The New York Knicks opened up a soft stretch in their schedule with a home game against the New Orleans Pelicans, but despite a first-quarter injury to Anthony Davis, the Knicks couldn’t capitalize and pick up the much-needed win.
The Knicks started the game with their finest defensive effort so far this year. Guards worked to fight through screens and big men like Andrea Bargnani and Kenyon Martin were locked in defensively. Bargnani actually blocked three shots in the first quarter and showed a new-found willingness to work to contest shots around the rim. New York held New Orleans to 16 points in the first quarter and looked like they could be on their way to snapping their winning streak.
Unfortunately, it didn’t last. New Orleans subs Ryan Anderson and Tyreke Evans had their way with the Knicks’ defense whenever they were on the floor. Anderson ripped down four offensive rebounds and canned seven 3-pointers on just 11 attempts en route to an easy 31 points. Nobody seemed to be able to keep track of him off the ball, and he got great looks at the rim all game long.
Tyreke was able to beat his man off the dribble whenever he pleased despite lacking the kind of shooting skill necessary to keep most defenses honest. Not only that, but when he broke into the paint, he was met with almost no resistance from the Knicks’ bigs. Their defense was a disaster the entire second half as pick-and-roll defenders got caught in no man’s land, defending neither the ball-handler nor the roll man.
The Knicks were up and down on the offensive end. Raymond Felton was fantastic in the first half, scoring 10 points off 4-for-5 shooting while chipping in five assists. He orchestrated the offense well, and his penetration helped free up Bargnani on rolls to the rim and J.R. Smith for jumpers. He fell apart in the second half though, missing good passing opportunities and bricking all five of his field goal attempts.
Pablo Prigioni had a bounce-back game. When he was on the floor, the Knicks whipped the ball around the perimeter to hit open shooters, but he and Iman Shumpert (who had a nice game on defense) saw little playing time partly because of the emergence of Tim Hardaway Jr., who had his best game as a pro by far, finishing with 21 points, good for second on the team.
In the second half, he was absolutely on fire. His five 3-pointers helped keep the Knicks in the game at a time when nobody else was making shots. Carmelo Anthony had his way with Anthony Morrow but struggled with Al-Farouq Aminu’s length, both in the post and off the dribble. Early in the game, he was perfectly content with moving the ball and taking shots within the flow of the offense, but the Knicks force-fed him in the fourth and he missed more often than not.
With their ninth loss in a row now behind them, the Knicks still don’t seem to have found any answers. Luckily for them, they’ll be facing easier opponents over the next few weeks. If they’re going to figure things out, they need to do it now.