Don't be surprised if the ebb and flow of the Knicks' Tuesday night loss felt oddly familiar. In truth, the vast majority of Knicks games have fallen into the same pattern we saw against the Celtics: competitive first half, embarrassing third quarter, slightly less embarrassing fourth quarter.
The Knicks have played this way ever since Carmelo exited the Jan. 12 game -- also against Boston -- with an ankle injury. New York held off a furious Boston comeback that night, but second-half failings have haunted the team long after Melo returned to the starting lineup.
The story of the Knicks' past 12 games, not to mention their 4-8 record over that span, is told rather plainly by breaking down their net rating by quarter:
Yikes. Twelve games isn't exactly an insignificant sample size -- they've been playing this way for nearly a month.
Bad as they are, the third quarter numbers are terribly surprising. This team has consistently humiliated themselves coming out of halftime. If they dominate the first half, they inevitably let the opponent back into the game; if they lead after a competitive first half, the opponent almost always takes the lead by the third quarter; if they are trailing at the half, you might as well catch up on your needlepoint.
The fourth quarter numbers, on the other hand, are just plain weird ... at least offensively. The Knicks are banged up, not particularly athletic or deep, and that is a bad combo for any defense. But how the hell are they dropping into such an offensive slump in the third, only to emerge with a wildly efficient scoring attack in the fourth? If teams are beating Derek Fisher's offense with halftime adjustments, how are the Knicks re-adjusting so well, and why is it taking them so long?
I don't have any answers here. Most of the signs point to a habitual, total lack of focus to start the second half. By the time the players get going on offense, they have nothing left on D. It's a vicious cycle.
This club needs to heal, to rest, but most of all, to refocus. The All-Star break can't get here soon enough.