It was so painfully obvious and predictable how the New York Knicks were going to surrender momentum and a lead, and how they would eventually lose their ninth straight game. The New Orleans Pelicans were without (literally) their best player as Anthony Davis injured his hand in the first quarter and sat the rest of his game. In his place, Ryan Anderson torched the Knicks by canning the open three-pointers they granted him. Tyreke Evans squiggled his way into the lane for layups and a couple of and-ones. The two players almost single-handedly exposed the Knicks’ porous defense, despite off shooting nights from Jrue Holiday and Eric Gordon. And despite that, the Knicks hung in there by doing a few good things really well for just moments at a time.
The Knicks defended with vigor in the first quarter, allowing just 16 points to the Pelicans. After that, the Knicks relied on their defense, and for stretches, they looked like the 54-win ‘Bockers of last season. With the right lineups the Knicks swung the ball side-to-side, vary rarely letting it bounce on the floor. Tim Hardaway Jr. and J.R. Smith (to an extent) enjoyed the crisp ball movement by drilling catch-and-shoot threes. When the Knicks didn’t pull from deep, they took advantage of the Pelicans’ scrambling defense by putting the ball on the floor and creating looks for themselves. Despite conceding the Pelicans a lot of easy looks on offense, a lineup featuring Pablo Prigioni, Hardaway Jr., Carmelo Anthony, and Amar’e Stoudemire looked ready to run away with the game as the offense looked as fluid as it has all season, swinging the ball, pouring in baskets from all over the floor. Alas, it was merely a mirage.
Through sheer, thick-skulled, traditional determination, Mike Woodson went away from that lineup. With 6:24 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Knicks led 93-88. Andrewa Bargnani and Raymond Felton had just come back into the game; Stoudemire and Prigioni were taken out. The Knicks had scored two quick baskets after the substitutions, but thereafter handed the Pelicans the game through a combination of brick-building and turnovers on offense. Down the stretch, the Pelicans executed, coming up with two field goals in the final 2:17 while the Knicks couldn’t answer. New York launched prayer threes at ill-advised times, lacking any offensive game plan, and they fell to 3-13.
Here’s a look at the individual performances:
Carmelo Anthony – 44 minutes, 23 points, 9-21 FG, 1-7 3FG, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 3 TOs, +3
A lot of good things were lost in the war, one of which was Anthony’s engagement on the offensive end. ‘Melo displayed 2012-13-esque offensive generosity, moving the ball purposefully, setting up open looks inside and out by making quick dishes from both the post and the perimeter. His shot selection was mostly good, too, save for a desperation three at the end that the Knicks badly needed. These positives fell apart in the end — his hands got a bit sticky when the game got tight, and as mentioned, he chucked a deep, reactionary three when the Knicks had a new shot clock, down three, with 19 seconds to go. He also played too many minutes again (looking at you, Woody), and he had a weird squabble with Shumpert during a timeout after some defensive confusion. ‘Melo eventually tuned Shump out, though.
Final Grade: B
Andrea Bargnani – 36 minutes, 17 points, 5-13 FG, 0-3 FG, 7-8 FT, 7 rebounds, 2 steals, 6 blocks, -4
Boy, the Knicks could have used a couple of Bargnani’s threes to fall in this one, even though none of his attempts came late in the close game. On a slightly erratic offensive night, Bargnani played some solid man-to-man defense and was abhorrent in his help defense, either. His 6 (!!!!!!) blocks came in a lot of man-to-man action (including a sweet, late-game rejection on Eric Gordon on a switch), but he also had a few on the weakside to save his teammates. We’ll take that going forward.
Final Grade: B+
Raymond Felton – 38 minutes, 12 points, 4-10 FG, 2-6 3FG, 2 rebounds, 8 assists, 1 steal, 1 TO
Felton was pretty splendid navigating the pick-and-roll in this one as he routinely plumped his way into the defense, only to hit and initiate perimeter ball movement by kicking it to spot-up shooters. Otherwise, it wasn’t such a great night. Felton looks the worst defensively of all three Knicks point guards and he’s probably the worst shooter of all of them. Missing threes and failing to track the likes of Jrue Holiday on defense were killers, especially when he played 38 minutes while his two competent backups rode the pine.
