Knicks slide continues
The New York Knicks dropped their sixth game in a row last night, losing a two overtime thriller to the Denver Nuggets 119-114 in the Garden. While there were a few positive signs to come out of the loss, the Knicks continue to be plagued by a number of the same issues and are digging themselves an early season hole in terms of positioning in the Eastern Conference.
Melo’s struggles: It was a given that Carmelo Anthony wanted to come out strong, put up big numbers, and get a win against his former team. Unfortunately for the Knicks, for three plus quarters his play did more harm than good. The once dynamic D’Antoni offensive system has quickly evolved into iso-city, as ball movement seems to stop when Melo gets the rock. Admittedly Carmelo was pressing last night and indicated that he has been shooting too much of late. The amount of shots he is taking wouldn’t be a problem if they were going in, but his porous shooting percentage over the last four games (33%) combined with the absurd of amount of shots he is taking is only exacerbating the Knicks offensive woes. For whatever reason he is firing up more shots than ever despite fighting off ankle and wrist injuries, and it might be to the benefit of both Melo and the team for him to sit out a few games and get himself healthy. His fourth quarter scoring outburst only underscores what a special offensive talent he is, as he made clutch shot after clutch shot at the end of regulation and during the first overtime. The level of difficulty of some of the jumpers he made was off the charts. We all know he wanted to beat his old team last night, but Melo’s ego appeared to get the best of him, as at the end of the first overtime he was triple-teamed and yet still tried to get off a last second shot before losing the ball. No less than two of his teammates were wide open on this play. Melo is unequivocally one of the best closers and skilled players in the league, but he needs to get himself right and start getting his teammates more involved if the Knicks are going to avoid another first round playoff exit this season.
Where’s STAT: In what has been a recurring problem since the arrival of Melo to NY, the production of Amare Stoudemire continues to slide. STAT only attempted one shot in the last 24+ minutes of last night’s defeat, and for the year he is averaging around 18 points per game as opposed to the 25+ he averaged a season ago. Is his body burned out from last year still? Amare carried the team for a good chunk of 2010-2011 and expended a lot of energy, as he played big minutes and took a beating by regularly defending the opposing team’s centers. I think STAT’s decline has more to do with the current Knicks offense and the lack of having a viable point guard on the roster. His offensive game is more of a slashing one, where he can use his athleticism moving to the basket and in transition. In Phoenix with Nash and early last year with Felton, STAT had a point guard at his disposal that fit these strengths. The current Knicks offense of throwing it to him in the post (or ignoring him completely) isn’t doing him any favors, and unless D’Antoni finds a way to better utilize Amare’s game or if the arrival of Barron Davis creates a more dynamics offensive flow, his frustrations will likely continue.
Knicks reserves: I have to admit, rookie guard Iman Shumpert is quickly becoming one of my favorite Knicks. He is a quick and athletic defender, and has a smooth touch from the outside. It’s early still, but Shumpert looks like a keeper, already playing big minutes and contributing 12 ppg. Unfortunately, rookie forward Josh Harrellson fractured his write last night and could be out for up to six weeks. I despised Harrellson when he was on Kentucky last year due to his style of play that constantly teetered between physical and dirty, but his under the radar contributions to the Knicks this year have been a welcome surprise. He is a grinder who does a lot of the little things and makes hustle plays all over the court, and his absence will be felt.
Denver/Melo trade: Much has been and will be continue to made of the success in the regular season the Denver Nuggets have had since they traded Carmelo Anthony. Currently, they have the 2nd best record in the Western Conference, and from the Melo haul they have a fairly deep roster of interchangeable young players. Denver will be competitive, maybe win a series in the playoffs, but let’s not kid ourselves; the NBA is, has been, and always will be star driven league. As skilled and talented as Lawson and Gallo are, much like last year they won’t be able to overcome a team in the postseason that has top ten caliber player. I wish Melo waited until the end of last year before signing with the Knicks, as he could’ve joined a team with the depth of Gallo, Wilson Chandler, and Timofey Mozgov, instead of the gutted one he found himself on. Melo wanted the trade and his max contract though, so he will be forced to take ownership of the success and failures of the Knicks throughout the remainder of his tenure. The season is still young, but Melo and the team as a whole need to get it going and start winning sooner rather than later.
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