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.

 

Melo Falls Short In Clutch, Nuggets Take 97-95 Win Over Knicks

I didn’t get it done, that’s it. My teammates did a great job of getting us in that position, putting us in that position, giving me the chance of tying the game or going for the win. I didn’t come through. I’ll take that. – CARMELO ANTHONY

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DENVER, CO — The Nugget supplied multiple opportunities down the stretch to steal a rare win in Denver, but the Knicks just couldn’t get over the hump as a airball Carmelo Anthony jumper with seconds remaining closed the door on a New York comeback and gave them their eighth straight defeat.

The Knicks kept it close throughout and at times flashed decent defense, which are some of the few positives to take when you’re on a losing streak this long.

 

30 ONLY ONCE: The Knicks gave up 30 points in the first, a clear sign the defense was supbar. Guys like JJ Hickson got easy putbacks and the weak perimeter defense allowed the Nuggets to sink three from behind the arc. However, the Knicks adjusted well in the second quarter and aside from Nate Robinson (16 points), kept the Nuggets in check with just 21 points in the second, 24 in the third and 22 in the fourth.

 

MORE TIME FOR THJ?: Tim Hardaway Jr. played 15 minutes and had 8 points (3-5 shooting), 3 rebounds and 2 blocks. The blocks were very impressive as they came early in the fourth quarter in the paint, turning back 7-footer Timothy Mosgoz and 6’9 forward Darnell Arthur. Considering that JR Smith is still trying to find his shooting touch (5-13, 1-7 from downtown), making Hardaway a consistent staple of the rotation at 15-20 minutes a night seems like a no-brainer. It would be nice to have shooting guards who can actually SHOOT. And with THJ shooting 50% over the last 10 games, he’s the best choice.

 

CALLS FOR MELO: After Coach Woodson was fined for criticizing the referees for not calling fouls on Melo, we’ve seen an improvement in how he’s treated. He had 11 points in free throws this game. Unfortunately, a big focus is going to be on the last play with Randy Foye, who clearly caught Melo on the arm which disrupted his fadeaway shot. A similar foul went in Melo’s favor in the first quarter.

 

3-POINT FAILINGS: It’s not impossible for this team to win without good three-point shooting, but it’s definitely very difficult. The team shot just 6-22 for 27%, with the biggest culprit being JR’s 1-7 stat line. Again, the addition for Hardaway Jr in regular rotations will be a huge lift in this regard.

 

MELO’S CRUCIAL MISTAKES: The Knicks were right within striking range down just 2, 85-83, with just under two minutes remaining. A Melo post isolation led to a off-balance circus shot, and then on the next possession Melo shuffled his feet for a travel. The Nuggets extended the lead with free throws and a three by Randy Foye to 94-85, but the Knicks battled back to make it a 96-93 deficit after an open Felton three. A Shumpert layup off a loose ball scramble and Ty LAwson splitting free throws had the Knicks down 97-95 with the ball in Melo’s hands with 19 seconds left, leading to the miss on the fadeaway.

 

SHUMPERT VS. FARIED: This game will probably quiet some of the talk of those who were disappointed the proposed trade of Iman Shumpert for Kenneth Faried didn’t go through. Shumpert had his best game in weeks, scoring 11 points on 50% shooting, and 7 rebounds. Faried notched 4 points and 6 rebounds before having to leave the game in the third with a leg bruise. The Knicks have loads of problems, one of them being rebounding, but what the Knicks need more than anything is two-way players, not specialists. Faried cannot score on his own except through clean-up plays, and we already have a few bigs in that area (Martin, Chandler). I wouldn’t be mad at all to have a young, high energy guy like him on the team, but I’d rather hold onto Shump as well. Too bad the Nuggets won’t take Stoudemire.

 

MELO AND BARGS: The two combined for 49 points and so far I’d say this experiment is working out (at least offensively). I’d like to see their minutes reduced as Melo clocked 40 minutes and Bargs 39, but until are “sharpshooters” (JR, Iman etc) actually start consistently hitting shots, this is the only course of action.

