Saturday, March 17, 2012

New York Knicks vs. Indiana Pacers Post Game Recap March 17th

Final Score: New York Knicks 102 Indiana Pacers 88 

The Knicks continued on their hot streak under interim Head Coach Mike Woodson, beating the Pacers for the 2nd straight night and winning their 3rd game overall in a row. Tonight’s victory also ended a 6 game road losing streak for the Knicks who are clicking on all cylinders and are on a roll. Tonight’s game was a great example of what will work for this Knicks team, including aggressive half-court trapping and constant frenetic movement, and what will not work. Tonight was a game of halves, as the Knicks and Pacers split which quarters they played well in; the Knicks just outplayed the Knicks in their better quarters. 

-Bench Shows Up Again 

The bench once again played a pivotal role in a Knicks victory. Tonight every reserve finished with a positive +/- ratio. They came up big when needed, providing energy against a Pacers team that was game through the first quarter. Mike Bibby and Iman Shumpert need to be pointed out for their play as the backup Point Guard. The offense was still able to run smoothly with Jeremy Lin resting even without backup Point Guard Baron Davis, who missed the game because of a strained hamstring. 

The play of the bench has come as quite a surprise, as early in the season the Knicks were looked at as a very top heavy team with not much else. With the addition of J.R. Smith and Baron Davis, emergence of Steve Novak and Jared Jeffries, and continued development of rookies Iman Shumpert and Josh Harrellson the Knicks have themselves one of the deepest teams in the NBA. 

With pedestrian scoring nights from top guns Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire, it was clutch for the bench to pick up the slack. The Knicks benched outscored the Pacers bench 34-17. While all the Knicks reserves had a positive +/- the same could not be said for the Pacers, whose bench was exactly the exact opposite, having everyone come out negative. 

-Cohesion on Both Ends of Court 

What has stood out the previous 2 games under Woodson was the intensity on the defensive end, which led to easy baskets on offense and blowout wins. Tonight the Knicks started the game lacking that intensity, allowing the Pacers to score 35 first quarter points and a 2 point deficit. It did not take long for the Knicks to bounce back and get going. 

The Knicks were able to buckle down on defense, allowing only 53 points for the remainder of the game, holding the Pacers to a very pedestrian 4-19 from 3 point land. The Knicks did not dominate the paint as much as Friday night, but still out-rebounded the Pacers 46-42 and scored 2 more points in the paint. 

-Linsanity Lives On 

Jeremy Lin turned in one of his better games of late, finishing with a very efficient 19 points 7 assists and 7 rebounds. Another important stat to point out is that Lin only had 2 turnovers the whole game, one in which he needed to step up in because of the injury to Baron Davis. 

Lin got under the Pacers skin right from the start, drawing multiple fouls and even causing the players to lose their cool enough to draw technical fouls. Lin played a huge role in the Knicks coming out with a victory against a very game Pacers team. 

Tonight’s game had playoff intensity, and it was very encouraging to see Lin play so well. The last time the Knicks played a game of this magnitude, Lin wilted against a very tough Miami Heat team, having one of his worst performances since being inserted into the lineup. Tonight was a true test for not only Lin but the team as a whole, and they passed with flying colors. The Knicks are clicking and are looking like the dangerous team we had envisioned when the season started. 

The next game for the Knicks will be Tuesday, March 20 in New York at Madison Square Garden against division rival Toronto Raptors at 7:30 P.M. ET.s 

Friday, March 16, 2012

New York Knicks vs. Indiana Pacers Pre-Game News and Notes March 17th

Saturday March 17th 7:00 P.M. ET 
New York Knicks vs. Indiana Pacers 

The Knicks enter tonight’s 2nd game of a home-and-home series feeling much better about themselves than a week ago. Winning their last 2 games since the resignation of Mike D’Antoni, interim head coach Mike Woodson has led them to two blowout wins. They seem to have finally come together, competing and even dominating on both ends of the court. The Knicks seem to finally be buying into a system and are showing the urgency they were lacking under Mike D’Antoni. It is tough to beat the same team on back-to-back nights, but the Knicks look more than capable of pulling it off right now 

-Don’t Change a Thing 

The game plan the Knicks ran last night worked to perfection. They took the main contributors Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert and David West out of the game early, never allowing them to get into rhythm. They were showing great effort on both ends of the court, and if they play like that again it should result in a victory. Bulletin board material from Danny Granger saying the games against the Knicks were winnable seemed to fire up the Knicks locker room. 

Showcasing superstars Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire is something the Knicks need to continue doing. Anthony has come out strong to start the last two games, setting the tempo and pace of game in the Knicks favor. When the Knicks are clicking on offense, it makes them play better on the defensive end of the court. While Anthony and Stoudemire set the tone on the offensive end, Tyson Chandler sets the tone on defense. He took Hibbert and the rest of the Pacers out of their games last night, and doing the same tonight should lead to another Knicks victory. 

