The NBA’s second and fourth best offenses of the 2010 NBA season faced off in the Garden tonight. Surely both teams would crack the century mark and put on a show, right? Wrong. This, my friends, is post lockout basketball at it’s finest, rather its worst. The Suns came in to the Garden losers of their last five and in the midst of a five game road trip. The Knicks have been going through struggles of their own, who were losers of their last three games coming into the night.
It was an ugly, but close, game throughout which featured over twenty lead changes. Neither team led by more than eight points. The Knicks used their strength on the offensive glass (18 offensive rebounds) to try to overcome their poor shooting. The Knicks out rebounded the Suns 54 to 38. However the Knicks shot just 37% as a team, as STAT & Melo were a combined 12-44 from the field. The Knicks at times moved the ball better than they have during this losing streak.
The turning point came with about five minutes left in the fourth quarter. With the Knicks “stars” Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony struggling to hit shots, Phoenix capitalized with a couple of baskets in transition to take a 5 point lead. The teams traded baskets after a Knicks timeout. Phoenix then jumped out to an 8 point lead after a Carmelo missed layup followed by another Anthony missed shot on the baseline. Knicks rookie Iman Shumpert (20 points) suddenly found his shot and tried to will the Knicks back into the game. Shumpert hit a pair of jump shots to cut the Suns lead to 3. The teams would trade baskets until under a minute left when Shumpert would hit a key three pointer to keep New York in the game. Only to be followed up on the next possession by a Shannon Brown corner three that hit the far side of the rim, bounced up, hit the top of the backboard, and fell through the net. As long as it took you to read that description was as long as it felt for every Knick fan watching. Coming out of a timeout, the Knicks inbound to Anthony who takes another shot that his ego wouldn’t let him pass up. The ball would carom off the front of the rim into the hands of Tyson Chandler. Chandler would kick the ball out to the rookie Shumpert, who would then proceed to hit another three with 25.2 seconds left.
After the ensuing Phoenix timeout the Knicks would foul to eventually put Steve Nash at the line. Nash hits the pair putting the Knicks down four with 19 seconds left. After another Knicks timeout, Melo would follow his missed layup attempt with a put-back to get the Knicks within two. After a Suns inbound, Tyson Chandler would foul Steve Nash, who would then ice two free throws as the Garden faithful booed him. On the next Knicks inbound they got the ball to the top of the three point line; Stoudemire passed the ball (and set a screen at the same time) to Melo who hits a clutch three to bring the Knicks within one. And then for his third trip the line, Steve Nash hit two more free throws to give Phoenix a three point lead.
In the end, all the Knicks attempts at heroics would be for naught. In a very anti-climactic ending, the Knicks inbounded the ball the Shumpert from under the Suns basket. He ran up the court with fury and Phoenix attempted to foul Shumpert in the back court but the refs swallowed their whistles. Shumpert got past half court and hoisted up a poor attempt at a shot as the Knicks went on to lose their fourth straight game.
Phoenix would hit 7 of 12 from downtown. The Knicks themselves only shot 4-15 from behind the arc. Steve Nash, expectingly, killed the Knicks, scoring 26 points on 9 of 12 shooting to go along with 11 assists and 5 rebounds.
While this was not a good loss by any means there were some positives. The NYPD’s 14th precinct has called off the search for missing person Landry Fields, who had 17 points, 10 of those in the third quarter. Landry would also add 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals to make it a vintage Fields game.
The Knicks defense continues to be a work in progress but is already vastly improved from years past. The Knicks continue to switch incessantly on defense which is often leading to mismatches in favor of the other team. It’s hard to argue with the overall results as the Knicks are statistically a top ten defense this season. Certainly if the offense was clicking, and the Knicks were winning, then the defense would be lauded. It’s early and I believe that the offense will come. Especially with the addition of a point guard. Baron Davis, if you are wondering, might start playing as early as next week.
The Knicks (6-8) will get the chance to redeem themselves and snap their losing streak on Friday night as Andrew Bogut and the Milwaukee Bucks (4-9) come to town. The Bucks come into MSG losers of their last three games and losing them badly by an average of 16 points per game.