Coach Mike D'Antoni declared the Knicks (6-8) are in "crisis" after they were dismantled 91-88 by the Suns led by Steve Nash (26 points, 11 assists, 5 boards) in a game that resembled a death march. Except for Nash's performance and an attempt at late game heroics by Iman Shumpert, the game was a constant B-roll for a basketball disaster movie. Both D'Antoni's former team and current team showed no sign of the fire power and speed that led the world to label the coach an offensive genius.
The Knicks only shot 37.2% with stars Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire combining for 12 of 44. At lease Landry Fields looked more comfortable and aggressive as he scored 17 points on 6-12 shooting and added six boards and four assists.
In the end, the Suns beat the Knicks because the game was too close and two-time MVP Steve Nash had the ball in his hands to control the game in the final minutes against a rudderless Knicks team . Iman Shumpert (20 points, 4 steals, 2 assists) surprisingly was, along with Carmelo, the go-to player who drained two well-shot three pointers before heaving a wild three pointer as the Suns tried to foul him at the end of the game.
D'Antoni is coming increasingly frustrated as he is unable to make the adjustments to make this team offensively effective despite having two of the most prolific scoring big men in the game. D'Antoni who must be lamenting the lack of players who can run and play his offensive style, has placed the onus on his players lack of ball movement and the need for a point guard, as Baron Davis waits to get into the Knicks mix .
1/18 vs Suns: "Get in" for $46
1/20 vs. Bucks: Get in for $43
1/21 vs. Denver: Get in for $66
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Not bad. Not great. For the better part of three plus quarters the Knicks seemed to be up to beating the Orlando Magic despite allowing Ryan Anderson (30 points) and JJ Reddick (21 points) to look like all-stars. They led much of the game until the last 7:42 left.
The Ryan-Reddick show happened because the Knicks made the strategic decision on defense to try to keep Dwight Howard with constant double- and triple-teams. They seemed to double him no matter where he was on the court with the ball and despite bringing in Tyson Chandler to handle assignments like this. They did keep Howard in check as he ended the game with 8 points and 4 turnovers. Unfortunately, the Magic moved the ball around well and consistently found a sharpshooter from the arc, where they shot 48.6% (17-35).
After the Magic went into the zone, giving the jump-shooting Knicks an excuse to settle for jump-shots faster than usual, Carmelo Anthony (33 points on 9-27 shooting} and his mates went cold for the the last 3:28 of the game.
Carmelo kept the Knicks in the game and shot the team out of the game with 9 for 27 shooting. Stoudemire took blame for the loss because he got himself into early foul trouble and was basically invisible until late in the second half. Stoudemire seemed to bring little effort and remains out of sync where he is normally money on mid range jumpers and power moves to the rim.
Tony Douglas (12 points) seemed much more comfortable coming off the bench and playing off-guard, while Shumpert (12 points) has certainly muted his offensive aggression, but continued to make buckets and wreak havoc with his defense.
Reserves Jared Jeffries (6 points and 3 boards in 25 minutes) and Josh Harrellson (8 points and 2 boards in 13 minutes) had solid games. Jeffries received an ovation from the home crowd for his efforts. Harrellson was out best three point shooter (2-3) on the floor.
This was a good effort game for everyone but Stoudemire. However, it seems the strategic decision on defense and the continued lack of ball movement on offense are the Knicks biggest problems. This is attributable to the coaching staff. The entire coaching staff.
What did you see?
Superman is in town this Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the Knicks will be looking to stop the star, who is rumoured to eventually be on his way to the soon-to-be cross-town rival Brooklyn Nets.
With Dwight's presence, the Knicks gameplan against the 8-3 Magic will be almost exclusively a plan to stop Howard on offence and limit the way he effects the Knicks with his defense. Of course, with D'Antoni's coaching coming under question so far this season, this could be a major problem.
Carmelo Anthony is hoping to be back to take on Orlando and, after the Knicks performance without him in OKC, he can't get back sooner. His appearance will be based on a game-time decision and his likely replacement if injured will be Bill Walker, again.