-Don’t Let the Crowd Get into It 

The Knicks and Pacers are bringing back their rivalry from the 90’s since both teams are starting to become relevant again. This is the makings for a rowdy crowd in Indiana, something the younger Knick players are going to have to get used to. Once it gets closer to playoff time, crowds are more into the games than ever. 

If the Knicks play their game, the crowd noise should have no effect. Taking the crowd out of the game will be key tonight. For this to happen, the Knicks need to come out with the same effort and energy as last night. If they open up an early lead, people will undoubtedly start heading for the exits early to watch their Indiana Hoosiers play in the NCAA tournament instead of the Pacers lose to the Knicks. 

-Injury Concerns 

The Knicks were finally starting to have their rotation come together with everyone getting healthy, but the injury bug has hit again. Baron Davis suffered a strained hamstring in the game Friday night and did not travel with the team. Davis says the injury should only keep him out for a few days, which is a positive because the Knicks need him desperately. 

This puts the pressure back on Jeremy Lin, who will again log big minutes with Davis out. Expect to see Mike Bibby backing up Lin with Davis being injured and Toney Douglas being away from the team. Iman Shumpert could also see some minutes at Point Guard in a pinch. 

Indiana Pacers vs. New York Knicks Post Game Recap March 16th

Final Score: Indiana Pacers 100 New York Knicks 115 

As Walt “Clyde” Frazier says, “How sweet it is!” The Knicks won their second straight game under new Head Coach Mike Woodson, picking apart the Indiana Pacers to the tone of a 15 point victory. The Knicks had a wire-to-wire victory tonight, never once trailing in the game. There were no crazy stat lines, just a solid whole team effort for a team that finally looks to be coming together. The Knicks started the cooling off process of a Pacers team that had won their last 2 games, and 8 of their last 12 games. The Knicks will try to really cool off the Pacers in the 2nd night of their home and home series ends Saturday night in Indy. 

-Energy and Defense from the Start 

The Knicks came out from the start of this one with energy and a sense of urgency, especially on the defensive end. The Knicks held the Pacers to only 14 points and shot 22.7% in the first quarter, allowing the Knicks to set the tempo and pace of the game to their liking. The Pacers were held to only 39.5% shooting for the game. They were able to hold former All-Stars Danny Granger and David West in check, holding them to 4-15 shooting for 9 points and 3-6 shooting for 8 points respectively. 

Carmelo Anthony again came out firing from the start, scoring 6 points in the first quarter. Anthony also made a number of plays, have impressive passes and creating opportunities for his teammates. Anthony finished with 12 points 7 rebounds and 5 assists in only 23 minutes, taking a long rest in the 2nd half to make sure he is ready for the 2nd game of the back to back. 

It was a collective effort by the Knicks, never allowing the Pacers to gain their footing until it was too late and there was no chance of a comeback. The Knicks dominated the paint, grabbing 44 rebounds compared to 39 for the Pacers and outscoring the Pacers 52-34 in the paint. The Knicks were able to hold 2012 All-Star Center Roy Hibbert to only 3 rebounds total in the game. Tyson Chandler has been upset with not being chosen as an All-Star this season, and seemed to get up to go against Hibbert, going for 16 points 7 rebounds and 4 blocks in only 27 minutes of action. 

-Bench Unit 

For a second game in a row they game out firing, taking off right from where the starters would leave them off at. They were again hot from downtown, led by Steve Novak and J.R. Smith who made 4 and 2 three pointers respectively. The constant attacking of the paint led to plenty of open shot attempts for the Knicks, leading to a collective 44% shooting from 3point land. 

The most impressive stat from the bench came in the 3rd quarter. Knicks reserves went 8/10 from the field scoring 24 points in the 3rd quarter. That effort from the bench unit helped bury the Pacers for good. 

The Knicks were able again to empty their bench, enabling their starters and rotation players to get much needed rest going into a rematch with the Pacers tomorrow night in Indiana. It is fun seeing the reserves come in because of how hard they always play and how entertaining they are. The cheer the crowd gives them upon entering the name is deafening at times, and creates a great atmosphere in the Garden. 

-Injury Concerns 

After jus getting Tyson Chandler and Jared Jeffries back from injuries, the Knicks have suffered another one to a key player. Reserve Point Guard Baron Davis suffered a setback and tweaked his right hamstring in the first half, not returning after that. The Knicks can not afford an extended time of absence to Davis again, as it puts a lot of pressure upon Jeremy Lin and leaves the Knicks with a gaping hole in their backcourt. Davis was finally starting to round into shape and give the Knicks quality minutes. But it is important to get Davis healthy now so they have him for the stretch run, when his veteran presence and playoff experience will be greatly appreciated. Davis is quoted as saying the injury is a minor setback, and he should be fine in a couple of days. He will not accompany the Knicks on the trip to Indiana. 

