Hey, I think Carmelo Anthony said something correct about the Knicks' second-half collapse against the Hawks Saturday night. Via the Post:
"That third quarter, 27-12, I don't want to say not ready, but not being prepared for the adjustment they were going to make,'' Anthony said. "It was a tale of two halves. We started out the game pretty well. Coming out the third quarter, we didn't start the game well. That one quarter hurt us.''
Asked if he was referring to a need for strategic maneuvers, Anthony said he wasn't really talking about X's and O's.
"We got to do a better job adjusting to their adjustments,'' Anthony said. "Coming out in the third quarter, we knew they were going to apply pressure, get up in the passing lanes, try to make it difficult to run our offense. They sped us up in the third quarter, which led to 27-to-12.''
The Knicks looked good when the Hawks weren't defending them very aggressively.
Kent Bazemore and Thabo Sefolosha defended Melo off the ball with pretty mild fronts, and the Knicks executed the necessary passes to find him. Melo then faced up and beat a solitary defender or, if help came, passed to the weak side and found someone flashing open.
Here is a microcosm of the second half:
Bazemore's all over Melo (might've fouled him at the beginning there, but such is life) and the Knicks can't exploit their slivers of opportunity to enter the ball. Melo retreats to the weak side of the floor, where he finally gets his entry pass. He's too off-balance to turn the corner, and when the double arrives, Sefolosha is ready and waiting to steal Melo's cross-court feed. (Had Arron Afflalo realized he was open a second earlier, Melo might have found him instead.)
More aggressive defense does not *necessarily* equal doom. The New York roster includes few guys who can just blow by or thread passes through pressing defenses, but they have ample options to beat pressure and ball denial if they play decisively.
This is important, because the Knicks now have to play the Celtics -- one of the league's very best, most rapacious defenses (2nd in efficiency, 2nd in forcing turnovers). Aggressive pressure and ball denial probably won't be an opponent adjustment -- it'll be the whole defensive game plan. If the Knicks relax on offense and overlook brief windows of opportunity, they're gonna get embarrassed!