The young Dr. King Holiday is still taking shape as the nation determines how to celebrate the day dedicated to the commemoration of a man who fought for social justice and equality during one of the most oppressive eras, outside of slavery and as a result of slavery, in American history. Some of us are still young enough to remember the conditions which Dr. King and many, many others fought to change. For many this day is one of remembrances just how difficult things were and appreciation for how life has changed. For others it is just another day off, or a cliche about one man's dream. Still for some it is another opportunity to promote peace and justice as overriding principles in the treatment of their fellow humans. There are so many ways to handle this day, it is easy to wonder how long it will be before it turns into a day of Dr. Martin Luther King Day White Sheet Sales, a notion not too far fetched when one thinks of the true meaning behind acknowledging the work and lives of Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and Jesus Christ with days.
Personally, I have been rather ambivalent about the celebration of the Dr. King Holiday. I am not ambivalent about the day itself as a friend reminded me of my attendance at a March in support of Dr. King's birthday as a national holiday in January 1981. No, I think the day itself is extremely important. It is how we celebrate the day that leaves me at odds with whether we will project the true meaning of this day when those who have lived through the period of legislated racial animus, oppression and hatred haved passed. When the collective memory becomes a video clip of protesters being punished with solid beams of hosed water and chased down by vicious attack dogs or a YouTube reminder of a few lines from an inspirational speech, will we then know what it is we are commemorating? Do we know now?
Oddly enough, I found my feeling about what the holiday means early this morning from two sources both related to basketball. The first was when I woke up this morning and tried to determine whether my back would stop hurting enough for me to get to the Y and play some early morning ball. After eating a banana, celery and a little pasta for fuel, I popped a couple of Advil to loosen up my back. If I relied on the Advil I would have stayed at home; instead I thought about how appreciative I was to get up in the morning and go to the Y, as I do every weekday, and go play basketball with an extremely diverse group of men of many ethnicities, races and ages. Although, being in diverse environments was something to which I had been accustomed for decades, it is a situation, in stark contrast to growing up in a highly segregated city, which can easily be taken for granted. What I had to be appreciative of was how much all of us benefited from being able to play and socialize with each other with little to no regard for racial differences.
This defeat was so so overwhelming that I am not sure what clumsy analogy to open with. We could do "climate control" since Russell Westbrook (21 points and 8 assists) manipulated the tempo and temperature of the game from the start. Or we could go with "when it reigns it pours" since the combination of Kevin Durant (28 points on 10-13 shooting) and James Harden (24 points in 27 minutes on 8-12 shooting with 4 assist for good measure) ruled the court like Thunder Gods while raining points over our uncovered and unable to cover anybody Knicks. Yep, the Knicks were left wet and naked after a first half in which we surrendered 70 points.
It was so overwhelming that the OakCity Thunder sat Durant and Westbrook before the third quarter ended. They stopped playing but the beating did not stop.
This game was really ugly, but we knew it as soon as coach D'Antoni revealed a rotation we had not seen and the Knicks probably hadn't seen in practice, yet. (Practice, practice; what practice? We're too busy playing in this tighty scheduled season to have practice.) With Carmelo suffering from wrist and ankle injuries and Jared Jeffries ready to return, D'Antoni started with Iman Shumpert and Mike Bibby in the backcourt and Tyson Chandler, Bill Walker and Amare Stoudemire up front. Landry Fields (for Bibby), Josh Harrellson (for Stat), Jared Jeffries (for Walker) and Toney Douglas (for Iman Shumpert) came off the bench in that order in the first quarter. By the end of the quarter, the Knicks with their patchwork five were done by ten points 32-22.
Unfortunately, the Knick's game-long defensive breakdown came shortly after D'Antoni used the Knicks 87.2 points against average in the last five games to suggest that the team's defense has improved. (I think it has).
Despite the thunderous collapse, there were a few good signs. Josh Harrellson continues to play solidly providing a diverse game on offense. He scord 12 points off 5-10 shooting and hit 2-5 tres while grabbing 4 boards in 20 minutes. Renaldo Balkman's play continues to urge D'Antoni to raise his profile in the rotation. Balkman has clearly worked on his game and his manic hustle is more controlled. He scored 12 points in 12 minutes and added four rebounds and 3 steals. He was clearly hustling more than everyone else in garbage time too.