Indiana Pacers vs. New York Knicks Pre-Game News and Notes March 16th

Friday March 16th 7:30 P.M. ET 
Indiana Pacers vs. New York Knicks 

It is amazing what a win can do for the morale of a team and fan base. After dismantling the struggling Portland Trail Blazers (which led to the firing of their head coach Nate McMillan) the whole vibe surrounding the Knicks is different. After firing head coach Mike D’Antoni, the Knicks played one of their most inspired games of the season leading to a 42 point victory, the largest margin of victory for a coach making his debut. Playing a struggling Blazer team is exactly what the doctor ordered for the Knicks, but the schedule gets tougher right away, starting with the home and home against the Indiana Pacers. 

-Ride the Momentum Wave 
The Knicks should be on quite a high after the impressive showing Wednesday night against the Blazers. The confidence developed in that game by virtually the whole team needs to be carried into tonight’s contest against the Pacers and throughout the rest of the season to give the Knicks a chance to finish the this season out as first envisioned when the season started. 

Getting off to a hot start would also be nice to see as a Knicks fan. The problem throughout the losing streak was the Knicks falling behind big from the start and not being able to climb all the way back. It is only one game, but it was nice to see Woodson not being afraid to sub people, using 10 players in the first quarter alone. 

Holding players accountable for what happens on the court will cause them to play harder because they know playing time is on the line. If they are not performing, they will find themselves sitting next to coach Woodson on the bench. 

-Change in Philosophy 

Mike Woodson promised changes as the head coach, and so far he has come through on his promise. The players looked to be enjoying themselves more, smiling and cheering for each other from the bench and on the court. Woodson and former coach Mike D’Antoni run much different systems so the players need to adapt to the changes and so far seem to be buying in. 

Mike Woodson has made it a point to get Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire more involved in the offense, rightfully so. Anthony and Stoudemire are more than capable of carrying this team on the offensive side of the court. Both are supremely talented and have the ability to score 30 points on any given night. Under Coach Woodson, they should have more chances to do so. 

Mike D’Antoni’s system called for more pick-and-rolls and spacing, but he was never able to have players fully buy in and commit to his system. The system took many players out of their comfort zone, namely Carmelo Anthony who is more comfortable between the block and elbow, not the 3 point line spotting up where D’Antoni wanted him. 

Amar’e Stoudemire thrives in a pick-and-roll system, but he was not the main screener on most occasions; that role fell upon Center Tyson Chandler. This resulted in more deep jump shots, one reason Stoudemire, along with Anthony, is having career low shooting numbers. 

Woodson intends to change that, and expects big things from Anthony and Stoudemire to finish out the season. When in Atlanta, Woodson was known for running a lot of isolation sets, which would put Carmelo Anthony back in his comfort zone. The isolation sets, when used correctly like Wednesday against the Blazers, also are more beneficial for Stoudemire, who thrived knocking down his first 7 shots of the game. 

Another change under Woodson is the substitution pattern, which was one problem many people, including myself, had a problem with about D’Antoni. Woodson is not afraid to use his bench, evident from him using 10 players in the first quarter against the Blazers. It was also nice to see him mix and matching players, so the whole team can develop a rapport with each other, not just the starters with the starters and the 2nd unit with the 2nd unit. 

-Bench Play and Lineup Changes 

For the Knicks to beat the Pacers they need to play a complete game. That means on both offense and defense, and both units. The bench has been a strength of the Knicks recently, and if they look to continue their winning ways they will need to come through in a big way against the Pacers. 

You cannot expect the show like Wednesday against the Blazers in which they shot 19-38 from 3 point land, but bringing energy and consistency is a must. Some players have been struggling because they were not sure of their roles on the team, but Woodson seems to have figured some things out to keep everyone happy. 

There have also been rumblings that “Linsanity” may be coming to an end. For now, Woodson is sticking with Lin as his starting PG, but he has to realize the changes he needs to make in his game. 

