364 days ago, the Knicks went up to Toronto and stole a win from the Raptors. It was the height of Linsanity. For three and a half quarters, the Knicks played really poorly, until suddenly they flipped the switch. The defense locked down and came up with timely stop after timely stop, forcing the Raptors into late-in-the-shot-clock, contested jumpers. The offense, carried by Lin, began to click. In the waning moments, with the game tied, after a big stop, and a huge offensive rebound, Jeremy Lin nailed a dagger pull-up three-pointer with .8 seconds remaining and gave the Knicks a miraculous win.
So, just short of a year later, the Knicks sort of rehashed that riveting come-from-behind win. Except while the flaming-bag-of-dog-poop execution was there for the whole 48 minutes, the spirited comeback was not. Instead, on their home floor, the Knicks squandered multiple opportunities, failing to get critical stops when they needed them, missing a litany of supremely make-able shots down the stretch.
Throughout the night, the Knicks’ offense sputtered in a way we haven’t seen this season. While the defense hasn’t been anything to rest their hats on the Knicks’ offense has remained consistently competent, no matter the opponent. Not tonight. Perhaps with their minds on the six-day All-Star break ahead, and partying with P. Diddy, the Knicks simply missed looks that they normally make. For the game, New York shot 35% from the field, 36% from three-point range, and 71% from the free throw line. Regardless of their defense – it was solid in the first half, but they consented 56 points to the Raps in the second half – there’s very little chance of winning when a team is misfiring so frequently.
The game was wholly ugly and disappointing; I wouldn’t expect much more from the proceeding player report cards:
J.R. Smith – 34 minutes, 26 points, 8-17 FG, 5-10 3FG, 4 rebounds
Smith was the lone Knick to take over seven field goal attempts and make more than 40% of them – who woulda thought? Smith was one of the few bright spots in the Knicks’ offense tonight, canning most of his looks from the outside, but occasionally mixing it up and taking it to the basket. However, on defense, Smith’s fourth quarter lapses proved to be vital. A number of times he was abused off the dribble, allowing DeMar DeRozan and Alan Anderson to get to their preferred spots and put the ball in the basket. A hint for Smith, as it’s become a game-to-game trend: force right-handed shooters to their left.
Final Grade: B
Raymond Felton – 31 minutes, 16 points, 3-9 FG, 10-12 FT, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals, 4 TOs
Felton did the bulk of his scoring at the line, earning most of his free throws from hard-nosed drives to the rim. Unfortunately for Felton – and the Knicks, actually – he couldn’t get all of those inside looks to drop, missing two critical layups in the final 3:30 of the game. Felton did a decent enough job setting up teammates either off drive-and-kicks or the pick-and-roll, but as noted by the team’s overall FG%, Felton came up empty-handed on a number of assist attempts. Felton’s defensive philosophy continues to baffle, going under screens, switching off guards, but fighting over screens and trying to stick with bigger forwards.
Final Grade: B
Carmelo Anthony – 41 minutes, 12 points, 5-24 FG, 1-6 3FG, 12 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 TOs
I’m regretting Carmelo Anthony making the All-Star team. Honorable (in a sense) as the nomination may be, Anthony could use a rest. Anthony is averaging 40 minutes per game in 2013, and it may be affecting his offense. Or maybe tonight was just one of those nights. Anthony’s shots just didn’t drop from anywhere. He rimmed out jumpers, and found himself smothered when he drove the lane and couldn’t find the opening to put the ball in the basket. The fact that he only drew four FTs on these defender-draped drives is a little suspicious. Either way, please, Melo, don’t do this to us again. Nice job on defense (Rudy Gay, his counterpart most of the night, shot just 4-21) and on the boards, though!
Final Grade: C-
Chandler pretty much stayed par for the course tonight; he did his usual Chandler things. He covered up a number of holes on defense, respectably staying in front of guards on switches, affecting attempts at the basket, and even doing some early trapping on pick-and-rolls. On offense, he finished the looks he got. The Knicks strayed from the Felton-Chandler pick-and-roll when it got hot in the fourth because…?
Final Grade: B+
Amar’e Stoudemire – 18 minutes, 10 points, 4-13 FG, 7 rebounds
At one point in the third quarter, Stoudemire leaked out, received an outlet from Anthony, and with one defender back, bricked an open layup, and then air-balled the follow-up attempt. It was that kind of night. It’s a shame that STAT’s most active game on the boards in awhile came on a night when he couldn’t get his shots to drop.
Final Grade: C
Steve Novak – 12 minutes, 9 points, 3-4 3FG, 4 rebounds
Novak was also one of the few bright spots tonight, and that was only for a quarter. Novak came off the bench in the first half and canned all his looks from downtown in the second quarter, looking like the Novak of 2011-12. He also grabbed four rebounds, which is nice, because there were plenty to spare.
Final Grade: C+
Iman Shumpert – 21 minutes, 5 points, 1-3 FG, 7 rebounds, 1 steal
Shumpert’s placement at small forward has done absolutely nothing for him, and it’s about time the experiment ended. My guy feeling is that Shump has been feeling discomfort in his knee (perhaps just regular wear and tear), and it has thrown off his game. He is hesitant on offense, far less aggressive on defense, and generally a non-factor on the court. Perhaps some rest time and a move to a bench role could revitalize him.
Final Grade: C-
Jason Kidd – 32 minutes, 0 points, 0-3 FG, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal
Kidd has dragged himself into the All-Star break, averaging 3.5 points on 23% shooting from the field. Unlike Shumpert above, whomay need a break and role change, Kidd absolutely needs time off and reduced role. He can’t hit anything outside, he’s lost his step that was helping the Knicks’ offense flow, and putting him on bigger and/or faster guards isn’t helping the cause
Final Grade: C-
Pablo Prigioni – 7 minutes, 0 points, 0-0 FG, 1 rebound, 1 assist
With trade rumors floating around the Knicks and Timberwolves, it’s possible Prigioni may not come back from All-Star break a Knick (if a deal does transpire, which seems like a stretch right now. OK. Breathe. Sorry. I’m OK. Just… I like Pablo). However, at this point, Prigioni doesn’t seem to be included in any major part of the Knicks’ ultimate success. His minutes are dwindling and his production is pretty uneven.
Well, that concludes the “first half” of the season. I can honestly say I hope to see this exact same group of Knicks return next week, hopefully 100% healthy, and see what they can do in the remaining 32 games. No doubt, though, the Knicks go into this break limping pretty noticeably.