Final Grade: C+
Tim Hardaway Jr. – 25 minutes, 21 points, 6-10 FG, 5-8 3FG, 4-4 FT, 2 assists, 1 TO, -6
The lone bright spot. Hardaway Jr. had the Garden crowd raucous as they’ve been all season as he went on a one-man sniping spree from beyond the arc in the fourth quarter. Timmy was the beneficiary of the splendid ball movement and he capitalized and gave the Knicks handfuls of momentum to steal this game. He cooled off late and rushed a ballsy, ill-advised attempt from deep with 30 seconds remaining. He wasn’t happy with his performance, though.
Final Grade: A
Kenyon Martin – 17 minutes, 0 points, 0-2 FG, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals 3 blocks, -10
The Knicks probably win this game if Martin played down the stretch. Given K-Mart’s health requirements, it’s tough to say if that was Woodson’s own negligence or Martin’s actual inability to play. Nonetheless, he was supremely active in his limited playing time, and an extra rebounder and paint presence would have done New York well in that fourth quarter.
Final Grade: B+
Pablo Prigioni – 10 minutes, 3 points, 1-1 FG, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 TO, -4
Good things happen when Pablo Prigioni plays. It’s really pretty obvious to anyone watching. Subbing him out for Felton was insanity, as Prigioni was the little engine that drove the Knicks briefly explosive offense in the fourth quarter. Perhaps Woodson looks down at mustard on his tie or something during all of Pablo’s minutes.
Final Grade: A-
Iman Shumpert – 21 minutes, 7 points, 3-5 FG, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 TOs, +1
If you’re a fan of conspiracy theories and mettlesome inner operations: Shumpert didn’t get off the bench after he committed a foul that led to a four-point play in the third quarter, and then had an argument with Anthony on the bench. That’s right — Woodson sat the best perimeter defender, best back-court rebounder, and a player having a good shooting night in favor of J.R. Smith and Raymond Felton. Shump is far from mistake-free, but his absence from the game is certainly worth nothing.
Final Grade: B+
J.R. Smith – 34 minutes, 12 points, 4-11 FG, 3-8 3FG, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 3 TOs, -1
Smith is slowly looking like he’s regaining some offensive rhythm in terms of hitting on spot-up opportunities and knowing when to make the extra pass. He did those things fairly well in this game, despite missing some oh-so-crucial late three-point attempts. Still, the Knicks can’t afford sitting more productive players while Woodson lets J.R. search for his game.
Final Grade: C
Amar’e Stoudemire – 14 minutes, 4 points, 2-3 FG, 2 rebounds, 3 TOs, +2
Stoudemire didn’t totally ruin the things he normally ruins when he checks into the game, so that’s a start. He didn’t force his opportunities on offense, and he didn’t completely neglect defensive assignments that I saw. In fact, he was actually part of the Knicks’ best lineup of the night. We’ll see where that goes.
Final Grade: B-
Metta World Peace – 0:34
Final Grade: n/a
I’m not quite on the “Fire Woodson” bandwagon, only because I think players still like him, and I’m not sure what better replacements are out there. Still, it’s so plainly visible what the Knicks could do better and what lineups work and what players should and shouldn’t be playing and Woodson misses all of it. He plays favorites at inopportune times, and even if he’s getting orders from up above about how to manage the team and rotation, he’d win more games if he ignored them. Coaches are almost never solely to blame for losses or wins, but after watching his dismantle the most productive lineup in the night to play a clearly ineffective one — not to mention giving literally no instruction or offensive game plan down the stretch — Woody can shoulder the blame for the Knicks’ ninth loss in a row.
Final Grade: D-
The Knicks take on the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday.
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