Under D’Antoni, Lin was shoot first, attacking PG. In Woodson’s system, he has to be more a facilitator, something Baron Davis has played into perfectly. The PG for Woodson needs to get the ball into the scorer’s (Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire) hands and knock down open shots. Lin has struggled mightily with both recently, and for the Knicks to succeed their PG needs to play well. Look for Jeremy Lin’s minutes and stats to start decreasing more and more throughout the remainder of the season. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Portland Trail Blazers vs. New York Knicks Post Game Recap March 14th

Final Score: Portland Trail Blazers 79 New York Knicks 121 

Miracles do happen! The Knicks were able to end their losing streak at 6 games, defeating the hapless Portland Trail Blazers in blowout fashion. The Knicks led virtually the whole game, trailing only after Marcus Camby hit the opening basket of the game. Tonight was Mike Woodson’s first game as head coach, and the Knicks showed up for him. They brought effort and energy they had been lacking throughout the last few weeks and especially during the losing streak under Mike D’Antoni. 

The Trail Blazers looked like a team that was lost and did not want to be there tonight, but as a Knicks fan you are not only happy they broke the losing streak, but the fashion in which it was done. 

Mike Woodson said before the game that things were going to change, and at least for one game it looks as if he was right. For the first time in what seems like forever, the Knicks seemed to be having fun playing basketball; players smiling on the bench and celebrating all made baskets. 

-Bomb Squad 

The Knicks bench was firing on all cylinders tonight, led by 
J.R. Smith who finished with 25 points on 7-14 from 3 point land and sharpshooter Steve Novak who finished with 20 points on 6-10 from deep. Shumpert chipped in 16 points and his always stellar defense. Baron Davis did not score much, but led the teams with 10 assists, making the Knicks look like a well-oiled machine and having the offense run more cohesively than they have in weeks. 

It was nice to see Steven Novak continue his hot shooting, but even more encouraging to see J.R. Smith find his stroke. Since joining the Knicks, Smith has been struggling with his outside shot and game overall. He seems to have broken out of the shooting slump tonight, which was quite a thing to watch. Smith is the definition of a streak shooter, and when he’s hot, he’s hot and it is a thrill to watch. 
The bench played well together on the court, never relinquishing the lead the starters built and even extending it. The Blazers are not a good team right now, but it is nice to see, no matter the opponent, the team click on all cylinders and everyone enjoying themselves. 

-Effort and Energy From the Start 

The starters did not play much in the game, but when they did they were dominant. Carmelo Anthony came out firing, scoring 10 of his 16 points in the first quarter, knocking down 2 three pointers in the process. Anthony also added 7 assists, and looked like he was determined to show people firing D’Antoni instead of trading him was the right move. He also made an asserted effort on the defensive end, something he had been vilified for by fans and media personnel alike. 

Amar’e Stoudemire was also virtually unstoppable, scoring 17 points on 8-10 shooting, going 7-7 in the first half to help bury the Blazers. He also showed up more on the boards, grabbing 8 in the limited minutes he played. The starters were able to set the tone in the game tonight, and never looked back. 

The Knicks looked to be more into the game tonight, and made a more concentrated effort on both ends of the court. Given it was against a weak and demoralized Blazers team, but a win is a win and it was encouraging to see the Knicks play as well as they did. 

-Defense and Coaching Changes 

As stated before, Mike Woodson said there would be changes made, and he did not disappoint. One change that stood out was the substitution patterns. Under D’Antoni, the starters would play for most, if not all of the 1st quarter and sit for almost half the 2nd quarter. In my opinion this was poor decision making because it caused the starters to become cold sitting on the bench, and put too much pressure on the reserves. 

Under Woodson, the subs were more consistent. He shuttled in players one or 2 at a time, almost interweaving his reserves and starters for a more cohesive team. Players looked more rested and less cold coming into games, judging from the outstanding performance they put on. 
Another difference was Woodson seemed to be able to reach his players tonight. Granted, it was only one game, but it 1 game is still an improvement. The last few weeks under D’Antoni were tough to watch because players were bickering and not showing the effort NBA players need to have. 

Tonight, for at least one night, Woodson had the attention of his players and drew up a masterful game plan which was executed to perfection by the players, leading to what was the biggest win for a coach making his debut for a team. 

New York Knicks vs. Portland Trail Blazers Pre-Game News and Notes March 14th

Wednesday March 14 7:30 P.M. ET 
Portland Trail Blazers vs. New York Knicks 

The Knicks look to end a 6 game losing streak against a team which is having its own struggles in the Portland Trail Blazers, losers of 6 out of their last 8 games. The Knicks have to focus on stopping Blazer Power Forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who leads them in scoring at 21.7 points per game. One positive in stopping Aldridge is the return of Jared Jeffries to action tonight (never thought I would be glad he is coming back). The Knicks will need to bring energy for the full 48 minutes as well, as the Blazers are not a team to back down. Cleaning up the glass should also be a priority, after the lack of presence on the boards is what led to the Knicks demise against the Bulls on Monday night. 

