Last night your New York Knicks dropped yet another game, this time at the hands of the surging Denver Nuggets. On the surface The game itself was exciting, in terms of the close play down the stretch and the fact that it went into two overtimes; however, if you are a Knicks fan, this game was far from exciting.
Last night’s contest was a tale of two teams that have gone in completely opposite directions since the Carmelo trade last season.
The Knicks this season have developed a reputation of being a rather selfish team; the Nuggets on the other hand, have been the antithesis of the Knicks—displaying great team play and taking advantage of their abyss-like depth, an asset that the Knicks were largely responsible for providing the Nuggets with by making the aforementioned Anthony deal.
During the game, these two teams played true to their respective forms. The Nuggets had 6 players score in double figures, including a massive performance out of Al Harrington who had 24 points, 15 of which came in the 4th quarter. Former Knick Danilo Gallinari severely outplayed Carmelo Anthony and dropped 36 points in the victory.
The Knicks played an impressive first half in which they shared the ball to the tune of 15 team assists and lead by 8 points at the break. Unfortunately for the Knicks the old cliché, old habits die hard, rang true for them in the second half.
The Knicks offense was incredibly stagnant, at times if even bordered on unwatchable. This was particularly true when Carmelo Anthony was on the floor. Melo’s 10-30 shooting night was as bad as it sounds. His willingness to settle for long jumpers instead of attacking the basket, or moving the ball, is a huge reason, if not THE reason, that this team lost last night.
At points in the game the Knicks had success running the screen and roll, both from the top of the key and, to a larger degree, from the side. This was especially effective when the Knicks swung the ball quickly to the wings, taking the defense out of position. This is a difficult thing to do with Melo in the game, for obvious reasons.
You can give Anthony as much credit you want for making some big buckets down the stretch in the fourth quarter—which included 12 points—however this game should not have even been in a position to go to overtime. Melo’s putrid shooting in the first 3 quarters and the beginning of the 4th set the Knicks back and kept the Nuggets in a game that they would ultimately win.
Much to this point, a particular sequence in the first overtime serves as a microcosm for the Knicks loss last night, as well as their struggles as a whole this season.
With 9 seconds left at the end of the first overtime Carmelo Anthony had a chance to put the game on ice. Instead of driving to the basket and getting fouled or kicking to a wide open teammate, he settled for an awful three point attempt that not only clanked off the back iron, but also resulted in a Nuggets rebound and subsequent foul by Tyson Chandler which ended his night. It is plays like this, and selfishness in general that has the Knicks in the position they are currently in. If Anthony is going to continue to take terrible shots, this team is going to struggle; that is the bottom line.
When you look at the way the Knicks have played this season, it is pretty obvious that the Knicks are lacking a number of important aspects that make a team good. One important trait this team is missing is leadership.
This is a point that Walt Fraser actually raised during last night’s broadcast, and Fraser was bang on with his analysis. The two players that the Knicks have looked to lead this team are clearly Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire. This seems like it makes sense, since those are the team’s best players, but if you look at their performances last night there is a lot wrong with that scenario.
As mentioned above, last night Melo made awful decisions with the ball, took terrible shots and essentially played his team out of that game; he also looked completely disengaged for a number of stretches throughout the game. The team’s other star; Amar’e Stoudemire simply lost his composure late in that fourth quarter and was otherwise—rather inexplicably—ignored by his team’s offense.
I think at this point it is safe to say that leaning on Carmelo Anthony as your leader might not be the best decision. If you are going to rely on Stoudemire to also add that element of leadership than you have to keep him happy, and not getting him the ball in the 4th quarter or in overtime is not the way to motivate a guy like Amar’e.
It is clear, at least at this juncture, that the Knicks miss Chauncey Billups a whole heck of a lot more than people realize. Billups is a player that is going to make smart decisions with the ball and get players the ball in their spots; without that element on the team the Knicks just look lost.
It would also help if the team got any meaningful guidance from their coaching staff.
The decision to freeze out Stoudemire and continually allow Anthony to run Isos and almost exclusively handle the ball is absolutely puzzling. It is understandable that the Knicks lack that Chauncey Billups type player, but it is up to the coaching staff to create a game plan that hides their weaknesses and exploits their advantages as a team. With this in mind, I am fairly confident in saying that after last night’s disaster Mike D’Antoni’s days in New York are officially numbered.