Problems continue to multiply for the New York Knicks (21-35) as they fall deeper out of playoff contention.
This weekend, the Knicks ended their four-game road trip with losses against the lowly Orlando Magic (17-41) on Friday and the Atlanta Hawks (26-29) on Saturday. The Knicks can’t afford to lose any more games, especially those against teams under .500, if they expect to make the playoffs.
Sometimes, there are exceptions; such as, running into a bad team when they’re on a roll, but neither the Magic or the Hawks were on a winning streak. The Magic were on a three-game losing streak, and they had an eight-game losing streak against the Knicks; while the Hawks were struggling with an eight-game losing streak. Not only did the Knicks lose miserably to both teams, but they also blew late double-digit leads in both games.
Closing out games has been an issue for the Knicks all season, and the majority of the blame has fallen on the shoulders of Carmelo Anthony. Anthony greatly embraces the role of being the closer in late game situations, but he has found it to be very difficult this season. He currently leads the league in minutes per game with 39.1.
When Anthony is off the court, the Knicks offense often becomes stagnant; Coach Woodson has no choice but to keep him in the game. Also, many don’t seem to realize the amount of energy Anthony uses during the game. He’s rebounding the ball at a high level, averaging a career-high 8.5 rebounds per game, and he gives a sound effort on both ends of the floor. He’s often found tired towards the end of games, and the lack of help from his teammates has led to many losses this season.
Anthony’s struggles late in games may be a factor as to why the Knicks can’t close out games, but it’s not the main factor. The main factor is the Knicks softness on defense -- both the perimeter and in-the-paint defense has been extremely poor.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s Raymond Felton, Pablo Prigioni, or Tim Hardaway Jr. guarding the opposing team’s point guard; neither of them can keep a player in front of them. Then once that point guard enters the paint; none of the Knicks big men step up to prevent a basket or alter a shot. The defensive play of the Knicks has hurt them all season.
The Knicks sorely miss Iman Shumpert and Kenyon Martin on defense.
Shumpert was being shopped around by the Knicks throughout the season; but he is, by far, the best perimeter defender on the team. Shumpert has the ability to lock down point guards on defense, and the Knicks perimeter defense suffers when he’s not on the court.
Martin is the only player on the Knicks that can actually intimidate in the paint. Tyson Chandler has had an off-season defensively, and it has led to opposing teams’ PGs to drive into the paint at will. At least with Martin on the court, he will attempt to alter a shot and he is willing to knock down a player or two. The Knicks miss his toughness and the energy he brings into games off the bench.
The Knicks have many problems, and now they find themselves 5.5 games out of the last playoff spot. There are 26 games left to get back on the right track, but at the rate the Knicks are going, the playoffs seem to be a pipe dream at this moment.
The Magic defeated the Knicks in double OT 129-121. Arron Afflalo scored 32 points, and Victor Oladipo had 30 points, a career-high 14 assists, and 9 rebounds. Oladipo had the game-deciding 3-point play late in double OT to lead the Magic to victory. Carmelo Anthony had a double-double 44 points and 11 rebounds. The Knicks blew a 14-point lead in the second half.
Mike Scott’s career-high 30 points helped the Hawks to a 107-98 victory over the Knicks. Jeff Teague finished with 28 points, and DeMarre Carroll finished with 24 points. Carmelo Anthony finished with 35 points, and Raymond Felton had a double-double -- 16 points and 10 assists. The Knicks blew a 17-point lead in the second half.
Key Notes: Iman Shumpert is out for two weeks with a sprained MCL.