There has been one thing missing down the stretch of games for the New York Knicks and that is simply power forward Amar’e Stoudemire.
But just watching the Knicks’ offense fall apart Sunday in the fourth quarter against the Miami Heat begs the question of if Mike Woodson should use STAT more down the stretch in close games.
The reasons Stoudemire doesn’t see many fourth quarter minutes are understandable.
First of all is his lack of ability at the defensive end. Stoudemire often looked like he was taking notes to write a book on Sunday as the Heat beat him back door to the rim on numerous occasions while he stood flat footed and watched. It’s hard to have those types of defensive breakdowns on the floor late in close games.
Then there is the fact that we have seen times over the course of the past two seasons where Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and Carmelo Anthony have their issues playing together and spacing the floor properly.
Again, in close games it is hard to afford potential breakdowns at either end of the floor.
But the Knicks missed 11-of-17 shots in the fourth quarter — including seven of their final nine — as the Heat turned a four-point deficit into a six-point win.
Maybe STAT helps in that department.
Stoudemire has been playing well. He has been efficient at the offensive end and has added a spark to a sometimes dormant Knicks offense.
Often in the fourth quarter Anthony turns into the Knicks only scoring option, outside of some bad forced shots from J.R. Smith.
It makes sense to have other scoring options on the floor. Sometimes it is better for a coach to not overthink things and simply put your best players on the floor.
On Sunday STAT played just 21 minutes, with just four coming in the fourth quarter, and scored 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting. In a close game that the Knicks should have won, Stoudemire could have made a difference.
But he can’t help the team win sitting on the bench with his warmups on.
Of the 165 fourth-quarter minutes he’s played, just 24 of those are in the last five minutes of games with the Knicks ahead or behind by five points.
Give Stoudemire credit for not complaining about not playing meaningful minutes down the stretch of close games, as he simply told the New York Daily News’ Frank Isola “Coach’s Decision.”
But for the Knicks to have greater success down the stretch, especially in tight games against good teams, that number needs to increase.
It’s hard to watch the Knicks lose games they should win when their best players are sitting on the bench.
You never want to go down with bullets left in your gun and that is exactly what Woodson continues to do.
If the Knicks lose by using their top guns then fine, but continuing to lose games by not playing their best players when they should be on the floor is beginning to turn into a problem.
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