-Changing of the Guard 
The Knicks management and Coach Mike D’Antoni agreed to part ways earlier in the day, with assistant coach Mike Woodson given the reigns to the team for the remainder of the season. This is a move well overdue, as D’Antoni was a lame duck coach (in his last year of contract with no extension) and had lost the attention of a number of players. Players were questioning playing time, and at times did not know the schemes on offense or defense, leading to confusion and lack of cohesion on the court. 

D’Antoni was stubborn and stuck in his ways of coaching, which led to the budding of heads between him and many players, namely Carmelo Anthony. The two of them have been unable to get on the same page, leading to lackluster play for the Knicks as a whole. The schemes D’Antoni was putting in place were calling for players to do things they were not used to and not playing into their strengths. Sure they are NBA players and should be able to adapt, but it is hard to tell someone like Carmelo Anthony who was a perennial All-Star and leading scorer in the NBA to change his style. D’Antoni’s current offense was calling for Melo to play more at the 3 point line, instead of between the elbow and block where he is used to operating. This caused problems because Melo would gravitate towards where he was used to playing and would stall the offense. This also explains why Melo, along with Amar’e Stoudemire are having career low shooting numbers. They are being taken out of their comfort zones and being asked to do something they are just not comfortable doing. 

It is like taking a square peg and trying to fit it into a circle hole, it just cannot happen. This was a move that was a necessity if the Knicks hope to make anything of this season. Fans have waited over 10 years for a player the caliber of Carmelo Anthony, so moving him right now was not an option, so firing the head coach who he budded heads with was the next best decision. 

-Are Rumors a Distraction? 
Rumors are a part of the NBA and are always around. It is just something that players and coaches have to get used to and just it rub off. Before the news broke that head coach Mike D’Antoni was leaving, there were rampant rumors surrounding Carmelo Anthony. 

There were rumors that he wanted out of NY and was looking for a trade. He not only disagreed with D’Antoni’s coaching style, but was also supposedly not a fan of the upper management either. Rumors started swirling that the Knicks and Magic were engaging in talks surrounding around Anthony and Magic superstar Center Dwight Howard. The rumored trade was if the Knicks could secure a promise from Dwight Howard that he would sign an extension with them, they would package Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler for Dwight Howard and Hedo Turkoglu from the Magic. 

These rumors have died down since D’Antoni was dismissed, and there is now news that Dwight Howard has opted-in for playing with the Magic next season. I will believe all of this only after the trade deadline passes at 3 P.M. on Thursday afternoon, until then I am just going to sit back and relax and enjoy the show. For the record, Carmelo Anthony denies ever requesting a move, and says he is dedicated to the Knicks and this is where he wants to be. Again, ill believe it once I see it. 

-Return of Jamal Crawford 
Tonight Jamal Crawford returns to Madison Square Garden to play against his old team. The Knicks were players for Crawford this off-season, but were unable to come to an agreement and he decided to instead sign with Portland. 
Crawford was my favorite player during his time with the Knicks, and I always enjoy watching him play on the nights he returns. He was willing to take the big shots and was fazed by nothing. He did not back down from any challenge, and embraced the bright lights of New York. It was a shame to see him get moved 3 seasons ago, which is something he is used to and may have to prepare for again. 

There are rumors going around that Jamal Crawford will be part of a 3 team deal involving the Lakers, Timberwolves and Blazers. The proposed deal has Crawford ending up with the Timberwolves, with Michael Beasley going out west to the Lakers and Steve Blake returning to his old team the Blazers. I for one hope this deal does not happen until after the game so I have a chance to see Crawford in action against the Knicks tonight. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

New York Giants Start to Free Agency

There was a ton of euphoria surrounding the Giants following their rousing Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots for the 2nd time in 4 years. Eventually you have to move on and start focusing on next season. That time is now for the New York Giants. 

Tuesday, March 13, the free agency period will open up in the NFL and players will begin flooding the waiver wire and open market. But for certain teams, like the Giants, tough decisions and hard work are already being put in before free agency begins. 

The Giants have over 20 free agents, and it will be impossible to retain all of them, so they will have to pick and choose smartly which players are worthy of keeping, and which they will need to let go and eventually replace. The Giants have already re-signed Wide Receiver Domenick Hixon, who is coming off his second ACL tear in back-to-back years, Cornerback Bruce Johnson, who is coming off an ACL tear suffered in the pre-season, and Tight End Jake Ballard, who suffered an ACL tear during the Super Bowl. 

One player who may not be lucky enough to return is Wide Receiver Mario Manningham. After having a so-so season, dealing with multiple injuries, Manningham may have priced himself out of the Giants price range because of his performance in the Super Bowl and throughout the playoffs. There have been conflicting reports as to the percent chances that Manningham is leaving, but general consensus is that Manningham will leave because he believes he is worth top receiver money, and the Giants will need to find a way to pay Wide Receivers Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz in the next two off-seasons. 

