Two solid wins over the Cavaliers and Hornets had probably built up our expectations a bit too much. The Wizards are another solid, likely playoff team, and after a sluggish first half, they made adjustments that choked the Knicks' offense and forced them to play ugly, unsystematic basketball. It was a reminder that the Knicks still aren't really comfortable in this new offense, and that they're still not a good defensive team, even if strong effort can win them some games.
The Wizards' offense never exactly kicked into high gear, but after halftime, they made some of the layups and easy shots they blew in the first half. Even when the Knicks tried to make smart rotations, the Wizards read them and made smarter passes to find open guys. Other times, the Wizards just moved the ball enough times to beat a Knicks team that, so far, comes undone after dribble penetration or one or two quick passes.
These Knicks are still young and new and gooey, and when opponents force them to mold into different shapes, the Knicks don't yet adjust very well. That's kinda OK for now, but it'll produce some ugly games like this one. Like Polyphonic Spreewell said in the postgame thread, the Knicks are still at an early enough points where we can kinda bear these losses.
- As Seth pointed out to me, the Knicks' second-half meltdown came, in part, from an adjustment from the Wiz to cut off the weak-side, second option in the offense. When the Knicks would set up the Triangle, the Wizards were denying the second option pass back to the top of the key where the guard can run a two-man game with the big not involved in the Triangle.
- This may damn well be the ugliest game I've seen Carmelo Anthony play in a long time. He finished with 18 points on 8-23 shooting, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and 7(!!) turnovers. Melo canned a couple quick-triggered pull-ups and catch-and-shoots, but it felt like a ton of his misses came out of rhythm, out of the flow of the offense, with a defender draped on him 15-20 feet out. His turnovers ranged from bobbling passes to getting stripped by Wizzies to tossing rainbows to teammates that got picked off. Fisher tried going the long haul with Melo, starting him in the fourth quarter with the Knicks down 12, and even when the Knicks made a few small runs, Anthony never got it going.
- Much of the same goes for Amar'e Stoudemire, who got the start in Quincy Acy's absence. I don't know if Stoudemire got any of his three baskets in the flow of the offense. He had three turnovers himself, a lot of which seemed to come on lackadaisical one-on-one bouts where he'd fumble the ball or get stripped. On defense, he did a passable job guarding Nene straight-up, but was practically non-existent in rotating to cut off drives or quick passes inside.
- Sam Dalembert and Cole Aldrich took turns making good solid hustle plays on defense and securing rebounds for new possessions. Then they each took turns taking arrhythmic, forced jumpers. Ideally, I'd like 'em both to play, especially if it keeps Stoudemire away from the 5.
- Speaking of Shump: nice game, fella! 19 points on 6-11 shooting, 4 rebounds, and one big swat off the background. As has been the case so far this season, Shumpert looked totally horrible handling the ball, losing his dribble like the ball was slippery or throwing careless passes. However, his shot was loosey goosey and he hit some ballsy pull-up jumpers with confidence, which was good to see.
- The J.R. and Jason Brother Smith Alliance is alive and well. They connected on a couple of nice pick-and-pop opportunities, one from the left wing, one from the top of the key that resulted in an and-1 for Jason. Individually: J.R. didn't do much consequence other than make a huge block on a Garrett Temple corner three on a speedy recovery from over-helping on defense. Jason hustled for some rebounds and hit some mid-range Js.
- I think we all missed Jose Calderon in this one. Probably should be mentioned earlier than this after critiquing the Knicks offense so much. It's still a little unfair to judge their offense until Jose is back.
- Otherwise, the Knicks didn't get much from the point guard positions. Shane Larkin, I thought, did a passable job trying to contain John Wall one-on-one, and he forced a few turnovers. On offense, he was pretty quiet, and should unlearn some of that Pablo Prigioni selflessness and look for his shot more. Pablo got taken to school by Andre Miller, who is exactly the type of old, slow, crafty point guard who'd give Pablo fits. Like looking into a fuzzier mirror, eh, Pablo?
- Tim Hardaway Jr. played 11 minutes and shot 2-7. Chris Herring noted that Hardaway looked visibly sad checking out in the second quarter after a rough first half. Sorry, Tim, but that'll probably happen when you chuck away on a pull-up three-pointer after going just 1-4 beforehand.
- Always good to see the timeless, ageless wonder that is Paul Pierce. He's a villain, but you gotta respect him as a competi-- I cant. Can't do it. I tried. Still hate you, Paul Pierce.
- Oh, hey, one cool thing about the Knicks' defense early on: three different times players hauled ass back in transition to prevent the Wizards from getting open layups. Like I said before, this team isn't good at defense, but they've mostly shown effort, and that'll win them games sometimes.
That's all I got. Again, this Knicks team isn't quite complete, and they're still learning to adjust on the fly when opponents figure out how to adjust to them. That, and the Wizards are a pretty good team. Pistons tomorrow. Tell us what y'all saw.