Once again, the New York Knicks played uninspired basketball and fell behind by a huge margin to a sub-.500 team. This time, it was to yet another team chasing them in the Eastern Conference's ninth seed, the Charlotte Bobcats.
Looking to snap a five-game losing streak that has been as shocking as possible, the Knicks started well and led by one after the first quarter.
Coach Mike D'Antoni was looking to change things up, trying desperately to get things headed in the right direction. In an attempt to do that, he started Toney Douglas in place of Landry Fields at shooting guard.
It was the first game the rookie Fields didn't start all season. It was a very strong message being sent but it didn't lead to improved results. Also, Ronny Turiaf sat out with a bad ankle, so Shawne Williams started in his place at center.
Douglas made his presence felt early on, shooting a three to give the Knicks a 3-2 lead. The problem is, he would only finish the game with five points. He shot a combined 2-for-8 from the field.
The Knicks did get a huge game from Carmelo Anthony as he scored 36, but the second quarter was where the Knicks lost the game.
They got outscored by the Bobcats in the quarter, 34-20, and allowed Charlotte to go on a 12-0 run. Stephen Jackson was red-hot from behind the arc, making four three-pointers and getting them when they hurt the most.
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Inexplicably, the Knicks allowed the Bobcats to score the first 12 points in the second quarter. The Knicks missed a ton of jumpers and their defense was horrible, as usual. A 31-30 lead became a 42-31 deficit in the blink of an eye. That forced them to have to climb back for the entire second half.
The Knicks trailed by 13 going to the fourth and showed a little more life than usual in the final minutes. After trailing 100-85, they came within five by going on a 10-0 run, fueled by two consecutive Carmelo Anthony three-pointers.
From that point on, it was all about getting stops and finishing the game out. That, yet again, didn't happen. The Knicks kept allowing easy buckets and committed silly fouls down the stretch, as well as being let down by the three-pointer. At the end, they lost, 114-106.
They're now 1-9 in their last 10 and the collapse is officially on. What was a seven-game lead with 17 to play is now a four-and-a-half-game lead with nine to play.
What's going on with this team? The coaching looks awful because the game-planning looks terrible. For a team that's supposed to be great offensively with two of the top 15 players in the game on their team, they can't seem to do anything to score easily. It's either a bunch of one-on-one setups or throwing up three-pointers.
There isn't any flow, any ball movement and absolutely nothing is clicking. Chauncey Billups, who took the blame for Friday's loss, hasn't gotten together on the pick-and-roll with Amar'e Stoudemire the way Raymond Felton did.
Billups did have 14 points, but he was 1-for-6 from downtown and his shot selection is atrocious. Before his injury, he'd take decent jumpers from reasonable distance. Now, he doesn't look like he's interested.
Everyone knew Anthony was a one-on-one player with great moves inside, but he has to adjust at some point. D'Antoni's system doesn't benefit that type of style, and Anthony has shown he's capable of passing effectively.
The problem is, nothing is consistent right now. The Knicks defense, offense and individual efforts are all inconsistent. Even D'Antoni's rotation is inconsistent being he started Fields in the second half along with Shelden Williams.
Who they have on the team doesn't matter right now. This is a bad team that won't improve unless they get on the same page and play like they care. The energy has to pick up in these remaining nine games.
With a four-game home stand about to begin on Monday, the Knicks have to win just to gain a little bit of confidence.
The playoffs are no longer a given and the Knicks have to worry about winning one game at this point. This is the beginning of a disaster and it may not get any better, anytime soon.