainly isn’t Coach Hornacek, who can’t get the team to play any semblance of coherent defense or run consistent plays. It isn’t Melo, who flat-out quit and deliberately got himself ejected rather than stick around for a blowout that at one point was 29 points. This horrible play is what you’d expect from a team of young players, not a squad of established vets.

Last night, I went on record as saying a tank might be the best option. After a night of reflection, I came to the realization that the Knicks are just 4 games under .500. We’re not even halfway through January so I’ll wait until the All-Star break before rendering a final verdict. For now, this team as currently constructed is on thin ice with me and every other Knicks fan.

Where’s Your Pride? Unmotivated Knicks Fall to Pelicans 104-92

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Photo Credit: USA Today Sports Images

Has this team mentally checked out on Coach Hornacek? Tonight, the Knicks delivered an abysmal effort on both ends of the floor, losing 104-92 to the lowly Pelicans. Outside of a few minutes in the second quarter, the Knicks never seriously competed and continue their tumble in the standings as this loss puts them right back at .500.

ISOLATION BLUES: Normally, Carmelo Anthony is the one that gets killed for holding the ball too long. Tonight, everyone played a part in the stagnated offense. The strategy consisted of either dumping it into Melo or Porzingis for contested shots, Derrick Rose attempting an acrobatic layup in heavy traffic, or another guard like Brandon Jennings hoisting up long threes.

As you can guess, that resulted in New York shooting 38% from the field. The most alarming stat for me was Rose only notching 1 assist all game (which didn’t come until the fourth quarter).

NO DEFENSIVE AWARENESS: The Pelicans were 50% from downtown in the first half (8/16). The second half was all about penetration, as the ghost of Tyreke Evans got into the paint at will for 16 points off the bench. Since they couldn’t get any stops, the Knicks never built any momentum and hovered around 7-14 point deficits in the second half.

Anthony Davis shot 50% from the field and had an easy night picking his spots for 23 points.

Even with our Big Three scoring at least 20 across the board, the loss was still in double digits, once again proving you can’t outscore bad defense.

BRIGHT SPOT:  Derrick Rose showed his hops have returned. He went to the basket for a nice two-handed jam that harkened back to his MVP form.

I think we’ve seen enough of this team to determine expectations headed into 2017. Unless we get a drastic trade that enhances our perimeter defense or Kurt Rambis gets sacked, we should expect this team to hover around the .500. Whether that’s good enough to make the playoffs remains to be seen.

 

 

[Video] Melo and Seraphin Lead Knicks Past Pelicans 95-86

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NEW YORK –  We got another home win! There were some nail-biting moments in the fourth, but it was the Pelicans who struggled more in crunch time as the Knicks rode huge efforts from Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Seraphin to hold off the Pelicans 95-87. Coach Fisher still have lots to work out in regards to rotations, but our group is remaining confident and making the most of their minutes.

SERAPHIN STEPS UP: The Knicks need a “X-factor” contribution every night to win most games, and on Sunday that came from Frenchman Kevin Seraphin. No doubt inspired by the recent tragic attacks in his country, Seraphin provided 12 points which helped offset a monstrous performance by Anthony Davis (36 points, 11 rebounds, 4 blocks). Seraphin shot 6/8 and hit some clutch fourth quarter shots on Davis, which I believe slowed The Brow down enough to help New York slip away.

MELO UNDER CONTROL: Carmelo Anthony had one of his most complete games of the season, notching 29 points on 52% shooting to go with 12 rebounds. He got seven free throws, stayed aggressive going to the basket, and was smart with his long and mid-range shots. When he missed a few in a row, he made sure to look to get teammates involved and didn’t force matters.

PORZINGIS FEARLESS IN SCHOOLING: Our rookie got abused by Davis more often than not, but he stayed aggressive and looked for his shot all night. This was in spite of Davis blocking him several times.

We’re now hovering right below .500 again as the Hornets come to town Tuesday night. We better be looking for revenge.

 

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[Video] Get This Man Some Help! Melo’s 42 Ends Knicks 3-Game Skid, Beat Pelicans 98-91

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We actually won a close game! When Raymond Felton (SMH) hit the deck and allowed Tyreke Evans to put the Pelicans ahead (91-90) with roughly 2:00 remaining, the game was ready to become a replay of Tuesday’s defeat to the Grizzlies. Instead, Carmelo Anthony put forth a Herculean effort, punctuated by 42 points (13 points in the fourth), to will the Knicks to much-needed victory. But as usual, it was the game the Knicks made harder than it needed to be.

STARTING LINEUP DISAPPOINTMENTS: Outside of Melo, no one in last night’s starting lineup (Shumpert, Chandler, Felton, Prigioni) managed to score in double figures. Shump was 1-6 (4 points) before leaving the game in the second with a left ACL sprain. Felton was 1-8 (5 points), while Chandler managed 4 points and Prigioni 6. With that type of production, it’s a wonder Melo didn’t gas out again in the fourth as we’ve seen in recent games. Whether you like Melo’s game or not, it’s clear to everyone watching Knicks game that he’s the main reason this beleagured squad still has a chance of making the playoffs.

BENCH GUNNERS: JR Smith (19 points) and Tim Hardaway (16 points) stepped up big time to keep the team afloat. They were essential in getting the Knicks the lead in the second, and pushing it to double digits in the third quarter.

4TH QUARTER COLLAPSE AVERTED: The Pelicans ripped off an 11-0 run to take a 83-81 lead with 7:25 left. From there, the game became a seesaw battle for several plays. Coach Woodson re-inserted Tyson Chandler, who had some key rebounds (11 for the game) but also a few blunders. The worst was turning his back on the ball, which allowed Prigioni’s man to burn him for an easy layup and put the Pelicans back up 89-88 with 3:50.

