The New York Knicks keep finding new ways to embarrass themselves. In their loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, they managed to allow one of the league’s worst offenses (41.5 percent from the field and 34.2 percent from three for the season) to shoot 57 percent from the floor and 47 percent from long range. They dug themselves a deep hole, going down by 18 early before showing briefs signs of life and ultimately getting run out of the building.
The Knicks opened the game with a brick-fest and they showed no desire to play defense well enough to make up for it. As has often been the case this year, the Knicks missed a few shots, and then simply stopped looking for open shots, as they settled for contested long twos over and over while the Cavs built a big lead.
New York’s defense collapsed into flailing nonsense whenever the Cavs used something as basic as a single screen. Simple ball movement sent Knicks flying around the court, making late rotations and getting out of position, which led to fouls. The Cavs shot a whopping 16 free throws in the first while the Knicks attempted just two, and they managed to get in the bonus with more than 4:30 left in the quarter.
The Knicks’ offensive ball movement improved a bit at the end of the first, as Pablo Prigioni sparked a 10-2 run with quick, decisive passing. Prigioni was assertive, looking to drive into the paint and kick the ball out to shooters and cutters. Amar’e Stoudemire also managed to have a nice game offensively. He was effective on the block and showed nice touch en route to a 7-for-10 shooting night. The momentum carried into the second and they managed to nearly take control of the game (the Cavs also conveniently stopped running anything resembling an NBA offense), but their old habits took hold once again in the third quarter, which was perhaps one of the Knicks’ ugliest stretches of basketball all year.
In the third, Kyrie Irving took over and flat-out made every defender the Knicks sent at him look silly. When they played him tight, he casually blew by him and when they played off him, he canned easy jumpers off the dribble. With no help defense to speak of, he got wherever he wanted on the floor, dropping 37 points (he was 14-for-23 from the field and 4-for-7 from deep) along with 11 assists, most of which led to wide open shots.
As if that weren’t bad enough, Cleveland did good work on the offensive glass. On multiple occasions, Knicks were just sitting and watching while the Cavs got easy putback dunks and layups. The Cavs scored 22 points in the paint in the third quarter alone, which is just ridiculous and should only happen in video games. The only real bright spot defensively was the nice job Andrea Bargnani did on Andrew Bynum in the post.
The Knicks played some competent stretches of offense in the second half, including one particularly nice Carmelo Anthony-led stretch in the fourth, but it simply didn’t matter because Kyrie and the Cavs were on fire. Bargnani had an awful night offensively and his shot seemed out of rhythm. J.R. Smith hit four threes, but he looked terrible off the dribble and made a handful of boneheaded plays. Iman Shumpert and Metta World Peace (who got his first start of the season) were complete non-factors.
The Knicks simply cannot allow themselves to play this poorly against the league’s worst-ranked offense. Their performance was an absolute embarrassment and they’ll need to make major adjustments if they hope to return to respectability this year.