It's frustrating to watch a team with a steep learning curve lose games badly not because of a simple checklist of things they need to improve upon, but because they didn't give the effort. After nearly pulling off an insane comeback versus the Milwaukee Bucks Tuesday night, the Knicks preached better effort, better defense, better focus, etc. to win games. After so much talk about adjusting to a new offense, a new system, a new overall look, the Knicks needed to simply play hard around all of those new things.
They did nunnathat against a Wolves team missing three starters Wednesday night.
It's the kind of game lacking the need for a story to describe the events. The Knicks struggled from the get-go tracking Kevin Martin off the ball, keeping the Wolves off the boards, and stopping penetration. Their offense fared OK (as it has in recent games) despite Iman Shumpert throwing up bricks and several players rushing shots around the rim. They trailed by two after the first quarter, and like the Milwaukee game, fell apart in the second quarter. The Wolves blew it open by forcing turnovers, getting easy baskets, and moving the ball to get open shots. Minnesota had 64 points at halftime, and not because their offense was piping hot; the energy the Knicks needed to stop a hungry, energetic team just wasn't there.
Unlike the Bucks game, the Knicks never made it close in the second half. The Wolves ballooned their lead to 18, 20, 24, and never looked back. Derek Fisher took out the starters and let the bench crew run, which hardly made a difference, save for a quick run to cut the lead to 13.
The Knicks are 3-10, and as 40plusyearsinthedesert noted, the Knicks haven't even worn their orange jerseys yet.
A few notes:
- Everyone was all hyped (myself especially included) to see how Shumpert would follow up his 21-8-8 game against the Bucks, and Shump couldn't have been a bigger letdown. I thought his shot attempts looked good, but he just couldn't knock 'em down, whether they were spot-ups, zig zags around screens to get space in the midrange, or drives. He was 1-9 with 3 turnovers in the first half, 1-11 with four turnovers for the game. A sour reminder that he's still a work in progress.
- Carmelo Anthony got it going pretty early, particularly from long range where he was 4-5 for the night. He finished with an efficient 20 points on 7-10 shooting, most of which came on spot-up threes or face-ups in the midrange. The Wolves pretty much doubled every time Melo caught the ball, and when Shump is missing like he was, well, it only encourages teams to double.
- Amar'e Stoudemire had himself a nice first half. He got great position on Gorgui Dieng several times, bludgeoning his way to the hoop for a few dunks and jump hooks. Other times, STAT found success cutting or rolling to the hoop on drives and pick-and-rolls, and he got a few easy baskets off nice dishes from teammates. One particular play came on a nice Melo drive and little side-drop-off to Amar'e for a jam. Been waiting for more of those for almost five years now.
Amar'e had 19 points on 7-9 shooting, almost all of which came in the first half. Again, not much mattered after the first two quarters.
- Oh, and Melo and Amar'e combined for 35 first-half points and the Knicks were still down 13 at halftime.
- I mentioned the Wolves were attacking the glass on offense. They actually lost the rebounding battle 33-35 to the Knicks, and were only winning it 18-16 in the first half, but nonetheless, they were aggressive in trying to create second opportunities. Shabazz Muhammad really wanted this rebound:
- I think Shane Larkin would improve as a point guard a lot by just being more aggressive in looking for his own shots. We've all said this, but he's so tentative to pull the trigger on spot-ups unless it's wide open, and he rarely uses his speed to get to the basket (although, once he's there, he's not very good at finishing). I think just acting like a scoring threat would help him a bit.
- Welcome to the Knicks Killer Club, Kevin Martin! From Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith, Tim Hardaway Jr., and the rest of the Knicks squad, we'd like to congratulate you on your 37 points on 14-20 shooting!
- Corey Brewer was credited with 6 steals, but he influenced about four other turnovers. I can't even be mad; that guy is just good and crafty at turning guys over.
- I can be mad at Carmelo letting Brewer take him off the dribble from the three-point line and kick it out to set up Wolves for open three-pointers. Or for Knicks guards for losing Brewer in transition off of makes. Again, nothing systematic there -- just shitty effort.
- A sad Kenny Albert-Walt Frazier exchange:
Kenny: 'Knicks using a lineup of Prigioni, Hardaway, Wear, Acy, and Jason Smith right now.'
Clyde: 'Fisher hoping this group can get the Knicks back into the game!'
- I have no idea how Jason Smith scored 14 points in this game. I literally just noticed that as I read the box score. That cements that THIS WAS ALL A JUST BAD DREAM.
What did y'all notice from the bad dream?