To free up some cap space, the Giants and Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning agreed to a restructuring of his contract. They were $9 million over the cap at one point, according to ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter. But Reese the restructuring of Eli Manning's contract has given them some relief; approximately $6.75 million in cap space according to reports. Manning's base salary is now $1.75 million, down from $10.75 million, according to the NFL Players Association. The franchise quarterback will still get all of that money with $9 million of that $10.75 million being paid up front and guaranteed according to the Newark Star-Ledger. Manning's 2012 cap number counts for $9.6 million now, down from $16.35 million according to the New York Daily News. 

Restructuring Eli’s contract alone will not get the Giants the cap relief they need, so other tough decisions needed to be done. Some high profile moves the Giants made were releasing long-time Giants Brandon Jacobs and Kareem McKenzie. The Giants and Jacobs could not agree to a restructured contract, ending his seven year tenure with the team. The Giants were going to be on the hook for a 4.9 million dollar base salary and $500,000 roster bonus, so releasing Jacobs saved the Giants $5million in cap. Just like in years past, the Giants are taking the approach to add younger talent to the offensive line, telling Kareem McKenzie that he can go shopping to find a new team. McKenzie joined the Giants after 4 years with the New York Jets, and was a very important piece to both Super Bowl victories. Giant fans will miss McKenzie, who was both a warrior and mentor on the field for eight seasons. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Chicago Bulls vs. New York Knicks Post Game Recap

Final Score: New York Knicks 99 Chicago Bulls 104 

Another game, another loss. The Knicks losing streak has now reached 6, dropping them into a tie for 8th place with the Milwaukee Bucks. If the playoffs started tomorrow, the Knicks would be heading for the lottery. It would be flat out embarrassing if this team were to not make the playoffs. The fact they need to fight for their playoff lives and are 6 games under .500 are bad enough. There are a number of people saying this is a good moral victory because they at least competed tonight against the Bulls. But at this point, there is no such thing as moral victories. The Knicks in a downward spiral with very little signs of turning it around. They may be in 8th place but it is safe to say their season and peoples job's are on life support right now. 

-Amar'e Rounding Into Shape 
After adding 15 pounds of muscle this off-season, Amar'e Stoudemire finally seems to be rounding into shape as he losses some of that weight. Stoudemire put up another efficient game tonight, going for 20 points on 7-12 shooting from the field. He did most of his damage in the 3rd quarter, in which he scored 12 points and had the hot hand, but he took only 2 shots in the 4th quarter. For being such an offensive genius, Coach Mike D'Antoni has no clue when it comes to making this team run. Amar'e had the hot hand, so he gets put on the bench and upon returning is not part of the offense. 

-Bring Back the 90's Knicks 
This Knicks team should be embarrassed with how soft they played tonight. This game was there for the taking, and they were unable to grab it. The Knicks held the Bulls to 43% shooting, making it tough on the Bulls to score. Derrick Rose scored 32 points, but it took him 29 shots and a few favorable calls from the refs to get there. Even if you add up all those positives they do not come close to making up for the lack of toughness and fortitude the Knicks showed tonight. They allowed the Bulls to grab 22 offensive rebounds, giving them numerous opportunities on what should have been empty possessions. To put this into perspective, Bulls forward Taj Gibson had 8 offensive rebounds alone, which is as many as the Knicks leading rebounding, Tyson Chandler, had in total. Amar'e Stoudemire only grabbed 3 rebounds for the Knicks, who still struggle to put it together and successfully play all facets of the game. This is where the game was won, as the Bulls had 24 second chance points compared to the Knicks 6. 

-Time For a Change 
The current makeup of this Knicks team seems to be going nowhere fast. They seem lost during certain points of the game and are lacking leadership. Players and staff are saying all the right things to the media, but it is hard to believe that is how they are really feeling. Coach Mike D'Antoni should be fired if there is any hope for the Knicks this season. The players seem to have thrown in the towel on him, no matter how unjust that may be. Neither the players or coach are willing to change their ways and are budding heads. There is no way Owner James Dolan is going to give up on his pairing of Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony and admit to making the wrong decision, which leaves D'Antoni on the chopping block. D'Antoni has no clue how to make this team play together, even getting gifted almost 2 weeks of practice time around the All-Star break. With that practice time, the product the Knicks are putting out on the court is unacceptable. D'Antoni knew he had to change his stubborn ways to succeed, and seemed to finally be giving in some when he allowed Mike Woodson to be hired as a defensive consultant. It is about time Woodson is moved up and named interim head coach, because the Knicks are only bound for ineptitude under D'Antoni and the current “system”, which none of the players are comfortable playing in. 

