The Knicks failed to capitalize on an easy chance to win their sixth game in a row by dropping a game on the road to the – previously – 12-35 Washington Wizards. Half-hearted effort and lackluster execution hurt the Knicks down the stretch when they just couldn’t get over the hump in the pivotal fourth quarter as Washington raced around the court, blowing up the Knicks’ offense and nailing the open jumpers the Knicks granted them.
Perhaps the outcome of the game could’ve been predicted by New York’s start. The Wizards raced out to a 16-8 lead, taking advantage of the Knicks’ porous defense, where switches and rotations often went without execution or communication. Though the Knicks quickly caught up through some dishing and swishing from Carmelo Anthony and Raymond Felton, the poor start was a sign of things to come. The two teams exchanged blows throughout the first half with Amar’e Stoudemire providing a nice spark off the bench to combine with the Felton-Anthony punch for the Knicks. For the Wizards, John Wall and the hot shooting from Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster provided them with enough power to take a 51-48 lead going into halftime.
The second half was mostly miserable for the Knicks. A slow start to the third quarter found the Knicks down by nine points as they continued to defend poorly. Missing ten of their first eleven attempts from the field didn’t help either. Once again, the Knicks had to dig themselves out of an early hole, still led by Anthony and Stoudemire. The fourth quarter brought more of the same for the Knicks, minus the late resurgence. The collapse was almost entirely on the defensive end where the Knicks couldn’t handle John Wall’s penetration off high pick-and-rolls. If they were able to contain the dribble drive, or even force a miss, the Wizards canned open looks from downtown from the Knicks’ repeated collapses on the pick-and-roll. On offense, the Knicks stagnated and just couldn’t produce enough to get closer than two baskets.
The Wizards stuck two daggers in the forms of a Martell Webster open corner three, and a Trevor Ariza offensive rebound-putback layup. Eventually, the Knicks recognized their futile attempt to close the gap and waved the white flag, falling to 31-16, and ending their win streak.
Here’s a look at the individual performances:
Carmelo Anthony – 44 minutes, 31 points, 10-23 FG, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 5 TOs
Though he put up another gaudy stat line, Anthony’s offensive attack wasn’t as crisp or well executed as we’ve gotten used to seeing this season. There was a lot of isolatin’, penetratin’, and those one- or two- dribble pull-ups from midrange. He got (and sank) some clean looks from the outside, but forced a few, too. It was, however, nice to see him consistently pass out of double teams, and dropped passes and missed shots robbed him of a few assists. His defense – like the rest of the Knicks – left a lot to be desired.
P.S. – Credit to Nene for catching ‘Melo midair on a reckless drive to the hoop. Anthony was nearly turned upside down as his legs got caught on Nene’s arms, and as he went crashing to the ground, Nene braced his fall, and perhaps saved the Knicks’ season in the process.
Final Grade: B
Amar’e Stoudemire – 28 minutes, 19 points, 6-11 FG, 7-9 FT, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks
Stoudemire provided an immediate boost off the bench in the first half, aggressively going after the Wizards in the post, working off the dribble for a bunch of tough finishes around the rim. His approach changed a bit as the game went on, switching to cutting into open space off the attention the defense gave Anthony, and cleaning up misses and broken plays around the basket. Oddly, Stoudemire may have played the best/most inspired defense on the team, switching aggressively onto pick-and-rolls and making attempts to close out on shooters, not to mention registering the Knicks’ only blocked shots of the game. Then again… there was that play where Stoudemire stood body lengths away from Wall and watched him look around, open, and decide to shoot after three or four seconds. It was that kind of night.
Final Grade: B-
Raymond Felton – 40 minutes, 17 points, 6-13 FG, 3 rebounds, 4 assists
Felton once again began the game with a strong start, taking it to the basket, cleverly evading defenders for easy finishes, and swinging the ball to find the open man. As has been the case all season, however, his hot start didn’t carry over through the whole game. In the second half, Felton seemed invisible, doing little else other than bringing the ball up the court and getting burned by the blur that is John Wall (the latter is excusable, in my opinion). The assist tally is surprisingly low, though that can’t be pinned entirely on Felton as he did a decent enough job of contributing the ball, but teammates didn’t always can the looks he set them up with. It happens.
Final Grade: B
J.R. Smith – 35 points, 13 points, 6-14 FG, 0-4 3FG, 2 rebounds, 2 assists
A considerably quieter outing from Smith than we’re used to seeing. The scoring production seems OK (although 13 points on 14 shots really isn’t very efficient), but Smith just never had a point in this game where he had much of an affect. Though, besides for Felton, he had the best +/- on the team with -2. After launching a combined 40 three-point attempts over the previous three games, Smith only attempted four and didn’t hit any of them. Knocking a couple of those down could’ve been hugely helpful in the second half.
Final Grade: C
Tyson Chandler – 36 minutes, 8 points, 3-6 FG, 13 rebounds
Chandler seemed oddly pouty in this game. He had a terrific steal on the perimeter to open the game, raced down court, and was never rewarded for his hustle. To me, things went downhill from there as he was perhaps a bit peeved by the lack of reward. His effort on the boards was nowhere near what he showed the last three games, though 13 boards is nothing to sneeze at. He was relatively ineffective in the pick-and-roll and didn’t do much to orchestrate the Knicks’ lackadaisical D.
Final Grade: C+
Iman Shumpert – 22 minutes, 5 points, 2-8 FG, 2 rebounds, 2 assists
Shumpert’s return to the court has taken the reverse curve of Amar’e Stoudemire’s return cycle. Whereas Stoudemire started off slow and has gained momentum, Shumpert has slipped in recent outings. Woodson’s slotting of Shumpert at the 3 has been wildly ineffective – almost as ineffective as Shumpert’s shot and offensive production playing off the Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks’ pick-and-roll game. Likewise, Woodson (for reasons unbeknown to us) refuses to put Shumpert on the primary offensive backcourt weapon on opposing teams. Perhaps Iman is still adjusting to plying basketball for the first time in nine months, but he’s been sadly underwhelming lately.
Final Grade: C-
Pablo Prigioni – 8 minutes, 3 points, 1-3 FG, 3 rebounds, 1 assist
No Pablo after the first half for some strange reason. He looked decent in the first half, and riding a recently-returned Raymond Felton for 5/6 of the game seems like a bad idea. To be fair, Prigioni had no shot at stopping Wall off the dribble, and he can’t guard bigger guards.
Final Grade: C+
Jason Kidd – 18 minutes, 0 points, 0-4 FG, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal
Kidd’s three-point percentage by month this season: November – 48.9%; December – 41.9%; January – 32.7%; February – 20%. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that the Knicks have been starting poorly in first and third quarters – there’s where Kidd sees the bulk of his minutes.
Final Grade: D+
Steve Novak – 10 minutes, 0 points, 0-2 FG, 1 rebound
Novak hasn’t been making a good case for himself to make the Three Point Shootout at All-Star Weekend.
Final Grade: D
It’s hard not to overreact to this loss, and in some cases, it might be justified. The Knicks have the second toughest schedule in the NBA after the All-Star break. Dropping games like this, especially while riding a hot streak, can come back to hurt a team. No choice but to move on now. They play in Minnesota on Friday.