Basic logic says that despite being on the road, the Knicks would win this game. The combination of their coming off another embarrassing loss last night to Milwaukee (their second in less than a week to the Bucks) and Charlotte’s emotional road victory against Boston, which also happened last night, had the Knicks looking like the team who’d be on the winning end of things. What instead happened was a time capsule game for the ages in proving just how important defense is in the NBA. After building a one point lead after the first, the Knicks faced a 13 point deficit at halftime. Much of this was due to dazed efforts on the glass (Dominic McGuire had five offensive rebounds in three second quarter minutes) and pathetic defense. If any adjustments were made at halftime, they were blatantly ignored as Charlotte pushed its lead to 20 midway through the third quarter and despite Carmelo Anthony’s (13-25, 36 points) best effort down the stretch, helping the Knicks cut the lead down to four late in the fourth quarter, this game never looked like one the Knicks had a chance of winning. Let’s look at the case study that was tonight’s Bobcats/Knicks game to discover why:
* In the first half—two quarters of basketball that featured Charlotte producing a season high 64 points—three Bobcats were in double figures. Boris Diaw, Gerald Henderson, and Matt Carroll. MATT CARROLL, the one who averages 3.3 points a game, dissected the Knicks interior defense to the tune of 10 points and three rebounds in 16 minutes of action. I mean, it’d be one thing if he was cashing in on wide open jumpers from D.J. Augustin or Gerald Henderson drive and kicks, but Carroll was getting his either driving to the basket or cutting (untouched) through the lane for wide open five footers.
* Harping on the crisis that is New York’s interior defense, I don’t understand why D’Antoni doesn’t pack the paint and force teams to knock down jump shots. Apart from Stephen Jackson and maaaaybe Henderson, the Bobcats have nobody in particular who should scare you from out there, and even if they did, it’d be a far better option than Boris Diaw taking it coast to coast through four Knick defenders (this actually happened in the first quarter) who for some reason think moving their feet is against the rules. Diaw had 20 points, eight rebounds, and five assists, and made Amar’e Stoudemire look like a screen door. Speaking of screen doors, Kwame Brown wasn’t one tonight. He did one hell of a job on Stoudemire, who struggled once again (14 points on 4-13 shooting) and couldn’t find any rhythm at all.
* Toney Douglas got the start for Landry Fields tonight. Douglas logged 14:49 and was a game worst -12. Fields was on the court for 33:36 and seemed to take his benching personally. The rookie was aggressive, taking 12 free throws, more than anybody on either team, and finished a distant second in team high scoring with 16 points. He remains my favorite player on the team and seeing him break out of his mini slump was uplifting. Great call by D’Antoni to take the pressure off him with the benching.
* Chauncey Billups’ defense, once again, was terrible. Useless and ghastly. Embarrassing and ugly. When your team’s great weakness is interior defense, having equally flimsy perimeter defenders will result in the Charlotte Bobcats scoring 114 points. I’m a huge Chauncey fan, but along with his defensive lapses he isn’t making smart decisions on the offensive end. He’s always loved the pull up three in transition, a play that (statistically) doesn’t have a high success rate, (I’d find where I read that and give you the link, but I’m blind with rage right now and can’t remember) but when he does it while a team’s trying to chip away at a large lead he’s partly responsible for, it stings. With all of that being said I still think the Knicks should re-sign him. He’s an influential veteran presence and with a big man upgrade behind him next year, his defensive weakness won’t be so glaring.
* The Play of The Game: Bobcats ball. Approximately two minutes remaining. The score is 108-103. With the shot clock running down and the ball in Stephen Jackson’s hands, Kwame Brown ran over to set a screen; on cue he rolled to the basket and was hit with a nice bounce pass. Brown dunked it, was fouled, extended the lead to seven and put the game away. Okay. I know the Knicks pick and roll defense is poor, but if they’re incapable of defending one involving Kwame Brown and Stephen Jackson, they should probably spend an entire practice solving the problem. Just a disgraceful play serving as a microcosm to an equally disgraceful game.