Coming off their team slumber party on Friday, the Knicks hosted the Grizzlies at Madison Square Garden on Saturday afternoon. After trailing by as much as 18 and then cutting it to just four, New York gave a classic Knicks-go-down-big-then-give-fans-hope-by-making-a-run-but-still-lose effort.
With Saturday’s 95-87 loss to Memphis, the Knicks' record has fallen to an abysmal 8-18, with an even worse 4-10 record at home.
The Knicks remained consistently mediocre, however, as they are now 0-3 in games starting at noon this year. The good news? After losing their first two midday games by 31 and 41 points, respectively, the Knicks at least didn't lose by 51 on Saturday.
The loss to the injury-ridden Grizzlies is just another hideous blemish to add to the Knicks’ resume.
It was almost poetic how the game brought all of the Knicks’ problems into one 48-minute span. Here are the biggest takeaways from the loss.
It Was the Most Knicks-Like Game of the Year
This game displayed nearly every problem that the Knicks have. Here is the evidence:
- First, it was another slow start. An early 8-2 deficit had the Knicks in the nearly guaranteed first quarter hole they seem to love to get into. The loss drops New York to 0-3 in afternoon games, which begs the question: Just how badly will they lose on Christmas Day against the Oklahoma City Thunder?
- The Knicks continued their pitiful rebounding by grabbing just 29 boards compared to the Grizzlies' 56. For the year, New York is the second-worst rebounding team in the league with just 38.6 boards per game. No one is out-rebounded 56-29 without a lack of effort. It’s the only way to explain it, especially since the Grizzlies were without Marc Gasol. The Knicks have seemed to lack hustle and effort all year, and it showed on Saturday.
- Iman Shumpert was brutal offensively, going 1-of-7. He is now 6-of-42 in the last eight games. That is 14 percent.
- Tim Hardaway Jr. played well and continues to be a bright sport for the team. He went 7-of-13 from the floor and scored 16 points. He is showing that he has the potential to be a talented offensive player in this league, and he is exciting to watch.
- Andrea Bargnani stunk as he has all season. He went 1-of-5 from the field and 0-of-1 from three-point range. The 7-footer is now shooting below 40 percent from the field and 20 percent from deep in December. Oh, and he can’t defend or rebound.
- Lastly, the need for Tyson Chandler was as apparent as ever. He did not have his best game on Saturday, but when he was off the floor, the Knicks defense was hard to watch. Without him guarding the paint, the Grizzlies got layup after layup down low.
The Rookies Must Play More
People have been calling for Toure’ Murry for a while now, and while he played just nine minutes on Saturday, it seemed like an eternity compared to his lack of minutes this season. The Knicks played well with him on the floor. His ability to defend the point guard position is something that New York desperately needs, as pointed out by Chris Herring of The Wall Street Journal.
Points allowed to opposing point guards per 48 mins: Felton, 23.5; Prigioni, 23.8; Udrih, 25.5— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) December 21, 2013
The Knicks' other rookie—Tim Hardaway Jr.—has been the best shooting guard on the team. There is no denying it, and he earned every one of the 30 minutes he got against the Grizzlies. He is finally seeing the minutes he deserves, and Woodson needs to continue to give the rookie playing time. The Knicks need his energy.
When Hardaway and Murry were on the floor together, not only were they fun to watch but also played well as a unit. Murry gives the Knicks another very good perimeter defender, while Hardaway supplies the offense. Plus, everyone who saw this play wants to see more of a Murry/Hardaway backcourt.
Iman Shumpert is making it increasingly hard for fans to root for him. Being a defense-first guy is what's great about him, and he has been playing good defense lately. Unfortunately, his play at that end of the court has gone unnoticed due to his inability to put the ball in the hoop.
The Shumpert who is playing right now is reminiscent of the Shumpert who came off his ACL injury. Last year, it seemed he needed one big dunk to get his confidence and swagger back.
That much-needed slam came in Game 2 of the Indiana Pacers series, and though he was by no means dominant after it—except for that ridiculous run in Game 6—he was back to being the Shump that Knicks fans fell in love with.
The former Georgia Tech guard needs to get back on track quickly, and one big throwdown might be the ticket.
Mike Woodson continues to amaze in unimaginable ways, which is not a good thing.
Outside of his strange obsession with having J.R. Smith on the court, Woodson also seems to have a thing for big lineups. He insists that big lineups are the only way that the Knicks can compete. However, nothing supports that statement.
The Knicks have thrived when they start Carmelo Anthony as a power forward. It began last season...and ended last season.
Last year, the reigning scoring champion was dominant in his role at the 4. He caused mismatches on offense, opened up the floor and held his own defensively.
For some reason, though, Woodson has started him at power forward just 10 times this season. In the other 16 games, he has started at small forward, alongside two of Tyson Chandler, Andrea Bargnani and Kenyon Martin.
In 'Melo's 10 games at power forward, the Knicks are 5-5. In the two games that he started at the 4 with Chandler at the 5—yes, both were against the Milwaukee Bucks but still—the Knicks are 2-0. In the 16 games that he started at small forward, New York is 3-13.
Last season with Anthony starting at power forward, the Knicks went 47-20. See what I’m getting at?
On Wednesday when Chandler returned, Woody went back to a starting lineup that featured 'Melo at power forward and Chandler at center. The Knicks won. Woodson then made his illogical decision on Saturday to start his big lineup.
Guess what? The Knicks lost.
You know what's more important than setting curfews? Playing the right combination of guys together.— Jared Dubin (@JADubin5) December 21, 2013
The gaffes in the starting lineup have not been the only problems from the coach. His constant substitutions are also baffling. The most confusing on Saturday was the substitution of Murry.
He had played nine minutes of solid ball through three quarters. His line of two points, one rebound, one assist and one steal may not seem special, but his defensive efforts were noticeable. He allowed his man to score just two points, which came on free throws off a questionable foul.
So why did Woodson take him out to start the fourth? Murry did not appear to be hobbled by his injured ankle and was not tired after his two-minute stint in the third quarter. With Murry out and the Grizzlies' lead at 13, Jerryd Bayless went on a 5-0 run to shut the door on any hope of a Knicks comeback.
Clyde Frazier said it best on the MSG broadcast, referring to Beno Udrih ’s defense of Bayless as “matador D” when the Memphis guard went right to the hoop for an easy layup plus a foul at the 9:57 mark in the fourth quarter. Bayless followed that up with another jumper over Udrih and capped his run off with a jumper over Hardaway.
Yes, the Grizzlies might have still scored on those possessions if Murry had been in the game, but the odds are less likely. Memphis went cold after stretching its lead to 18—in no part thanks to the defense of the New York point guards—and the Knicks got it down to a four with 25 seconds left. The late run was not enough, though.
It is time for a change in New York. The game against the Grizzlies painted the perfect picture of the Knicks’ problems this season, and it is time for these issues to be addressed. A coaching change may not turn the Knicks around, but it can’t make them any worse.
New York's next game is in Orlando on December 23, and then it hosts the Thunder on Christmas Day. Woodson and the Knicks better hope they beat the Magic.
All stats via nba.com/stats.