The New York Knicks shuffled around their starting lineup, but they still ended up losing yet again, this time to a struggling Detroit Pistons team. The Knicks showed flashes of strong play, but ultimately shot themselves in the foot, throwing away a winnable game against what should be an inferior team.
With Raymond Felton opting to sit out due to injury, Mike Woodson went with a new group of starters, beginning the game with Beno Udrih (who hardly played down the stretch), Iman Shumpert, Carmelo Anthony, Andrea Bargnani and Kenyon Martin on the floor.
J.R. Smith got taken out of the starting lineup after some awful play in the previous two games. Bargnani came out attacking. The Pistons’ big, bulky frontcourt couldn’t stay in front of him, as he used his deadly pump fake to burn Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe off the dribble. In the first four minutes, he took the ball to the rack three times, including one strong and-one finish in traffic.
The Knicks actually started the game off quite nicely, hitting their first six shots from the field and, aside from a few careless turnovers, generally had a strong first quarter, shooting 56 percent from the field.
The offense stalled after the first quarter and things started to get ugly. The Knicks’ ball movement stalled and Bargnani was able to get very few of the sorts of open looks he was taking advantage of early on. Melo battled hard on offense and was able to get to the line in the second half, but he shot poorly from the field and he dribbled far too much, allowing the defense to get set to prevent scoring chances. He also turned the ball over seven times.
Defensively, the Knicks let the Pistons get whatever shots they wanted, as long as they were willing to move the ball. Knicks guards got caught ball-watching repeatedly and, while Shumpert did a fine job on Brandon Jennings, neither he nor anyone else was able to do anything to stop Rodney Stuckey’s many forays to the rim. The Knicks also allowed several wide-open opportunities from three, and they’re probably lucky that the Pistons only converted seven of them.
Amar’e Stoudemire was the worst offender on defense. On one third-quarter play, he was so badly confused that he ended up facing away from the ball for several seconds without a clue as to what was going on. He managed to throw down two dunks and pick up one pretty smooth assist in the second quarter, but those were his only real contributions all game.
The Knicks also generally didn’t communicate well. Help defense often either arrived late or not at all, and a few players (most notably Smith and Anthony) got back late on transition defense. Frustration mounted a few times as K-Mart had to scold a few teammates for their more egregious errors. Martin had a very good game in his first start of the season, rotating hard on defense and delivering hard fouls with aplomb. The Knicks outscored Detroit by three points in his 29 minutes of game time.
The Knicks were able to keep themselves in the game late by forcing turnovers, but they failed to capitalize on their opponents’ mistakes. Smith finally got it going offensively late in the game with a series of driving layups, but they couldn’t come up with key stops when they needed them and, for some odd reason, the Knicks opted not to foul when Drummond was on the floor towards the end.
Remember, Drummond is shooting 16 percent from the free throw line this year, so refusing to send him to the line was a major oversight.
New York is dealing with injury issues, but even so, they practically gave the game away against a subpar Pistons team. Detroit didn’t play especially well, but they still managed to shoot 50 percent from the field, marking yet another unacceptable performance by the Knicks’ defense. These are the kinds of games they should be able to win and if they keep losing them, they might have to adjust their expectations from “deep playoff run” to “making the playoffs.”