The next stop for the Knicks is Sunday back at the Garden against the Pelicans.

[Video] A Touch Foul Away: Pacers Wear Down Knicks in OT

I thought we had the game won. And in overtime, I don’t know, they just walked away with it. – CARMELO ANTHONY

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I wouldn’t be surprised if Iman Shumpert hasn’t gotten any sleep yet. Ahead 89-86 with just 9 seconds left in the game, the Knicks needed one stop to snap a three-game losing streak, and more importantly show themselves that they have the ability to hang with the league’s best teams. Instead what happened was Shumpert committing an absent-mined, slight touch on Paul George’s elbow as he shot a three, allowing him to sink three free throws to push the game into overtime and hand the Knicks a heart-breaking sixth straight home defeat.

As usual, there were positives, but they’re hardly consoling in light of the end result. Nonetheless, let’s take a look at what the Knicks can take out of this game.

UDRIH MAKES HIS CASE: With Raymond Felton again out, Beno Udrih got the starting call and delivered a season-high 18 points, snatched 8 rebounds, and dished out 4 assists. He spaced out the floor with his three-point shooting (3-4 from behind the arc), and hit several circus shots (one late in the 4th to give NY a 87-85 lead) on broken plays. Hopefully his performance prompts Coach Woodson to keep him in the rotation when Felton returns.

JR SMITH COMING AROUND: Outside a late 4th quarter three-point attempt too early in the shot clock, JR had a strong game. He contributed 21 of New York’s 26 bench points and added 5 rebounds. 10 three-point attempts is excessive, but that’s JR and he hit several key ones to keep us in the game.

KNICKS HOLD THEIR OWN WITHOUT MELO AND BARGNANI: The Knicks have had numerous third quarter collapses this season. When Melo and Bargnani had to sit with fouls, there was danger of it happening again. JR Smith picked up the scoring slack and Metta World Peace added good defense to keep Indiana at shooting 32% and take a 64-58 lead into the fourth.

REBOUNDING EDGE: The Knicks should use this game as a blueprint of what they can accomplish on the boards with effort and intensity. Despite the big and bruising Pacer front line, the Knicks held a 52-49 rebounding edge behind 18 rebounds from Carmelo Anthony. Everyone in starting lineup made a concerted effort there including Bargnani, who snatched down 9.

THE DEFLATING MOMENT: Shumpert’s touch foul on George’s three-pointer was absolutely crushing for the team’s psyche. All their energy and confidence disappeared and the Pacers pounced behind George’s hot mid-range shooting and outscored the Knicks 14-7 in the extra period.

Shumpert has already struggled with confidence due to the trade rumors and this will do him no favors. Woodson even chipped in some pointed criticism, calling Shumpert’s foul “lazy.”

MELO LEAVES IT ALL ON THE FLOOR: Melo didn’t have a good shooting night (10-28), but he played his heart out in every aspect of the game. He fought hard for rebounds (9 of his 18 were offensive boards) and even got a key block on George in the closing minute of regulation. It’s hard to even complain about the repeated isolation plays in overtime because he appeared to be the only New York player still fighting for the win.

The Knicks will get three days of rest and return Saturday (November 23) to face the Wizards in DC.

Robbed of a 4pt Play? Melo’s 45 Not Enough to Stop Rockets

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The Knicks played hard and got big efforts from Carmelo Anthony (45 points) and Andrea Bargnani (24 points), but ultimately their spotty post paint defense and several mental blunders down the stretch sealed their fate as Houston made it seven straight over New York with a 109-106 victory last night at the Garden. While the defense for both teams was akin to NBA Jam, it was the Rockets that showed a little more poise (and ref benefits) in the fourth quarter to squeeze this one out. On to my thoughts.