The next game for the Knicks is Wednesda, March 14, at 7:30 P.M. ET at the Garden against old friend Jamal Crawford and the Portland Trail Blazers.

Chicago Bulls vs. New York Knicks Pre-Game News and Notes March 12th

Monday March 12 8:00 P.M. ET 
New York Knicks @ Chicago Bulls 

The Knicks are currently in a tailspin, watching their season potentially go down the drain. Currently on a 5 game losing streak, the Knicks take their show on the road to face reigning MVP Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls are currently one of the hottest teams in the NBA, losing only 4 times in their past 19 games. This will be the 2nd of 4 meetings between the Knicks and Bulls, with the Knicks losing the first match-up of the season in heart breaking fashion, 105-102. Some keys to the game and things to watch for: 

-Knicks Defense 
The Knicks have been very porous on the defensive end of the court lately, surrendering over 100 points their last 3 contests. Jared Jeffries is expected to be out again, leaving the Knicks without one of their best defenders and lacking depth in the front court. 
The Knicks will somehow have to contain Bulls Point Guard Derrick Rose, who will add to the list of tough Point Guard match-ups for the Knicks recently. Rose is thought of by many as the best Point Guard in the NBA, so the Knicks guards will have their hands full. The Knicks will have a tough time winning if they allow Rose to go off for 32 points and 13 assists like he did in the first meeting. Normally you could count on seeing big minutes from Iman Shumpert, arguably the Knicks best perimeter defender. But recently, his minutes have been cut drastically. Shumpert seems to be the player suffering most from the addition of J.R. Smith and the healing Baron Davis. 
The Knicks should consider playing some type of zone defense against this Bulls team. Playing zone would force the Bulls to not only knock down jump-shots, but also make it harder for Derrick Rose to get into the paint. Stopping Derrick Rose will be the game-plan for the Knicks, and any little wrinkle they can add to slow him down should be considered. 

-Coming Out Strong 
The Knicks have come out with little no energy and urgency throughout this current losing streak. If they are not up for a game against the Bulls, they will get run out of the gym. The Knicks are losing their grip on the 8th seed in the playoffs, and are in danger of missing the playoffs even with what Coach Mike D'Antoni called a title contending team earlier in the season, before Jeremy Lin was thrown into the fire. 
Questionable coaching decisions and players that seem disinterested have this team in shambles. Carmelo Anthony is quoted saying, “"We've just got to figure it out. Now is not the time to drop our heads and start thinking too much. We've got to figure it out, one way or another. Something's got to happen." Time is something the Knicks do not have, so they better figure it out soon or there will be a number of changes on the horizon. 

-Can Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire Co-exist? 
Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire combined for 60 of the 102 Knicks points to go along with 17 rebounds in the first meeting. If they hope to have any chance of winning, they will need to ride the backs of their 2 supposed superstars. The Bulls could be without both starting Center Joakim Noah and starting Small Forward Luol Deng (backup Guard Richard “Rip” Hamilton is also expected to miss the game), meaning the Bulls could potentially be as short-handed, if not more, than the Knicks. If all of those players miss the game, the Knicks have to take advantage and attack what would be a less formidable front court of Carlos Boozer, Omer Asik and Kyle Korver.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

New York Knicks vs. Philadelphia 76ers Post Game Recap

Final Score: Philadelphia 76ers 106 New York Knicks 94 

There are quite a number of teams that are grinning ear to ear after this game. The Milwaukee Bucks and Cleveland Cavaliers both logged victories Sunday, pulling within 1 game of the 8th place Knicks. The Knicks lost their 5th straight game, and have fallen to 5 games under .500 with an 18-23 record. The Knicks scored only 94 points, as they gave up over 100 for the third straight game. This was a great opportunity for the Knicks to not only pick up ground on the division leader but also turn their season around. Instead, they came out flat and unable to match the 76ers intensity, whom ran the Knicks off the court. 

-Perimeter Defense Again a Problem 
Evan Turner continued his hot play, torching the Knicks for 24 points and 15 rebounds. Landry Fields could not stop him from the start, as Turner scored 7 points in the first quarter and never got out of rhythm. Like every other game during this tough stretch for the Knicks, an opposing Point Guard went off on the Knicks. Lou Williams scored 28 points in 28 minutes off the bench, facing very little resistance by the Knicks. There were a number of defensive lapses throughout the game which Coach Mike D’Antoni and players had talked about, but did not fix. “Swiss-cheese defense,” as Walt Frazier put it was all the effort the Knicks put into that end of the floor. The Knicks did play well on pick-and-roll defense, allowing only 5 assists and forcing 5 turnovers by 76ers Point Guards, just the effort was not there consistently. 

