Written by William Lee
Carmelo Anthony was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Month for January, leading the New York Knicks to a 10-6 record for the month, averaging 28.7 points 9 rebounds and 3.4 assists.
Sadly, we can only look back fondly on January and on his historic 62 points night at Madison Square Garden, because February has been dreadful so far. Five days into February and the Knicks have already mounted three losses, losing to the Portland Trailblazers 94-90 Wednesday night.
In the opening minutes, there was a play that was indicative of how the 2013-2014 New York Knicks season has been going so far, and what is wrong with the Knicks all season. New York misses a shot in the lane, and while the Knicks are back paddling in transition, Nicolas Batum gets straight to the rim for a dunk because no one picks him up. When the offense isn’t clicking, the defense is just not sufficient, there an extreme lack of communication on the defensive end. The dunk gave Portland an early 10-4 advantage, during the play you can see Tyson Chandler yelling at Raymond Felton to pick up in transition, but Felton had no clue Batum was coming his way, and didn’t even have time to turn his head to react. Felton defense has been especially horrid this year, and was showcased in the Bucks’ loss a couple night’s back, when he was beaten on a backdoor cut at a pivotal closing moments of the game.
There were a lot of good things to take away from the game, especially in the first half where it was a very competitive game against a top team in the league. The Blazers only led by one, after the first half, with the score 47-46. Carmelo Anthony was a big reason why, Anthony missed his first shot, then would proceed to make his next six in the first quarter good for 14 points, including a buzzer beating mid-range pull up jumper, making it 26-23 deficit at the end of the quarter. Tyson Chandler was doing a great job of guarding LaMarcus Aldridge, forcing him to take tough shots, the only shot he made in the first half was a tough fade away bank in jump shot. Aldridge was 1/7 in the first half, and finished the game, making only five field goals. Although Aldridge struggled with Chandler’s length guarding him, and the double teams that New York sent, he did get his teammates involved, collecting five assist in the game.
Other than the first quarter, where the Blazers shot 50%, the Knicks played really good defense. Constantly lowing Portland’s field goal percentage in every quarter, Blazers shot 40% in the second quarter, 37.5% in the third quarter and then 23.5% in the fourth quarter. This is especially encouraging to see because Portland has the league’s most potent offense at 107.7 points per game. The Blazers are also number one in most threes made per game at 9.4 three-point field goals made a game. New York was able to hold Portland below their averages in both categories Wednesday night.
Unfortunately the Knicks reverted back in their ways in the third quarter. Even with the Blazers dreadful shooting, the Knicks did not complete defensive possessions with a defensive rebound. The Blazers outhustled the Knicks, getting seven offensive rebounds in the third quarter. The Knicks also could not defend without fouling, sending Portland to the line constantly. Of course this isn’t new, because New York is the fourth most-foul prone team in the league at 22.3 personal fouls per game. New York doesn’t only foul, but commit dumb fouls, fouling jump shooters. J.R Smith fouled Aldridge trying to contest his shot, and then a minute later would foul on a three-point attempt by Dorell Wright. Portland would make New York pay on their transgressions, converted on all ten free throws.
J.R Smith might have committed some low IQ fouls, but he actually did play well. Smith made aggressive moves to the basket, and then would make the right pass when the defense collapse on him because he beat his initial defender. Smith and Amare Stoudemire made a good pairing in pick-and-roll, and pick-and-pop. Four of Smith’s six assist were to Stoudemire, where he threw down a couple of dunks, and knocked down a couple of open jump shots, created by Smith’s dribble penetration to the rim.
In the fourth quarter the Blazers continued to parade to the free throw line, converting 8/13. With 1:11 left in the game, it looked like Portland would walk out of New York with a sure victory, leading by 89-81, but back to back threes by the Knicks got New York within striking distances in a few seconds. With 50 seconds remaining in the game, Portland called a timeout up only one possession 89-87. Aldridge would hit a clutch fade away jumper that would eventually end up being the game winning jumper, as the Blazers hit their free throws down the stretch to secure the victory. It is of note that Anthony laid an egg in the fourth quarter, not scoring a single point in the final period, in a highly competitive game against such a quality opponent.