With Raymond Felton returning to the starting lineup, the New York Knicks got off to a relatively promising start in their loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. Unfortunately, old habits die hard, and they reverted to their usual issues in yet another disappointing performance.
They came out the gate moving the ball around and working for good shots, taking advantage of a very lax Clippers defense en route to a 27-point first quarter. Unfortunately, they’d crack the 20-point mark in just one of the remaining three quarters. Andrea Bargnani looked very comfortable while he scored the team’s first six points (he and Carmelo Anthony combined for 23 points in the first quarter), but the Clippers keyed in on them more and more as the game went on. Melo and Bargnani would go on to drop 27 and 20 points, respectively, but they got little scoring support from their teammates, with just one other Knick (Felton) breaking double figures. 38.4 percent shooting against a mediocre defensive team simply isn’t good enough, and J.R. Smith and Metta World Peace were complete non-factors on offense, scoring just seven points between them. As the game wore on Melo resorted to isolation attacks to try to spark the offense, but it wasn’t enough to erase the deficit they faced.
The offense generally looked smoother with Felton on the floor, but things were messy whenever the Knicks inserted bench players into the lineup. Amar’e Stoudemire has been complaining about the team’s lack of ball movement as of late, but he’s been the worst ball-stopper on the team. On one pair of back-to-back possessions he picked up a three in the key call and a travel. When he gets the ball the entire offense stalls and everyone just sits and watches as he methodically works on a way to get to the basket, which is resulting in him getting his shot blocked more often than at any other point in his career. Amar’e claims he needs more minutes and touches to find his rhythm, but he can’t just monopolize the basketball so he can get his confidence up.
The Knicks also completely failed to capitalize on the few open three-point looks they had. They didn’t hit a three until the second half and finished just 3-for-20 from beyond the arc (and one of the makes was a ridiculous flat-footed 30-footer by Smith).
Defensively, the Knicks’ starters competed in the half court. Their errors in those situations were more of the garden variety as opposed to complete catastrophes, and it certainly helped that Chris Paul logged just 26 minutes on the night. Kenyon Martin was a valuable defensive presence as always. In his 24 minutes of game time, the Knicks actually outscored the Clips by a whopping 17 points. Needless to say, those other 22 minutes were often disastrous. Mike Woodson played an Amar’e/Bargnani front court at times — which is just silly and irresponsible — and they gave up all kinds of easy drives and transition layups. On one incredibly embarrassing play, STAT and Beno Udrih ran into each other in pick-and-roll coverage and gave up a wide-open lob to DeAndre Jordan. The Knicks’ defense survived early by forcing 10 first half turnovers, but the Clippers took better care of the ball in the second half and their bench unit killed the Knicks’ backups.
The Knicks have continued to play lackluster basketball on both ends of the floor and a team that appeared deep on paper is getting almost nothing from their bench. If they’re going to turn things around Mike Woodson needs to figure out how to get the entire rotation to contribute.