-Carmelo Anthony Strong Performance 
Carmelo Anthony stepped up to the pressure, giving the Knicks their only source of scoring for most of the game. Anthony started the game hot, scoring 12 points on 5-7 shooting, and was aggressive getting to the rim, a result of his 11-12 free throw shooting. He was inexplicably benched twice though by Coach Mike D’Antoni, to start the 2nd quarter and the whole 4th quarter. Amar’e Stoudemire was also on the bench throughout the whole 4th quarter; just sitting there with his arms crossed watching the Knicks blow a great opportunity. Having your two highest priced superstars sitting on the bench for the better part of games is no formula for winning. 

-Offensive Continuity 
The Knicks will not win without Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire leading the way on the offensive end. There is a lot of work that needs to be put into this team, and it starts with the coaching staff. They have to light a fire underneath these players who believe they are above playing full games of basketball. A solid rotation has to be set so players know their roles and can start to become comfortable in them. They cannot expect to win many games with Jeremy Lin taking the most shots on the team like this afternoon against the 76ers, when he went 5-18. That is double the amount of shot attempts that Amar’e Stoudemire took and 5 more than Carmelo Anthony. As the point guard you have the ball in your hands the most, but that does not mean they should take the most shots. With the players on the Knicks roster, Lin should look to distribute more and set up the superstars which will make for a more cohesive offensive unit. 

The Knicks have a quick turn-around, playing Monday, March 12th at the Chicago Bulls at 8:00 P.M. ET 

New York Knicks vs. Philadelphia 76ers Pre-Game News and Notes March 11th

Philadelphia 76ers vs New York Knicks 
Sunday March 11th 12:00 P.M. ET 

The Knicks look to end their 4 game losing streak in a Sunday matinee against division leading and rival Philadelphia 76ers. Tyson Chandler is probable, while Jared Jeffries will again be out of action. This will be the second of three meetings between the Knicks and 76ers. The Knicks won the first meeting in a defensive struggle, 85-79, and will play one final time in Philadelphia on March 21st. Philadelphia enters the game on a 2 game winning streak, hoping to increase their division lead over the Knicks. The 76ers have a young athletic team and the Knicks have to match their intensity and energy in an early start if they hope to come out with a win and the end of their losing streak. This game has the potential to be ugly because of the early start so whichever team adapts to the changes will come out on top. 

-Have To Play Defense 
The return of Tyson Chandler will undoubtedly help the Knicks on the defensive end of the court. The Knicks have been beaten up in the paint without the presence of Chandler in the middle, giving up 110 points in the paint during the process. The Knicks were also out-rebounded by a total of 15 rebounds in the 2 games without Chandler. The 76ers will be without starting Center Spencer Hawes again, meaning the Knicks should be able to attack the middle of the 76er defense. The Knicks out-rebounded the 76ers 46-37 in the first meeting and another dominant performance like that should result in a Knicks win along with more urgency being shown on the defensive end of the court. 

-Point Guard Play 
Point Guards have been getting up to play against Jeremy Lin and the Knicks recently. According to ESPN Stats & Information, seven of the last eight starting point guards the Knicks have gone against have scored more than their season averages for points. Here is the list of Point Guards the Knicks have gone up against. 
Brandon Jennings: 25 (18.9) 
Tony Parker: 32 (19.5) 
Jason Kidd: 15 (5.6) 
*Rajon Rondo: 18 (13.6) 
Kyrie Irving: 22 (18.3) 
Mario Chalmers: 8 (10.8) 
Jeff Teague: 18 (12.4) 
Deron Williams: 38 (22.0) 
* - Rondo also had 20 assists and 17 rebounds 

The 76ers have the up-and-coming Jrue Holiday as their starting Point Guard, who is no slouch. Jeremy Lin is not the best defender in the NBA, but the rest of the Knicks have to do their part and help out in stopping the opposing point guards. The Knicks help defense at the rim has to become more consistent, which should be aided by the return of Tyson Chandler. 

-Bench Play 
The Knicks bench had been playing well before injured to Tyson Chandler and Jared Jeffries caused changes to be made to the rotation. Steve Novak has provided consistent 3 point shooting off the bench, but the Knicks have struggled to find contributions from anyone else on a consistent basis. J.R. Smith has been inconsistent and Iman Shumpert seems to have hit a rookie wall of sorts, playing only 5 minutes in the game against Milwaukee. Baron Davis is starting to round into shape, and the Knicks better hope it it happens soon because they will need it against Philadelphia. The 76ers sport one of the best benches in the NBA, led by team leading scorer Lou Williams and Thaddeus Young. Young center Nikola Vucevic, who the Knicks had their eyes on with their pick in this years past draft, is also starting to come on for the 76ers. The Knicks have to mach their intensity if they have any chance of winning.