The (1-1) New York Knicks came into Thursday game against the Los Angeles Lakers looking to rebound from a brutal 4th qt unraveling against the Golden State Warriors. Head coach Mike D’Antoni admitted the Knicks looked “awful” and blamed the entire team for a lack of concentration and energy. Unfortunately for Knicksnation, Thursday’s late night 99-82 loss to the hands of Kobe Bryant left many with questions about the team’s leadership and coaching. Although it is too early to think about hitting the panic button there are several issues that the Knicks have to address.
Coach D’Antoni started his usual lineup of PG Douglas, SG Fields, SF Anthony, PF Stoudemire, C Chandler, while new Lakers coach Mike Brown without center Andrew Bynum went with PG Fisher, SG Bryant, SF Ebanks, PF McRoberts, and at C Gasol. The game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles marked the Knicks first back-to-back game of the new season and the second in a three game West Coast road trip. Pau Gasol got the Lakers off to good start while Knicks superstar Carmelo shook off the rust on his jump-shot early and didn’t look back. Knicks did get to the free-throw line early going 8-for-8 at the charity stripe which gave them a 19-14 lead with 5:52 remaining in the 1st quarter. Melo quick start with 7 points had the offensive clicking early, but dumb fouls continue to plague the Mike Woodson defense. At the end of the 1st quarter, the Lakers led 31-24, with the Knicks going to the charity strip 12 times, connecting on 11. Melo, Chandler and Amar’e Stoudamire combined for 21 points.
One of the most puzzling stories on offense in the young season is the propensity for Amar’e to settle for outside jumpers and lack of back to the rim scoring. So far it seems the twenty pounds of additional muscle put on in the offseason by “STAT” will be used to shoot 18 foot jumpers instead of attacking the rim. On the few occasions that STAT did force the action around the paint he was successful in forcing fouls and getting easy dunks. The return of veteran point guard Baron Davis will hopefully right Amar’e horrible shot selection in which he shot 4-for-17 finishing with 15 points for the night. The 2nd quarter exposed a second team for the Knicks that lacks in the ability to score and defend the paint. Josh Harrelson looks slightly more confident and newly acquired Steve Novak provided some perimeter scoring but Coach D’Antoni will be happy to get Iman Shumpert and Jared Jefferies back into the rotation sooner than later. The Knicks struggled to contain Kobe Bryant and were overpowered by a resurgent Metta World Peace and at the half trailed the Lakers 63-51. The Knicks offense was pure isolation plays and could not get good shots which were reflected in their dismal 33% shooting for the half. The Lakers offense clicked on all cylinders ending the half shooting 72%.
It is easy for Knicks fans to blame the continued offensive struggles on Coach D’Antoni but the real issue is giving the Big 3 time to get familiar with each others style of play. Amar’e has never played with a center like Tyson Chandler while Melo continues to play the role he knows best, scorer. What normally is developed over the course of a season is not to be expected within the first 3 games. Knicks fans need to step back from the edge and understand this is going to be a process that at times will be painful but in the end the goal remains to clinch the third of forth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Knicksnation should take note of the early struggles of another “Big 3” down in Miami last season as they learned how to bring the best out of each others talents.
The 2nd half of basketball from Los Angeles saw a repeat of the breakdown in scoring and foul trouble that proved to be disastrous. There were brief moments were Amar’e reminded us of his dominance in the paint but those were erased after picking up a mindless technical foul. Rebounding is another issue for the Knicks whose total of 32, two of which were STAT’s, displayed a lack in effort cleaning the glass. Kobe Bryant got to work earning his pay by scoring 10 in the quarter, finishing with a game high 28. The 4th quarter saw the Knicks get off to a terrible 0-for-7 and Amar’e continued to struggle to find the bottom of the net. The Lakers steadily increased their lead to a 16 pt advantage at the 4:57 mark that sealed the win. The Knicks could only muster 10 total pts for the quarter as the Knicks lost their second in a row. The team from New York ends 2011 in Sacramento as they hope to close out their West Coast swing with a victory against the (1-2) Kings. Patience is a virtue but in a town that is quick to judge its sports teams, it will be hard for Knicks fans to accept losing as a part of the growth process. Hang in there guys and gals, we have not yet begun to fight..
NU Sef Jones
Follow me @knicks247