This game was over in the first quarter. The New York Knicks came out flat on both sides of the ball, allowing the San Antonio Spurs to do whatever they wanted en route to an easy victory. Basically, they wet the bed. Nearly every aspect of their performance was awful.
The defense was particularly horrific. Finally faced with a good offensive opponent, the Knicks surrendered points in bunches. They fell behind 35-17 at the end of the first quarter and gave up more than 60 first-half points for the third consecutive game. The Spurs got into the lane at will, often creating wide open shots after using just one screen or another basic offensive action. The Knicks botched even the most basic rotations and the Carmelo Anthony–Andrea Bargnani frontcourt provided absolutely zero rim protection. They found themselves out of position over and over, even on the Spurs’ simpler offensive sets.
The Knicks also continued to switch far too often, often leaving Bargnani on an island defending the lightning-quick Tony Parker one-on-one 25 feet from the basket, which is a recipe for disaster. The constant switching has long been a part of Mike Woodson’s defenses, but this particular Knicks roster doesn’t have enough defensive versatility for those switches to not lead to awful mismatches. One can’t help but wonder if all of the switching is partly because he doesn’t trust his guards to fight through screens and get in proper defensive position. The perimeter defense was just as bad, as Knicks guards got caught ball-watching, repeatedly getting sucked into the paint, only to leave the Spurs’ many skilled shooters wide open from beyond the arc. San Antonio knocked down 42.9 percent of their three-point attempts, and it could have been much worse.
Offensively, the Knicks weren’t much better. Metta World Peace and Bargnani hit a few useful jumpers to briefly energize the team in the second quarter, but other than that, the Knicks were a mess. They often loitered around the perimeter, relying on haphazard one-on-one attempts instead of moving the ball. The Spurs sent a lot of doubles at Melo, and the Knicks simply didn’t generate any reliable alternatives. J.R. Smith made his return after his five-game suspension, but he looked very rusty, going just 1-for-9 from the field (including a few airballs) and turning the ball over four times in just 21 minutes of action.
Garbage time came extra early in this one, allowing two Knicks backups, Toure’ Murry and Cole Aldrich, to step out onto the court. Aldrich, while slow-footed, looked useful, grabbing seven rebounds and tossing in three assists in just nine minutes. Granted, it was against the Spurs’ backups, but he and Murry should be worth a look in the next few games, as the Knicks look to correct a horrendous defense.
There really aren’t very many positives to take from this loss. The Knicks will have a lot of soul-searching to do going forward.