The New York Knicks finished their first week of the NBA season at 1-1. The Knicks could have easily been 2-0 if not for a Derrick Rose floater with 5.7 seconds left that beat the Knicks in Chicago. The Knicks had some good moments in the first two games, but they also had some bad moments. Here is the good and bad:
The Knicks allowed 81 points per game, giving up 80 to the Bucks in a win on Wednesday and 82 to the Bulls in Thursday’s loss. However, the defense was not consistent throughout each game. After getting out to a 25 point lead against the Bucks, the Knicks allowed the Bucks to take the lead late in the 4th. The Knicks buckled down on defense and ended the game on a 10-2 run to secure the victory.
The Knicks had similar inconsistencies in their second game against the Chicago Bulls. After giving up over 20 points in the first and third quarter, the Knicks only gave up 11 points in the fourth quarter. They held the Bulls to 2-15 shooting in the 4th. Tyson Chandler put the Knicks up 1 by splitting two free throws, but Derrick Rose broke the Knicks’ hearts with the game-winning floater. Despite scoring the game winner, Rose was held to 7-23 shooting by the Knicks.
The Knicks did not get the win in Chicago they were hoping for, but you have to be encouraged by their defense in the first two games. If the Knicks can continue to keep teams in the 80s, you have to believe their offense will improve enough to win a lot of games.
Chandler was key for the Knicks in the first two contests. Chandler scored 10 points, with 6 rebounds and 5 blocks against the Bucks. Chandler then followed that up with a 7 point, 19 rebound, and 4 block performance against the Bulls.
Without question, Chandler vastly improves the Knicks’ defense. Some of their worst periods on the defensive end came when Chandler was on the bench. Chandler had a key putback to close out the game against the Bucks, and he would have had the game winning free throw against the Bulls without Derrick Rose’s heroics. Chandler also knocked down a few jumpers. Chandler had been working on his shooting in the offseason, so it was good to see him put it to use.
Bargnani finding the touch?
Andrea Bargnani struggled in the first game, going 3-9 from the field. He still looked uncomfortable in the new offense. Bargnani improved in the second game against Chicago. He went 4-7 from the field, including 1-2 from three, scoring 9 points.
Bargnani started the second game for the Knicks after coming off the bench against the Bucks. Mike Woodson started a small lineup with Pablo Prigioni and Raymond Felton in the backcourt in the first game, but turned to Bargnani in the second to match the Bulls’ size.
Woodson is still experimenting with the lineups, but hopes to have a consistent lineup in the future. Bargnani’s shooting has to continue to improve for Woodson to use the bigger lineup. Hopefully Bargnani can carry over the momentum from Thursday’s game.
Where are the threes?
The Knicks had a league record 891 three pointers last season, but so far they have only converted 12 through two games. Surprisingly, they only took 13 against the Bucks, making 3. They took 24 against the Bulls, and converted 9.
Last year’s success was largely predicated on shooting — and making — a lot of threes. The Knicks have to be consistent from downtown, because if last year is any indication they will not stop shooting them.
Carmelo Anthony was 15-40 from the field in the Knicks’ first two games. He was a respectable 7-16 against Milwaukee, but he struggled in Chicago, shooting 8-24. Anthony– known for his clutch shooting — ended the game against the Bulls with 5 straight misses and a turnover.
Every shooter has a bad night, but the Knicks have to be careful of falling into the trap of running too many isolation plays. Down the stretch against the Bulls and at times in the first game, the Knicks gave the ball to Anthony and watched.
The Knicks are at their best when the ball is moving. The Knicks should use Anthony in isolation — he is one of the best scorers in the NBA — but when they use it too much it is bad for the team. The Knicks need to work on mixing up the isolation plays, especially when Anthony is having an off game like he did Thursday. Anthony did, however, get his teammates involved with 6 assists against Chicago. He also had 6 steals.
The Knicks must find a consistent rotation
It has only been two games, but the Knicks have to find a consistent rotation. Mike Woodson started Raymond Felton, Pablo Prigioni, Iman Shumpert, Carmelo Anthony, and Tyson Chandler in the first game. He then opted to insert Andrea Bargnani in the starting lineup and send Prigioni to the bench in the second game. Woodson said he is still experimenting by matching up based on the opposing team’s personnel.
Eventually the Knicks will have to decide on a set starting five no matter who they are playing. The Knicks have 80 games left to figure it out, but the Knicks must avoid waffling. The Knicks suffered through lineup changes all last season. Partially due to injury, the Knicks still did not have a consistent rotation when they met the Pacers in the playoffs. That’s why it is important to figure it out sooner rather than later. The coaching staff has to decide which lineup gives the Knicks the best chance to win, and make the opposing team adjust to them. In my opinion, the small lineup with Anthony at the power forward is their best option.
It will be easier for Mike Woodson to set his rotation when J.R. Smith comes back from his five game suspension. Tim Hardaway’s minutes will likely decrease. Woodson also has to deal with limiting A’mare Stoudemire’s and Kenyon Martin’s minutes. Neither is expected to play both games of back to backs, meaning if one plays in one game the other will play in the following game.
A’mare Stoudemire made his season debut on Thursday scoring 5 points in 11 minutes. Stoudemire also had 1 rebound and 3 turnovers. Stoudemire looked rusty, which was to be expected. Stoudemire was slow on defense. Carlos Boozer took advantage of Stoudemire, scoring on multiple possessions. Stoudemire is on a minutes limit, but he can be an x-factor for the Knicks if he stays healthy. Stoudemire is clearly less explosive, but he is one of the few Knicks who provides post scoring. If Stoudemire can regain his rhythm he will eventually help the Knicks.
The Knicks play their second home game against the Minnesota Timberwolves (2-0) on Sunday night. The game is at 7:30 (ET). It will be a good challenge for the Knicks. The Timberwolves blew out the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday, holding Kevin Durant to 13 points.