For 36 minutes against the Toronto Raptors last night, the Knicks played like the better team. They shot over 50% from the floor, they gave maximum effort on the defensive end, and they showed grit in fighting back from a double-digit scoreboard-deficit.
Unfortunately, NBA teams are required to play for a full 48 minutes, and New York found itself unable to claw its way back from a ghastly second quarter which saw them go 3-for-19 from the field (0-for-7 from 3-point range) en route to just 11 points.
Not even the oft-familiar heroics of Carmelo Anthony (36 points, 11 rebounds) were enough to save the Knicks, now 2-3 on the young season, and though it is still very early, foreboding trends and habits are clearly emerging.
WHAT WENT RIGHT:
- The development of Toney Douglas continues to entice and madden, seemingly from play-to-play. Pouring in 22 points (8-of-19 shooting, 4 assists and just 1 turnover) probably kept the Knicks from being blown out, but unless TD is coming off the bench to provide an offensive spark, there is simply no reason for him to be hoisting 11 shots from 3-point range. That said, given the absence of Amar’e Stoudemire (DNP – sprained ankle), it’s hard to be dissatisfied with Douglas’ production. The return of Baron Davis looms incredibly large, because right now, this team lives and dies on the consistency of TD, which isn’t a comforting thought for Mike D’Antoni.
- Tyson Chandler has now put up consecutive double-double efforts for the Knicks, and one can only hope the impending return of Stoudemire doesn’t stymie Chandler’s emerging comfort level. It was encouraging to see that Chandler was targeted on several lob attempts in the contest, a sight that should become more commonplace as team-chemistry and floor-spacing improve.
- No one will ever accuse me of being a Landry Fields-devotee, but last night was a solid example of what he can bring to the table, even when his shot is not falling. Fields was incredibly active on both ends of the floor (+13), and despite picking up three personal fouls in the first half, he managed to stick around for the entire fourth quarter comeback-attempt. If Fields can avoid the wallflower-tendencies he’s shown since the arrival of Anthony, there is no reason why he can’t be an integral piece to a championship puzzle. I’m still not convinced that he’s a starting-caliber NBA player, but perhaps the jury’s still be out here.
WHAT WENT WRONG:
- New York shot 10-for-35 from long-range last night. No, that’s not a typo; the Knicks took 35 3PAs. I get that “chicks dig the long-ball,” but seriously? Really? Coach D’Antoni encourages his players to shoot when they’re open, and the Knicks did miss a lot of open looks against Toronto, but this team spends far too much time on the perimeter, an approach that will never be effective over the long-haul, and certainly not in the playoffs. Part of the problem is that besides ‘Melo, New York doesn’t have a player capable of driving to the basket and collapsing the defense. Toney Douglas can get to the hole, but with his head always down, he isn’t likely to find an open teammate once there. The return of Iman Shumpert, rumored to be as soon as this Saturday, should help in this respect.
- At one point during the second quarter, the Knick lineup consisted of Douglas, Mike Bibby, Bill Walker, Steve Novak, and Jerome Jordan. Yes, you’re reading that right, and yes, Scott Howard’s Beavers (with Howard playing as himself) would give that lineup a run for its money.
- The Knicks surrendered 25 points of 13 team-turnovers. Granted, the Knicks cut that ratio to 6 points on 4 second half-turnovers, but the hole that they dug for themselves in the second quarter was too large to dig out of.
- Bill Walker (-13) does not possess a high basketball-IQ. Great hair, though, and smart business move on his part to license his image to PBS for that Sid the Science Kid cartoon.
- Mike Bibby is not a serviceable NBA-player right now, even as a backup. Perhaps this will change as the Knick-offense gets itself in gear, and Bibby presumably gets wide open looks on kickouts, but unless he’s shown nothing in practice, I find it hard to believe that the recently-acquired Jeremy Lin wouldn’t be a vast improvment off the bench.
- “D-FENCE!” The Knicks held the Raptors to 44% shooting, but the incessant over-switching continued. There were several instances where Toronto had wide open looks as a result of New York’s defensive-discombobulations, but the effort is there, and I do think Mike Woodson’s coaching will eventually pay on-court dividends.
- A loss is rarely “a good loss,” but the Knicks can takeaway some positives from falling short against the Raptors. Despite being outplayed for most of the game, they did not quit, and their effort did not wane. New York is undermanned right now, and learning to play (and hopefully win) without depth can only help the players that would otherwise be further down in the rotation. Given the condensed schedule, players like Josh Harrellson will be integral to the Knicks’ ability to sustain their (eventual) winning ways, so better that the getting-their-feet-wet occurs now as opposed to in April.
- RED FLAG! The Knicks have played for just three quarters in each of their three losses, a trend based on an admittedly small sample-size, but something to keep an eye on nonetheless. Teams in this league are too good for New York to take plays off, let alone entire quarters.
- The highlight of the night was undoubtedly the MSG-appearance of New York Giants’ star-wide receiver Victor Cruz, who gave the crowd an impromptu salsa dance midway through the second quarter. Something tells me Boston Celtic fans won’t be showing Ocho Cinco the same kind of love anytime soon.
- Next up for New York are the dreadful Charlotte Bobcats, who roll into town for 7:30 tip on Wednesday night. The Knicks need to beat the teams they are expected to beat, especially at home, so this game should be a good test of their resiliancy.
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Photo by AP/Frank Franklin II