Add another contestant for "worst loss of the year".
The incompetence defies description. Offensively, there was no direction at any point in the entire game — the Knicks deserved to score 70, not 95, as they were collectively bailed out time and time again by Carmelo Anthony and Courtney Lee.
And defensively? DEFENSIVELY? Lets start by noting that Wesley Matthews did not play, and Deron Williams got injured in the 2nd quarter (Pierre Jackson closed out the game). Didn't matter at all. These guys went full Keystone Kops — they couldn't even switch correctly. Switching is the easiest pick and roll coverage in the game; they couldn't execute it properly. That's not all, of course; shooting yourself in the foot leaves the other foot healthy, and the Knicks won't stand for that. They compounded the issue by switching for, literally, no reason at all. Just idiotic basketball. The switching isn't directly causing these issues, by the way. It's the situations they switch, the communication on the switches, and the timing. Watch the Mavs defensively, and they play straight up until the offense forces a switch -- if the on-ball guard can recover after the screen, the big man will recover to his man as well. If the on-ball defender gets picked off and can’t recover, then they switch, in order to prevent a complete defensive collapse.
The Knicks just switch. They don't care. At points, the Mavs were running the most halfhearted pick and rolls I’ve ever seen just to create the mismatches they want, whenever they want. And the Knicks went with it. Willingly. There's no effort to get over screens, no effort to matched up, there's no off-ball switching when there are opportunities to correct matchups, there's nothing. It's completely absurd.
Current Dirk Nowitzki moves like a cave troll with a mean case of arthritis (sadly). He basically just sets screens, clowns fools on switches, and hits open jumpers. So what do the Knicks do? They ensured a matchup with Brandon Jennings, one on one, with 16 seconds left on the shot clock...at least three times. More, if you include all of the guards. As if that wasn't enough, they compounded the issue by gifting Dirk 36 wide open catch-and-shoot midrangers (as an advance on his retirement gift, I can only assume). The usual inability to contain guys off the dribble provided a comforting familiarity to this apparent evolution of terrible defensive play.
Here's who sucked -- Brandon Jennings. Derrick Rose. Joakim Noah. Brandon Jennings. Kristaps Porzingis. Joakim Noah. Mindaugas Kuzminskas. Kyle O'Quinn. Brandon Jennings. Justin Holiday. Ron Baker. It was a disaster.
Melo was unstoppable, but it was a bittersweet performance, because a competent offense with a competent point guard (LITERALLY ONE COMPETENT POINT GUARD) gets him 35+ easily when he's this hot. Rose, Lee, and Jennings all missed him open for 3 at various points, and the point guards were entirely unable to force help rotations from the Mavericks (who started Dirk at center, by the way, which is just...I mean...they couldn't take advantage of Dirk at center on defense...Christ). Almost every single shot Melo took was difficult and/or heavily contested. It's insane that this team cannot find a poised lead ball handler.
Speaking of Dirk at center, Joakim Noah was played right off the floor from the starting horn; both Noah and Rose looked like they were being remote controlled by a couple of dudes who had no idea how to play intelligent basketball, on some Stephen King-type shit. Rose reached peak Rose at the end of the first half, when he attacked the rim instead of holding the ball for the final shot. He scored on a ridiculous finish, but left the Mavs six full seconds to get a shot of their own. Pretty much sums up his entire season at this point.
Even worse, when Dirk wasn't at center, Andrew Bogut made pretty much every Knick big man his bitch. At will. He didn't put up numbers outside of 3 nice blocks, but dudes were just scared to attack him after he turned a Justin Holiday layup attempt into a snuff film. It was bad.
On top of it all, Kristaps Pozingis is going through the worst stretch of his career, and I have no clue why. He clearly isn’t moving the same way, he doesn’t look engaged on either end, and his decision making on offense has essentially become Russian Roulette. Pretty sad to watch. This is when it’s nice to have a true point guard who can get you some easy catch-and-shoot mid-range looks, a couple of ally-oops, some free throws — Melo is the closest thing we’ve got. Again. Really says a lot about the so-called playmaking at the guard spots.
As for the good? There’s apparently a series of Clyde cartoons, which is not a typo, so that’s pretty awesome. Willy Hernangomez (career-high 16 boards) is a rebounding machine. Courtney Lee had a season-high 23 points. Melo has 30-plus in four straight — remember when he used to get unbelievably hot for a month at a time? We might be getting that, except he’s 32 now, so it’s not quite the same. Gotta feel for the dude with the way he’s played lately.
Even the good stuff becomes depressing if I think about it long enough.
There's a lot more to say, but I'm not going to, because I'm going to repress this one soooooo quick. Remember when they beat the Pacers? How did that happen again? As P&Ter Muruju pointed out, the team is a janky collection of bros who don’t seem to know how to play with one another. They stink.
Three tough games coming up — vs. Charlotte, at Atlanta, at Washington. This could get bad real quickly.