All of a sudden, what seemed to be pretty much a lock is becoming anything but. When the Knicks traded for Carmelo Anthony, the team was supposed to be chasing a higher playoff seed in the East, but now, it's hoping to not get chased out.
The Knicks lost their fifth straight game on Friday night, falling to the lowly Milwaukee Bucks, 102-96.
Just like most of their games during this brutal stretch, the Knicks got off to a very slow start. For the first time all season, the Madison Square Garden crowd was booing in the first quarter after the Knicks trailed, 16-4. They allowed two three-pointers to open the game and never held a single lead from start to finish.
It seems as if every game has gone similarly. The Knicks need to fall behind in order to be motivated to play harder.
With an oppourtunity to gain in the playoff race facing the two teams tied for the ninth seed—Milwaukee and Charlotte—over the next two nights, the Knicks lost to another sub-.500 team to drop to two games below .500 on the season.
Coach Mike D'Antoni started the usual four and Ronny Turiaf at center. After the slow start, he immediately went to Toney Douglas off the bench, and Douglas struggled in the early going.
With 1:43 remaining in the opening quarter, the Knicks trailed, 30-14. That's when they finally showed some life and started making a comeback.
The defense started to tighten up significantly as D'Antoni used guys like Anthony Carter and Shelden Williams, both defense-first players. Carter put his hands up and defended shots nicely and Williams contributed a little bit.
Things were going much better as the Knicks only trailed by seven at halftime. In the third quarter, Douglas caught on fire and scored four baskets to get the team energized and crowd going. The Knicks would stay close and only trail by five heading to the fourth, and that's where they completely folded—again.
For the fifth straight game, they couldn't communicate in crunch time, and the offense looked lost. The fourth quarter started off well with the crowd in a frenzy. Douglas shot a three to cut the deficit to two points, and eventually, the Knicks would trail by one.
They collapsed from that point on. The recurring issue in these tight games has been poor shot selection and the struggles of Chauncey Billups.
After a couple of made free throws by Amar'e Stoudemire, the Knicks missed 11 straight shots. They came from all over the place, and most of them were bad choices. The Knicks tried rushing threes instead of setting up plays and moving the ball around.
The star players weren't doing what they're paid to do and after some nice defensive stands, the Bucks widened their lead and sent the crowd packing.
The Knicks are in the middle of a stretch that has them playing seven home games in eight games, and they've began 0-3.
In the losses to Boston, Orlando, and now Milwaukee, it's been the same story. The Knicks look like they were made out of players that were taken off the street and don't know what to do with the ball. The game's final dagger was a three made by Brandon Jennings that extended the lead to eight.
When the buzzer sounded, the Knicks saw yet another game come off their lead for a playoff spot, and the Celtics didn't help them by losing at home to Charlotte.
What can possibly go wrong during these late moments? It wasn't hard for the Knicks to score enough points to get back in the game, so why can't they come up with one bucket when they need it most?
It seems as if the pressure has really gotten to Anthony and his teammates. The shots being taken are terrible, players aren't shooting with any confidence, and the ball isn't even going in the hoop when it should.
Everything has gone wrong, and now the question is, will the Knicks make the playoffs? Their lead over the ninth seed is five-and-a-half with 10 games left. They could make it much easier for themselves with a win Saturday night in Charlotte.
What the Knicks didn't want to do is enter the playoffs with a losing record, but that appears to be the case. They'd have to finish the season 6-4 just to get to 41-41, and that doesn't look possible at this point.
Whether it's the coach or a player, someone has to rip into this team. Their play is completely unacceptable, and if they can't find a way to beat anyone, this could be an all-time terrible collapse.
They should have the mentality as if their starting fresh on Saturday. It's almost a must-win game, and if it results in another loss, they may be watching come playoff time.