Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks have a tough road ahead. Photo Credit: Bridget Samuels, Flickr.com
To say the New York Knicks have had a rough week would be a tremendous understatement. Their last two games were complete embarrassments and now the time has come to wonder if the Knicks’ chances of contending in the playoffs are in serious jeopardy.
In their loss to the Golden State Warriors on Monday, March 11, the Knicks managed a mere 63 points, their lowest point total of the season. After a solid first quarter, in which they put up 23 points, the Knicks’ offense was nonexistent the rest of the way. Considering this is usually a team that drains 3s at will and they were going against a sub-par Golden State defense, it was pretty shocking to watch.
Their shot at redemption was thoroughly squandered on Wednesday, March 13, when they fell to the Denver Nuggets by a final of 117-94. If that wasn’t pathetic enough, it Carmelo Anthony‘s first game in Denver since being traded to the Nuggets in February 2011. By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, Denver fans had begun chanting “who needs Melo.” It was an awful night that served to continue the worst week of the season for the Knicks.
But hey, this is just two games and the Knicks still have the third-best record in the Eastern Conference, so nothing to get to worried about, right? Well, actually, the Knicks could be in some real trouble as the postseason draws near. They lost Amar’e Stoudemire to yet another knee injury and the team looks dysfunctional without him. In particular, their usually mighty offense has struggled quite a bit lately.
Bringing Stoudemire off the bench was a huge luxury for the Knicks, as he thrived against weaker competition and was one of the more efficient players the Knicks had. Moreover, being able to bring both Stoudemire and J.R. Smith off the bench made the Knicks’ second unit extremely dangerous on offense. Now, without Stoudemire around to dominate under the basket, Smith has had to carry more of the load for that group. This could become an issue in the future, since Smith is an inconsistent shooter and the more shots he takes, the more those bricks start to hurt.
Some will inevitably bring up the fact that the Knicks played extremely well without Stoudemire at the beginning of the season. Indeed, that incarnation of the Knicks was pretty strong, but the situation has changed since then. For one thing, Jason Kidd has cooled-off considerably. The 39-year-old was draining 3s at an unsustainable rate. Sure enough, he’s come crashing back to earth and these days it’s a minor shock when one of his treys actually finds the bottom of the net. That team also had Ronnie Brewer, but when he cooled off too, the Knicks shipped him off to the Oklahoma City Thunder. The lack of Stoudemire doesn’t mean the Knicks will start playing like they did in November. In fact, that’s one of very few similarities between the early-season Knicks and the team we see now.
This team has some real problems. They thrive too much on a combination of Anthony’s scoring and the 3-ball. If either one isn’t working, they run into offensive trouble. The Knicks could still be dangerous in the playoffs, but if they want to have a real impact, they need to figure how to play without Stat and hope Anthony and Smith can handle being counted on for the bulk of the scoring. The Knicks have exceeded expectations this season, but now is when they face their first true test. If they can regroup and become a dangerous team again, then we’ll know they’re a legitimate playoff threat. If they don’t get their act together, a third-straight first-round exit wouldn’t be too shocking.