I'm totally on board with the excuses being offered for the Knicks' early struggles. They're new, they haven't had time to mesh, they've been injured, and their likely starting point guard is sidelined. At this point, these facts all serve to excuse, to some extent, the Knicks' tentativeness and inconsistency.
None of the above explains why the Knicks lost tonight, though. Take the jump.
- We've talked plenty about the switch-everything defense, but...holy shit. How does this keep happening? How, after reviewing film of the last game, is even the opponent's intention to set a screen grounds for a full switch? If this is a team short on chemistry, then why employ a defensive scheme that absolutely depends on cohesion and communication?
- A little verbal diorama to illustrate the above: Tyson Chandler is defending D.J. Augustin at the top of the arc. Toney Douglas is also kind of defending D.J. Augustin at the top of the arc, but he's thinking about switching on to Chandler's man but he's not sure. Amar'e Stoudemire is on the sideline, defending a trash can. Boris Diaw is wide-open on the elbow lining up a three-pointer. Mix and match a few characters, (like, say, make it Byron Mullens shooting a long two instead of Diaw shooting a three) and you have about half of the Knicks' defensive sets against Charlotte. Bigs guarding smalls, smalls guarding bigs, and Amar'e Stoudemire guarding inanimate objects and/or figments of his imagination. Like moose35 said in the thread, the defense was eye-searing. I don't know whether the switching emanates from D'Antoni, Woodson, or the players themselves, but I feel pretty confident that it is an abject mistake.
- Just to drive this home: The Bobcats, who had registered the league's third-least efficient offense through the first week or two, shot 55 percent from the field, hit 7 of 11 threes, assisted 27 of 47 field goals, turned the ball over 13 times, and scored 118 points.
- (To be completely fair, the Bobcats hit some tough contested shots. Gerald Henderson was cookin' soup, even with defenders' hands, like, in his mouth. I'm pretty sure Diaw hit a no-look hook shot. Still.)
- Toney Douglas ran a few nice pick-and-rolls early, (including one gorgeous behind-the-back feed to a dunking Chandler) but was otherwise uninspiring. Iman Shumpert, though he pretty uniformly failed to exploit available passing lanes, was considerably more impressive with the ball, and I'm not really talking about the pull-up jumpers. It was cool to see Iman sink those, but they're likely an unsustainable source of offense. What pleased me was seeing him push the pace and Shump his way to the basket with ease. What pleased me even more was seeing him chase his man through screens, decline the opportunity to switch, and force a few turnovers with his quick feet and long arms. He VASTLY outplayed both Douglas and Landry Fields on both ends of the floor.
- And guys: Come on. Amar'e, that's Boris Diaw putting you in the spin cycle on his way to the rim-- the same Boris Diaw that has probably at least considered purchasing a girdle. Tyson, that's Byron Mullens snaggling tip-slams over your head-- the same Byron Mullens that probably fills his bong with Mountain Dew just to see if it tastes different.
- On that note, the boos for Douglas when he reentered the game were pretty upsetting, but not unwarranted.
- Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony both finished the game with solid-looking offensive lines. Neither was that solid. Stoudemire did well to get after rebounds (twelve, three offensive) and clean up around the rim, but didn't return from injury having regained his jumper, and didn't see much action rolling to the basket off screens. Melo recorded the least useful 22-point fourth quarter ever.
- Lots of lobs for Tyson Chandler early, less lobs for Tyson Chandler later.
- One great thing about Shumpert: Even when he does switch on defense, he's big enough to not completely surrender against a forward or center.
- Oh, and the leg pain we all saw him suffer was apparently just a cramp and not a re-injury to his recently healed knee. Still, Gerald Henderson needs to stay the hell off Shump's legs.
- Clyde on one Stoudemire missed three: "He almost missed the floor."
- Clyde on the Knicks, coming out of halftime: "The Knicks should be down double digits the way they've been playing." Breen: "Well, they're down twelve..."
- I believe I saw a whiff of match-up zone in the final five minutes. I'm still in favor of the "Hey, what if we each just try to guard a person and if they get by us then perhaps that center we just signed for $56 million could lend a hand." defense, but zone might be worth a shot. Anything beats Chandler defending a 5'11" bro on the perimeter and Stoudemire-- who can't even track a single portly Frenchman-- being responsible for switching and helping and stuff.
- I think it was Tommy Dee that first drew my attention to this: the Knicks seem to fare terribly in situations in which momentum hangs in the balance. Specifically, when they've made a few stops or buckets to cut into a lead, they always seem to bungle that third or fourth consecutive play. Right when the crowd is ready to go nuts and the opposition looks like they need a timeout, the Knicks manage to give up some sort of flukey basket or settle for a shitty pull-up jumper or something.
That's pretty much all I've got besides a pounding headache and a desire to get in my bed and curl into the fetal position. Again, I understand that the Knicks are beset by circumstances that are either beyond their control or dependent on the passing of time, and I can tolerate the consequences of those circumstances. I can't tolerate an unsound defensive approach, carelessness, and spotty effort. And by "can't tolerate" I mean one of my eyelids hasn't stopped quivering since the final buzzer and I think I might be peeing out of my ear. I really hope the Knicks find that stuff as intolerable as I do. Everybody should be peeing out of their ears after a game like that one.