Fire ‘Melo! Fire Amar’e! Fire
D’Antoni Woodson! Those were the despondent sentiments of Knicks fans in the Garden and on the Interwebs last night, but the thing about summary execution is that sooner or later, you run out of people to terminate.
The New York Knicks once again fell to the Miami Heat and now, down 3-0 in the series, it would be an absolute stunner if they weren’t swept into the off-season abyss this Sunday when the teams meet for Game 4 at MSG. No Amar’e Stoudemire, no Iman Shumpert, no Jeremy Lin; no excuses, either. The Knicks had their chances to capitalize on a rare 36 minute-display of ineptitude by the Heat, but the confluence of poor play from a once-again maligned Carmelo Anthony, a “superstar” performance from LeBron James, and an inability of anyone wearing the blue and orange to make a shot was far too much to overcome.
Which leads us to the why – despite their undeniably talented roster, even in its injury-riddled state – these feckless Knicks always seem to come up small in big moments, why they seem wholly incapable of getting out of their own way, and perhaps most importantly, what can be done about it?
Quite simply, the Knicks lack cohesion. They lack resolve. And they lack leadership. To understand why, one need ask but one question: What’s the point? Or better stated: Who’s at the point?
Baron Davis‘ effort, despite a littany of nagging injuries, has been admirable, but unfortunately, he has shown himself incapable of orchestrating the Knicks’ offense — and really, what is the Knicks’ offense beyond watching ‘Melo try to go it alone? Mike Bibby? Aside from a steady, if not uninspiring, 15 minutes a night en route to retirement, he has about as much of an effect on his teammates as does Toney Douglas. Actually, that’s not entirely fair; Douglas actually makes everyone else on the court worse, whereas Bibby mostly inspires mediocrity. The dearly departed Shumpert? Like the soon-to-be-departing J.R. Smith, Iman can advance the ball for you in stretches, but again, neither has the ability to direct traffic, cover up their teammates’ mistakes or elevate the play of others.
And so we are left with Mr. Lin. Sadly, we’ll never know how his presence might have changed things against Miami in this series. Yes, Jeremy was exposed when the Knicks played the Heat back in February, mostly on account of the tremendous (and unexpected) full-court pressure deployed by Spoelstra & Co., but surely, Lin’s composure is sorely missed now.
Though the Knicks’ chance to compete in this series was obliterated simultaneously with Shumpert’s knee, the road was likely unpassable once Lin went down with knee trouble of his own. Say what you will about Anthony’s or Smith’s shot selection, or Stoudemire’s ill-advised foray into “Ultimate Fighting,” but the problems begin and end with the lack of reliable PG play.
The Knicks will do what they must to retain Lin this offseason — for basketball and marketing reasons, no matter what the organization says publicly — and they will need every ounce of his ability in guiding his floormates to more consistent and reliable production.
It’s either that or death for all by firing squad!
WHAT WENT RIGHT:
- Ok, fine. Tyson Chandler received his well-earned Defensive Player of the Year Award last night. Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo presented the award, which was pretty cool. In case you hadn’t read it, I advocated for Chandler — as did many others. Though this season has largely been about more sexy storylines, it is hard to argue that Chandler, after Linsanity, wasn’t the team’s most feel-good story.
WHAT WENT WRONG:
- Everything. Where do I even begin?
- Here’s the thing about Carmelo. For a guy with his skills, he is mind-numbingly inconsistent. Sure, every player can have a bad shooting night — and lord knows ‘Melo came into the playoffs as the hottest player on the planet — but you’d be hard pressed to find another superstar in the league who seems to disappear for long stretches when things aren’t going his way. Dude, find another way to contribute. Rebound, play inspired defense, dive for loose balls, fire up your teammates. Anything. In fairness, Miami made Anthony work on every single possession, often not even allowing the Knicks to get the ball to their best player. And yes, ‘Melo doesn’t have the horses at present to go to war with. But 7-for-23 with five turnovers? No, that is not acceptable.
- New York shot 31.9% from the field, a new franchise playoff low. They shot just 20.0% from long-range, a failure that was compounded by their meager assist (8) ratio to field goals made (23). Again, without a point guard, the Knicks really had no chance, especially against a Miami defense that is second-to-none.
- Steve Novak took two shots last night in 23 minutes. How is that even possible?! After the game Coach Spoelstra said that the Knicks “do a lot of clever things to get Novak looks.” Maybe where Erik comes from the word “clever” means something else, but I saw zero screens being set, zero set plays and zero willingness on Novak’s part to do anything but wait for the ball to get to him. Of course, by the time the ball did get to him, he was already draped with coverage. In one sense, maybe Novak’s inability to do anything but catch and shoot will limit his market value. It still seems unlikely that the Knicks will be able to retain him.
- For every jaw-dropping dunk Smith (12 points on 5-for-18 shooting) executes, he takes 63,000 bad shots. (Ok, that’s an approximate ratio.) I thought he would be the x-factor in this series, but I was wrong. He will almost certainly not exercise his $2.5M option for next season, and it’s probably for the best. Smith is a talented player, to be sure, but not a winning player, period.
- Why is it, exactly, that Woodson refuses to play Josh Harrellson? What else do you have to lose, Coach? Other than your job, that is.
- The Knicks had 21 turnovers which led to 23 points for Miami. This season’s recurring them bit the Knicks in the tuchus once again.
- The game actually felt like it was lost at the end of the first half when the Knicks embraced poor execution and clock management, which led to a four-point swing at the buzzer.
- The Knicks have now lost 13 consecutive playoffs games, a new NBA record, so at least they’re consistent!
- Up next for the Knicks: the team’s funeral will be held on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. at Madison Square Garden. The organization asks that in lieu of flowers, charitable donations be made to the “Pay Inflated Premiums To Insure Amar’e’s Contract Fund.”
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