Do not blame this game on Marco Bellineli's ridiculous three-pointer off glass (but seriously, something like that has happened at least three times to kill the momentum in three of the Knicks' losses).
The Knicks came out with no energy to begin both halves and dug themselves too great a hole. They looked like they underestimated the fight in the New Orleans Hornets, but that is not excuse. Let's get to the action.
Jeremy Lin did not start the game well. Had three turnovers, a missed layup (cleaned up by Tyson Chandler) and did not do a good job staying in front of Greivis Vazquez.
In fact, it was a sloppy first five minutes for the Knicks that saw five turnovers, contested shots and a Bill Walker three-point attempt that Trevor Ariza sent into the fourth row.
The Knicks defense in the first six minutes did not help either. Bill Walker left Ariza open for two corner threes (i.e. the one type of three Ariza is comfortable with) and the Knicks were late on rotations leading to wide-open looks for New Orleans.
The Hornets seemed to hit every jump shot they took in the first quarter. It was not like Bellineli was lighting them up. It was that Kaman and Ariza killing them from the perimeter.
Overall, that first quarter was the worst quarter the Knicks have had during this stretch with Lin at the point. It came down to two things. First, too many turnovers (eight) leading to seven New Orleans points and the disruption of the offense's flow. Second, the Hornets hit a ton of jump shots. While they were unusually hot, poor Knicks rotations did have something to do with it.
Amar’e Stoudemire's jump shot was great up to this point in the game; however, his finishing inside was not. Many of his shots in the paint were contested, and he was not able to finish plays with his trademark explosiveness. Like I said before, it will take some time for Stoudemire to regain that explosion he had last season, but each game it does not happen has to increase Knicks fans' concerns.
The Hornets looked content to pack the paint and clog the lane so Lin could not wreak havoc in the paint. This is why the addition of J.R. Smith and the return of Carmelo Anthony should only help Lin. Those players are respected perimeter shooters. Bill Walker, Iman Shumpert and Landry Fields are not.
Lin finally broke through the New Orleans defense and got Stoudemire a wide open dunk. Think of how much easier that will be with Anthony.
Lin missed two free throws (thankfully Chandler tipped the second one in). The poor free-throw shooting of all the Knicks is starting to become a big concern.
The Knicks looked much more focused on defense, and the Hornets stopped hitting jump shots leading to the Knicks cutting the Hornets' lead to two at one point in the second quarter.
That Lin to Fields alley-oop...wow.
The Knicks cranked up the defense in the second quarter to cut the Hornets' lead to four going into halftime. However, Lin and the Knicks committed way too many tunrovers. Fourteen turnovers should be the goal for the entire game, and the Knicks had 14 in the first half.
A point guard should have no more than four turnovers in a game. Lin had EIGHT. Those turnovers led to 12 points, and eight of those came on the fast break. Against a team like the Miami Heat, those turnovers can lead to a close game becoming a rout. This cannot continue going forward.
Bellineli started the quarter getting wide-open 15-footers off screens. If there is one aspect of Fields' game that I want him to work on, it is his off ball defense.
The first three minutes saw the Hornets completely outplay the Knicks. While they do not have anything close to the talent of the Knicks, they came out with more energy. Also, the Knicks committed three turnovers in the first three minutes of the third quarter.
Stoudemire consistently got fouled and the refs were not calling it. The problem is that Stoudemire goes up for shots in the paint expecting the foul. While he shoots, you can hear him yell, "And 1!" He needs to focus on converting the shot and then hoping the refs call the foul.
He got called ball watching on back-to-back plays which led to an easy layup and then a potential three-point play. This happens way too often to Stoudemire and puts Chandler in positions where he is forced to foul. That is something the Knicks cannot afford.
The Knicks got outworked most of the quarter on the defensive glass. This led to six offensive rebounds for the Hornets.
You could see that Vazquez's size (6' 6") bothered Lin on offense and on defense. Vazquez was able to limit Lin's ability to penetrate. His height allowed him to shoot over (though he does not shoot well normally) Lin with ease.
The Hornets shot 7-of-10 from three by the end of the third quarter. The Knicks shot 3-of-15. Yet another example of how the three-point shot can keep inferior teams in ball games—or in this case, allow them to be ahead by more than they should be.
The Knicks came out flat, but they were not outplayed to the point that they would be down by ten going into the third. Then again, 18 turnovers in three quarters is just horrible.
I know Shumpert is great at stripping the ball, but when in a 2-on-1 situation, it is not worth it when the chance for a three-point play is high if you try to strip the scorer.
Both Walt Frazier and Bernard King made the point that Stoudemire needed to take over the game. I completely agree. There is nobody on the Hornets who can match up with him. Also, he was out on the floor with Jeffries, Shumpert, Walker and a cold Steve Novak. That lineup only works if Stoudmire asserts himself on the offensive end.
The unsung hero of the fourth quarter had to be Jared Jeffries. His energy and rotations on defensive, his hustle on the offensive glass, and all the intangibles he brings spark the Knicks run midway through the fourth to two. I know we make jokes about his offensive shortcomings, but hopefully all Knicks fans realize his positive impact on the game.
One of the clear signs that the Knicks played with a low level of energy was the amount of switching they did on the perimeter. During the seven-game winning streak, you saw switching only when it had to be done. This game saw too many lazy switches, leading to some bad matchups. In the fourth quarter, switching led to the Hornets getting some key offensive rebounds.
Overall, this was the Knicks' worst game with Lin at point guard, but unlike the game against Toronto, the Knicks were not able to overcome being outplayed most of the game.
The two biggest issues for the Knicks in this game: turnovers (21) and free throw shooting (19-of-29). Even with the inconsistent defense and the poor shooting from three point land, the turnovers and poor the free throw shooting are inexcusable. While Lin did commit an audacious amount of turnovers (nine), the whole team did a poor job taking care of the ball.
The poor free-throw shooting has become an alarming trend for the Knicks over these last four games. You cannot hope to win games against the better teams in the NBA shooting 65 percent from the free-throw line. Hopefully, this game proved to be an aberration for the Knicks, a byproduct of a lack of energy and focus.