Luckily for us, Melo went into God mode for the remaining minutes. With the towering Anthony Davis in his face, Melo recovered from a block and knocked down a jumper. On their next possession, Chandler keep a baseline loose ball alive that allowed Melo to hit a layup to make it 94-91. With Davis again all over him, Melo drove for a stop and pop jumper to push the lead to 94-91. To put the nail in the coffin, Melo got a steal and then hit another stop and pop jumper (this time over an inspired Luke Babbitt) to make it 98-91.

It’s a shame Melo has to run himself into the ground every game just to barely pull out wins. Unfortunately, the Knicks have no choice but to ride the man’s talent in hopes of securing a playoff berth.

OTHER INJURIES: Amar’e Stoudemire sat this one out and Kenyon Martin is also nursing nagging injuries.

Snatching Defeat From the Jaws of Victory: Pelicans 103, Knicks 99

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When you’re playing this bad, you find ways to lose, as the Knicks did last night at the Garden in dropping their seventh straight at home and ninth overall. The last time New York lost nine straight was back when Larry Brown was coaching the team. Ironically, I don’t think any of those sorry Knicks teams were ever as bad defensively as what we’ve seen on this losing streak.

 

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BEST FIRST QUARTER IN AGES: The Knicks came out with strong defense from a surprising place. Andrea Bargnani, of all people, was prowling the paint and swatting shots to the tune of three blocks. His jumper was working which helped space the floor and get others involved, leading to Melo only attempting his first shot six minutes in. Felton was nailing shots and dropped a sweet alley-oop to Melo. The Knicks were able to hold the Pelicans to 24% shooting for a 20-16 lead, and got another break with New Orleans’ best player, Anthony Davis, leaving the game with a hand fracture.

EARLY SIGNS OF A COLLAPSE: Although the Knicks held a 49-44 lead at halftime, the second quarter displayed signs of the horror to come in the second half. Tyreke Evans came off the bench and pretty much waltzed into the paint at will for layups, scoring 10 points in just 14 minutes. The perimeter defense was worse, as another bench player in Ryan Anderson got repeated (and I do mean repeated — 7/11 from behind the arc) open three-point shots to keep the game close.

The offense was stalled as the Knicks overall were looking to just shoot jumpers and not attack the rim with Davis absent. The Knicks didn’t get their first free throws until midway in the second and it was Bargnani’s foul drawing that allowed NY to hold their lead.

ANOTHER 30-PLUS QUARTER: We know by now that the mark of an extremely poor defensive effort is when the Knicks give up 30 or more in a quarter. They did so in the third behind putrid interior defense. Kenyon Martin was the culprit several times here as he failed to rotate. Bargnani’s main weakness is help defense, so despite his scoring he allowed multiple uncontested layups as well. The frustration hit peak levels when Melo foolishly switched off Anderson on the perimeter. Bargnani didn’t come out to cover, leading to Shumpert dashing recklessly to prevent an open three-pointer (which happened anyway). Shump crashed into a Pelican big setting a pick, leading to a foul and four-point play opportunity.

Shump was livid after Melo criticized him for the play. He tried to plead his case in the huddle as Melo (and Coach Woodson) tuned him out.

Frankly, the play shows the lack of teamwork and awareness the Knicks play with. All parties could have done better. Melo should have never left Anderson, Bargnani could have flashed out to prevent the three, and Shumpert shouldn’t have barreled through the pick for a needless foul.

4TH QUARTER STRUGGLE: The Knicks started the final 12 minutes down 2 points (76-74), but were able to at one point gain a six-point lead off the hot three-point shooting of Tim Hardaway Jr., who drained back to back treys to put NY up 88-82.

At that point, the game should have been over with the Knicks maintaining decent defense and pulling away. But if you can’t play smart defense, it doesn’t matter how hard you play — the lead will soon be erased. In a matter of about 30 seconds, a Ryan Anderson three and a three-point play by Evans on a fast break erased the Knicks’ cushion.

The final six minutes were disastrous on both ends. The Knicks committed six turnovers and missed 12 of their final 13 shots. While the Pelican guards were feasting in the paint and on the perimeter, Shumpert remained benched in favor of JR Smith, who couldn’t get a stop if his life depended on it. JR himself admitted as much after the game:

They were pretty much scoring at will, especially my guy. I don’t know what the hell I was doing on defense.

Shumpert was so upset (and deservedly so) that he declined to talk to the media after the game.

THJ’S CAREER NIGHT: Although his defense was suspect along with everyone else, Tim Hardaway Jr. was the shooting spark that nearly won this game for NY. He had a career-best 21 points off the bench on 6-10 shooting (5-8 from downtown) in 25 minutes. We can only hope Woody continues to play the kid more and experiment with a Shump-Hardaway lineup until JR gets his mojo back.

MORE PABLO: Ray Felton had a strong first half (10 pts. on 4/5 shooting, 5 assists) but fell of a cliff in the final 24 mintues (2 pts, 0/5 shooting). He had a bad turnover down the stretch and possibly suffered a hip injury. Prigioni getting 10 minutes last night in lieu of Felton’s struggling made no sense.

FROM THE BOTTOM TO THE TOP: Let’s be clear — the Knicks are in shambles right now. There’s no leadership, no accountability and no identity. And yet, the team is still just three games out of first place on the Atlantic Division. The Knicks have a “favorable” schedule of equally sub .500 teams over the next four games (Nets, Magic, Celtics and Cavs). If the team can manage a 3-1 or 2-2 stand, it’s something solid to build as Tyson Chandler returns in the next 1-2 weeks (with hopefully Jeremy Tyler by the end of the month).

 

In the meantime, try not to slit your wrists, fellow Knicks fans.