The New York Knicks came out flat yet again, this time surrendering a ridiculous 64 first-half points to a Charlotte Bobcats team that came into the game averaging just 85 a game. To make matters worse, Tyson Chandler, perhaps the team’s most important player, injured his right leg in the first half and the severity of his injury is still unknown (X-rays were reportedly “inconclusive”).
New York’s perimeter defense woes continued, as Bobcats ballhandlers (mostly Kemba Walker and Ramon Sessions) penetrated whenever they felt like it. The Knicks’ guards didn’t fight to get over screens and their frontcourt players often either missed help rotations or showed up too late for it to matter.
Walker managed to go 7-for-9 from the field in the first half on mostly easy looks and the Cats, generally an awful three-point shooting team, knocked down five of their 10 attempts from deep. Iman Shumpert stood out as actually being overaggressive. He got caught reaching for steals on several occasions, allowing his man to get behind him en route to the basket. Transition defense was also an issue, as the Knicks just plain didn’t get back on defense a few times.
Chandler’s injury didn’t help matters, as the Knicks were stuck without rim protection, using both Andrea Bargnani and Amar’e Stoudemire at center. STAT was horrible on both ends of the floor. Defensively, he looked lost in pick-and-roll coverage and he often failed to rotate into the paint after Bobcats blew past Knick guards off the dribble.
On offense, he forced things nearly every time he touched the ball, whether it was holding the ball for far too long and posting up with no space to make a move or attempting to dribble into two defenders instead of making an easy pass. It was somewhat saddening seeing him getting his shot blocked at the rim, especially since those would have been powerful dunks just a few seasons ago.
Fortunately, Metta World Peace (who has quietly been the Knicks’ most consistent player this year) was able to score enough to keep the team afloat heading into the halftime break.
Once again, the Knicks answered a lazy first half by coming out with renewed focus in the second. Their defensive intensity picked up (they would end up forcing 22 turnovers for the game) and they started taking care of the ball better on offense. Kenyon Martin started the second half and he made an immediate impact, directing traffic and protecting the rim (sometimes by delivering a timely hard foul). The Knicks were able to generate some better looks as the game wore on, but it wasn’t enough to make up for their awful start, leaving the Knicks with their third-consecutive loss.
So far this season, the Knicks simply haven’t shown that they can consistently compete on a nightly basis. It’s still early in the season, though, so the Knicks still have plenty of time to dig deep and fix the problem. They need to bounce back in Friday’s rematch against the Bobcats.