 

PAINT AND ARC WIDE OPEN: From the first few minutes, you could tell the team defense was going to be a huge issue in this one. Although the Rockets missed their first six three-point attempts, they were wide open shots and you knew eventually they’d start falling. Francisco Garcia hit an open one at the end of the first that put the Rockets up 28-23. And throughout the quarter, the Rockets took advantage of the Knicks’s weak transition defense to score easy layups.

The Rockets then started the second quarter on a 10-2 run predicated on the fact the Knicks were doubling Dwight Howard and not moving fast enough to close out on shooters. Chandler Parsons got in on the Knicks’s swiss cheese defense and in one stretch scored 11 straight points (including a wide open slam due to Bargnani’s slow help defense).

The third was featured another big Rockets run (10-0 midway through), and Knicks were clawing from behind again early in the fourth due to a 8-0 run while Melo sat. The Knicks indeed kept it close, but it’s extremely hard to win against playoffs teams when this many big runs are allowed over the course of a game. Jeremy Lin (21 points) got several open dunks late due to miscommunication and Harden’s constant driving earned him 36 points.

BARGNANI THE 2-WAY PLAYER: Bargnani built on his excellent Atlanta game Wednesday by not only scoring 24 points, but pulling Howard out of the paint and locking him up on the defensive end. Howard took the rebounding battle (15 to Bargnani’s 4), but he only shot 1-5 from the field and Bargnani provided a great lift for the defense by showing he could cover Howard by himself, allowing the three-point abuse to be stifled. Bargnani also succeeded in drawing several offensive fouls and blocking Howard’s shots.

You can see his confidence growing every game and his teammates are looking for him. That made it all the more frustrating that Bargnani didn’t get any shots during the last five minutes of the fourth quarter. The offense fell into Melo isolations which allowed Houston’s defense to get set. Yes, Melo is our best player and should be involved in all plays, but use of him as a decoy on certain plays makes the team much less predictable and dangerous.

MELO BIG EFFORT RUINED BY THE REFS?: Despite the bonehead play of intentionally fouling Howard under the 2-minute mark, Melo had a very good game with 45 points (56% from the field), 10 rebounds and four assists. He really should have about 55 points, as the refs showed clear preferential treatment to James Harden in giving him a phantom foul on a three-point attempt while Melo would get clearly hacked in the post to swallowed whistles.

The most controversial play was when the Knicks were down 104-107 with under 10 seconds left on the clock. They had forced a shot clock violation on Lin on the last play, and Melo got the ball and was fouled in the process of shooting a heave three that actually went down. The ref immediately waved it off and stated the foul came earlier. Judge for yourself.

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From the below statement, Melo seems to have accepted he’s never going to get the benefit of the doubt on calls that even lesser players like Harden seem to get.

You see the way some guys get their calls, me, I got to get cut, you’ve got to see blood for me to get a call down there.

FELTON’S SLIDE CONTINUES: Raymond Felton is still having issues in every facet. He’s shooting 37% for the year and last night went 3-8 (8 points) and committed 5 turnovers. He can’t keep any guards in front of him and with Chandler missing and Bargnani still lost on help defense, the Knicks are getting exploited there to the max. It’s still early in the year and I haven’t forgotten how important he was to the team last year, but his improvement is vital to the team being able to tread water until Tyson Chandler returns.

HOPEFUL DEVELOPMENTS: If you look strictly at the numbers, things appear dire. The Knicks are 3-6 and have dropped their last 4 home games. But going behind the numbers, we’re seeing Melo’s shooting percentage rising and Bargnani emerging as a legit, dangerous and consistent scoring threat. It’s been a gradual and at times painful process to watch, but you can see spurts of the improvement and big potential.

Next up for NY are the Hawks again on Saturday night.

[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.

[Video] Wolves Use Fast Start to Power Past Knicks 109-100

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The less said about this game the better. The Knicks took the lazy Sunday afternoon motif to heart and came out yesterday sans defense and any offense fluidity, giving up an inexcusable 40 points in the first 12 minutes and going down by as many as 23 points in the first half. The Wolves lead a balanced inside-outside attack helmed by Ricky Rubio’s ball movement (10 assists), Kevin Martin’s shooting (30 points, 5-5 from downtown), and the formidable frontcourt of Kevin Love (34 points, 15 rebounds) and Nikola Pekovic (11 points, 12 rebounds).

