Through the first 40 games of the season, the New York Knicks have done way more than anyone could've expected with a 22-18 record and sitting in a positive position to make their first playoff appearance in seven years.
But all of a sudden, things are starting to unravel, or so it seems. Not that anyone should start panicking or jumping off the bandwagon, but the Knicks are starting to look like the team they usually are this time of year. It's always around January that a potential run at a playoff spot goes south.
That in all likelihood won't happen this season as the Knicks have a six and a half game lead over the ninth seed with 42 games left, but what has suddenly gone wrong? Well, there are some things to worry about.
Not including Monday's loss to the Suns because he had his best game as a Knick, Amar'e Stoudemire's four prior games showed a regression in his shooting percentage. He's certainly starting to get a little tired, carrying the load of his team every game as the potential MVP should.
That's not the problem though.
The problem is, the Knicks don't have any quality backup for Stoudemire. They need to acquire or trade for a reliable big man to help out, not just for Stoudemire, but for some interior defensive help.
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Another issue is Raymond Felton's play. It's not what he's doing to help the team win games—he's becoming a star point guard in New York—it's the minutes he plays on a nightly basis. He's averaging nearly 39 minutes played per game, which is the seventh highest average in the NBA.
The Knicks backup point guard, Toney Douglas, can't help out a whole lot because of his inconsistent play and recent injuries to both shoulders. He makes too many mistakes on the court, such as turning the ball over, and he's an erratic shooter. The Knicks therefore also need a quality backup point guard.
The team has needed another big man and backup point guard for quite some time now, but Donnie Walsh has been reluctant to make any trade. Perhaps he's more focused on trading Anthony Randolph for a first round draft pick in order to acquire Carmelo Anthony, but that shouldn't be the focus right now. By being too patient, the Knicks have started to take a step back.
Fatigue isn't the only issue though. During the 3-game losing streak, the Knicks have had an opportunity to win every game.
In their loss to Utah on January 12, the Knicks scored 125 points, only to lose 131-125. In their loss Friday to Sacramento, they only allowed 93 points, but only scored 83 as they looked a slow step coming back from a tough west coast trip.
In Monday's afternoon loss to the Suns, they once again scored more than 120 points and lost. It's unacceptable to lose two straight games in which you score 120 points or more.
The Knicks haven't had a complete effort on the offensive and defensive side since their last win in Portland a week ago. In that game, they played great defense, allowing only 86 points, and did what they had to do on offense during crunch time.
After playing some better defense for a stretch though, the Knicks have resorted back to their same old ways. The interior defense has been atrocious, and they literally couldn't get any stops on the Suns. They allowed an easy layup, left a man open outside for three or fouled Steve Nash—the best free throw shooter in NBA history. That was the story in the fourth quarter in a game the Knicks had a one point lead in.
This current losing streak isn't a dose of reality, at least not yet. It's some fatigue, along with a lot of stubbornness from Walsh.
As the season gets closer toward the playoff race, this team needs to be fresh with the necessary pieces to make a run. Right now, it's starting to look stale at a very bad time with a tough 3-game Midwest road trip coming up.