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For the first two months of the year, the New York Knicks were the talk of the town, in Gotham and beyond. I have lived in NYC for more than a dozen years and can't remember a single winter during which the Knicks have been discussed more than the New York Yankees' hot stove.
They were undeniably the second-best team in the Eastern Conference, and with the Boston Celtics stuck on terrible, they appeared to be the only team who had any chance of preventing the Miami Heat from returning to the NBA Finals.
Then 2013 started, and the team started to fall back to earth.
The Knicks have lost four of their seven games in the new year, and two of the wins they have managed to pick up have come against the New Orleans Hornets and Orlando Magic, the fifth and seventh worst teams in the league, respectively.
Really, the struggles started in the closing days of 2012.
On a Friday night, they lost in dramatic fashion to the rudderless Sacramento Kings. On Christmas, they even lost to the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers?!
Add in the Raymond Felton injury and drama that got Carmelo Anthony suspended, and this team has done a 180 from its early season heights. The magic elixir of ball movement and marksmanship may be wearing off.
Since December 25, the team has shot just 43.5 percent, according to NBA.com. Only five teams have been less accurate since Christmas.
A lot of this drop off has come because the team isn't making as many three-pointers as it had been. Over this same stretch, according to NBA.com, the team has shot just 36.9 percent from behind the arc. In a vacuum, that is a fine number. It is even the 10th best rate in the NBA over this period.
But considering how much the Knicks rely on the three—they have shot 27.9 threes per game during this stretch, good for second most in the league—it is no surprise that their win/loss record has also fallen off.
Contrast this with the 39.5 percent they made from deep (on 29.5 attempts per game) in their first 27 games of the year, and the reason for the drop from grace seems to be pretty simple; shots that were going in no longer are.
The result: New York was 20-7 going into its Christmas day matchup with Los Angeles and now sit at 24-13.
This is still a very good team, which will only get better when Raymond Felton returns.
There is no need to panic.
But there is a need to find other ways to win when the threes aren't continuing to fall at unsustainable rates.
The team cannot just get frustrated and continue to try to will shots to go in. It needs to get to the line more, attack the interior and play better defense—something it showed it is capable of early in the year.
Fortunately, a wake-up call might be right around the corner as soon as the team returns from its trip to London to play the Detroit Pistons.
The Knicks have just three wins over marquee teams since December 11. The most recent was a victory over the San Antonio Spurs on January 3.
The other two?
They both came against the Knicks' new crosstown rival, the Brooklyn Nets.
On Martin Luther King Day, Manhattan once again squares off with BK.