This very well could be the most disappointing Knicks game of the season and what dooms the team heading down the stretch towards the end of the season and playoffs. For most the night the Knicks looked like a vastly superior team, going up 17 with 55 seconds left in the 3rd quarter after a Steve Novak 3 pointer. Then the 4th quarter started and it was a totally different story. The Knicks no longer could play offense and could no longer stop the Pacers, led by Danny Granger and his 14 4th quarter points. The loss drops the Knicks only 1 ½ games ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks for 8th place in the Eastern Conference and drops their overall record under Mike Woodson to 9-3.
Carmelo Anthony has responded well since Jeremy Lin and Amar’e Stoudemire went down with what is thought to be season ending injuries. Tonight was no different as he carried the Knicks offense on his back throughout the game to the tune of 39 points to go along with 10 rebounds. Anthony took advantage of the Knicks playing a small lineup, dominating anyone the Pacers threw at him.
The rest of the team at points stood around and watched Anthony play offense, but that did not mean there were no contributions from the rest of his teammates. Landry Fields, Tyson Chandler and J.R. Smith all scored in double figures, scoring 15, 12, and 11 respectively. Steve Novak also continued his torrid shooting pace, going 3-4 from 3 point land totaling 9 points on the night.
As mentioned earlier, the Knicks collapsed in a big way Tuesday night in the 4th quarter, giving up 40 points compared to the 17 they scored. It was almost a fitting end the game with how it started. The Knicks defense couldn’t stop much in the 1st quarter, giving up 31 points and multiple second opportunities. The 2nd opportunities killed the Knicks all night, as they gave up 16 offensive rebounds and looked to be tiring towards the end of the game.
Sandwiched in between these two terrible showings of defense was a showing of the polar opposite. The 2nd and 3rd quarters the Knicks were able to lock down the Pacers. It came out to equaling 91 points per 100 possessions. That is the foundation for a great defense, and something the Knicks should look to build upon. The Knicks are ranked 4th on the season in defensive efficiency.
The Knicks bench was sorely outplayed tonight by the Pacers bench. Louis Amundson was a spark for the Pacers and no one on the Knicks bench could match his intensity. The Knicks at times also struggled in containing former 6th man of the year award winner Leandro Barbosa, failing to keep him in front of them on defense.
The bench as a whole did not provide the punch they have been recently and is still lacking a capable ball handler off the bench with Baron Davis being forced into the starting lineup.
Mike Bibby and Toney Douglas both played tonight and have to be more productive for the Knicks in the minutes given to them; the Knicks season is depending on it. Davis can not handle a full work load and the Knicks will need Bibby or Douglas to step up in order to make the playoffs and make some noise.
Another negative was the antics of J.R. Smith to finish the game. With seconds left Smith was ejected because he tossed Barbosa to the court after a Carmelo Anthony put back. It put a black eye on what was otherwise a very impressive and gritty performance for Smith, who finished with 11 point, 9 rebounds, and 4 assists, very possibly being his best all around performance as a Knick. Hopefully he does not face any suspensions because the Knicks already are without enough rotation players.
The next game for the Knicks comes Thursday, April 5th in Orlando at 7:00 P.M. ET against the same Magic team the Knicks ran out of the gym last week in the Garden.