This game was a tale of two halves, as the New York Knicks gave away a 10 point fourth quarter lead to lose to the Toronto Raptors 100-91.
They finished the game small ball, with Beno Udrih, Toure Murry and Tim Hardaway Jr. with a small frontcourt of Ike Diogu and Metta World Peace. This group just did not work together and they could not score at game’s end.
The Knicks shot a dreadful 5-for-31 from three-point range. Without Chris Copeland, Jason Kidd and Steve Novak, they continued to shoot the three, but could not convert. This is not as good a shooting team so far this preseason as last year’s team. Plus the Knicks were outscored in the paint 40 to 38.
The problem is Toronto is not big and has no pure center and the Knicks out-rebounded Toronto 47-44. The Knicks didn’t dominate this game but should have done so, as this is not a great Toronto team.
Let’s review the game.
Game two showed much insight into the Knicks team and upcoming season. Coach Mike Woodson has his work cut out for him as the Knicks showed the same weaknesses in the first half although they took a 52-49 lead. However their defense was poor as they allowed the Raptors to shoot 52 percent, versus the Knicks 44 percent. The Knicks finished the game with only 40 percent shooting.
The starting backcourt of Ray Felton and Pablo Prigioni just didn’t cut it. It allows Felton to be sluggish and not control the offense. Felton was scoreless in first quarter and still allowed his man to go past him at will. On offense he slowed the game down and just didn’t go to the basket or control the tempo. The point guard position needs to improve for the Knicks to repeat last season’s 50 win season.
Felton did not take charge of the team and looked tentative on both ends of the court, yet he still remains a Woodson favorite. Last year Kidd showed fourth quarter maturity and kept the game under control. His absence will expose Felton’s weaknesses. Felton needs to provide more leadership and scoring.
The point guard position was exposed by Toronto guard play last night. I liked the signing of Beno Udrih. He scored six points with five assists but had five turnovers. He has a great ability to penetrate but his turnovers hurt his game stats last night. However many of them were in the fourth quarter where he tried to carry the team and one was on a scoring offensive foul, where the points were called off.
Woodson stated tomorrow he was resting Carmelo Anthony and Felton and Prigioni will get the start. The Knicks need to improve or upgrade the point guard position to win a championship. They currently have three good reserves.
Woodson needs to drop his two point guard offense and play a traditional two guard. Iman Shumpert could not match his 7-for-7 game one again looked solid at the two and brought defensive intensity. He left the game with cramps, which is normal for preseason. Woodson needs to see what he has in Shumpert, it is his third year and it is time for him to step up.
MWP loves Shumpert and stated “he is one of the best shooting guards in the NBA” Although this may be a stretch, he deserves a shot especially with J.R. Smith out for the start of the season. Anthony says he loves rookie sensation, Tim Hardaway Jr. as he stated “he continues to gain confidence and plays with a chip on his shoulder.”
The rookie once again looked solid and made his first two three pointers and finished with 13 points on 5-for-11 shooting, 3-of-8 from the 3-point line, but many were rushed at games end.
Overall, the offense looked sloppy and no point guard had a strong presence.
Anthony looked in mid-season form, scoring 20 points with seven rebounds, three assists and three steals at the half and finished with 24 sitting out the entire fourth quarter. He played hard and on both ends of the court. It appears he and Andrea Bargnani have great chemistry and he offers that extra offensive weapon. Walt Frazier has been impressed with Carmel’s attitude and work ethic and stated “I was surprised to see him lifting weights at 8am, yesterday morning.” Carmelo looked like the only Knick ready for the season to start.”
The third quarter started off vintage Knicks. Again Woodson started Prigioni and Felton in the backcourt and this combo dug an eight point deficit after leading by three at the half or an 11 point turnaround. Anthony quickly picked up his fourth foul and headed to the bench. Last year the Knicks gave many games away in the third quarter, Last night was no different as they started flat.
Then Woodson brought in Udrih, Shumpert and Hardaway and the Knicks aided by Metta World Peace who showed a defensive toughness that the Knicks were inspired by. This lead to a major turn around and a 12-0 run and Knicks took the lead 74-70. World Peace finished with 13 points and six rebounds. He offered a defensive toughness the Knicks need, but showed he alone can’t carry the offense with Carmelo out of the game.
The fourth quarter was sub city as Woodson obviously wanted to see the men trying to make the team. Murry added a defensive presence and has a nice game, but is offensively lacking and he took a bad three point attempt when the Knicks were still in the game and had his shot blocked, Hardaway was open on the wing and a pass would have been the better play.
Josh Powell looked strong but fouled out and offered no offense.
Ike Diogu just didn’t look good and was extremely outplayed by second year man Quincy Acy from Toronto, who dominated the game with is scoring and hustle. He is an improvement over both Powell and Diogu.
Cole Aldrich didn’t play much but rebounded well and I would have liked him to see more time, hopefully tonight against the Boston Celtics he will get more opportunity.
This is a team still searching for an identity and a complete roster. The subs are lacking in offensive skills and Steve Mills needs better point play, more frontcourt scoring (outside of Carmelo) to succeed this year.
Dr. Eric Kaplan is a Best Selling author www.drerickaplan.com