Meanwhile, the Knicks struggled mightily on both ends of the court. The shooting was wretched (Melo 8-21 for 22 points, Hardaway Jr. 3-12, 6 points). and the Wolves were able to repeatedly beat the Knicks down the floor for transition layups off long passes. Iman Shumpert was mentally out of sorts due to picking up early fouls and had way too many lapses with his help and perimeter defense.

The Knicks made a go of it in the second half and got as close as two points with 4:49 remaining. Then the offense sputtered to only one field goal over the remainder of the game and the Wolves executed on their end to keep a comeback out of reach.

The Knicks get the chance to redeem themselves tomorrow before their fans when they face the Bobcats.

 

 

Knicks Blow 25-pt Lead, Hold Off Bucks 90-83

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The Knicks got a lesson on the importance of closing out teams last night as they ended up in a seesaw battle in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter in fighting off the Bucks to a 90-83 victory.

After a first half which saw the Knicks dominate defensively (forcing 16 turnovers) for a 56-31 lead (punctuated by a 32-13 second quarter), New York would only score 34 points in the second half while giving up an astounding 33 points in the third quarter! It would have been great for the starters to rest considering the Bulls await them tonight, but this dogfight may just be what the team needed.

STRONG BACKCOURT: Coach Woodson went with the 2 point guard backcourt of Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni. The Knicks caught a big break when Bucks guard Brandon Knight left the game two minutes in with a strained hamstring. Luke Ridnour also didn’t play, ensuring the Bucks offense would be stalled in parts without their point guards. Felton executed several excellent fast breaks off steals and had his jumper working to the tune of 18 points. There was a brief scare with him having to leave the game due to a strained hamstring, but he worked through it.

Prigioni was his usual pest on defense, notching 3 steals and keeping the ball moving with 5 assists. Iman Shumpert started slow (0-3), but began showing the range and even finishing at the rim (a problem for him last year). Shump ended up with 16 points.

FLAT THIRD QUARTER: The Knicks came out very weak. This was an issue last season where the guys just seemed to get unfocused on their rotations. Before you knew the it, the lead went from 18 to 11 to single digits. The stupid fouls contributed to the Bucks getting easy baskets as well. Melo looked to get teammates involved, but several wide-open jumpers were missed and the Bucks continued to surge.

4TH QUARTER SCARE AWAKENS MELO AND CHANDLER: Caron Butler had a solid game for the Bucks (14 points) and managed to tie it with 4:30 remaining off a three-pointer. Milwaukee even took the lead off a John Henson free throw (81-80). From there, Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler were the catalyst for a game-sealing 10-2 run. Prigioni got a steal for a fast break, leading to Melo missing a layup and Chandler putting home a putback dunk. Melo then scored on his next two plays, a tip-in and a post-move, to make it 86-81. Another Chandler dunk made it 88-81 and effectively iced the game. Melo finished with a solid double-double of 19 points (7-16) and 10 rebounds. Chandler added 6 points, 10 rebounds and 5 blocked shots.

BARGNANI BOOED: Based on this game, the New York faithful won’t have much patience with Andre Bargnani this season. He struggled with his shot and defense for most of the game and finished with 6 points (3-9 shooting) and 2 rebounds off the bench. He was unsure of himself and that’s one thing NY doesn’t tolerate. To be fair, he’s still learning the offense and I’m willing to wait 25 games before pulling out the pitchforks.

BETTER EFFORT NEEDED AGAINST CHICAGO: The Bulls smacked around the Knicks every game last year. NY will have to be much better tonight if they hope to get a win, as Chicago is having their season-opener with Derrick Rose returning. We’ll see how the lineup tweaks work with Amar’e Stoudemire getting burn tonight. Game starts at 8 p.m. ET on TNT.

GAME HIGHLIGHTS