The New York Knicks just can’t seem to avoid shooting themselves in the foot these days. In last night’s loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, New York was plagued by a lack of effort as they once again failed to compete for the full 48 minutes.
The first half was an absolute mess, and it all started with a horrific defensive effort. The Knicks got killed by even the simplest off-ball cuts, as New York defenders stared at the ball for entire possessions. Beno Udrih was probably the worst culprit. He got burned repeatedly by Damian Lillard off the dribble (which isn’t so bad considering how good Lillard is) but he also made some inexcusable errors like going for unnecessary double teams and leaving Lillard wide open for three. He looked absolutely lost at times and his teammates weren’t much better. Carmelo Anthony routinely left his man with tons of space to shoot and hardly bothered to contest jumpers, and even Iman Shumpert and Metta World Peace had awful nights on defense. Andrea Bargnani’s defense was similarly terrible. One particular first-half blunder left Kenyon Martin giving him an incredulous stare while gesturing wildly at the space Bargnani was supposed to occupy. It was a complete comprehensive failure on defense by the Knicks. They didn’t defend the three-point arc (where they fouled three-point shooters twice), the basket or anywhere else on the court.
They picked up their effort on defense in the second half, but the increased effort wasn’t really enough to overcome their numerous bad habits. The game got close a few times when the Blazers turned to repeated LaMarcus Aldridge turnaround jumpers (even though they weren’t working and everyone else on the team was torching the Knicks), but once Portland returned to any sort of ball movement they got whatever shots they wanted. At this point, it seems like the Knicks exist solely to help opposing teams’ fans get free food – first the Chick-Fil-A in D.C. and now McMuffins in Portland.
The offense didn’t put up terrible numbers (after the first quarter, anyway), but it was messy and generally didn’t produce good shots. The Knicks showed little inclination to attack the basket. In the first half they were outscored in the paint 26 to 12, and New York failed to attempt a single free throw until nearly 18 minutes of game time had gone by. They also hit a grand total of zero threes before the halftime break. The offense was kept afloat by a series of Carmelo isolations, which he had to perform with limited spacing (Bargnani went back to his bad habit of languishing around the elbow while Melo tries to operate). Luckily for the Knicks, Melo caught fire a few times, scoring 34 points on a pretty solid 13-for-24 shooting line. Unfortunately, they lacked the ball movement necessary to really get anyone else going. K-Mart led the team in assists, which is very obviously not a good sign. Bargnani and Udrih had decent shooting nights but disappeared for long stretches while Shump (who had perhaps the least impactful game of his career) and J.R. Smith were pretty much a train wreck, combining for 2-for-10 shooting.
A 3-10 team should be in desperation mode, playing as hard as they can to save their season, but this team just hasn’t shown the willingness to hustle for entire games and they won’t start winning until they do. They’re simply not good enough to dig huge holes and expect to climb out of them in the second half.