The Knicks were firing on all cylinders early today, leading 59-45 at half. So how did TOK know that a second half implosion was coming? Kevin Smith puts on his chef hat and shows you how to make and when to expect a Knicks loss.
Ingredient #1 – The Almighty Three Ball
I think it’s safe to say that the Knicks are willing to live and die by the three, but there are different ways of knowing when it’s hurting more than it’s helping. Most obvious are the games where they get off to an ice cold start. For example, the Knicks started their atrocious 34-point loss in Indiana by shooting 0-7 from behind the arc. When shots aren’t dropping early, it spells huge trouble for New York. Not only does it leave them unable to establish an offensive rhythm, but it also throws off their game defensively. Instead of their opponent taking the ball out from under the basket, the missed threes lead to long rebounds, thus forcing the Knicks to step up their transition defense. This is not a good sign, especially if they plan on seeing a deadly transition team, like Miami, in the playoffs.
However, starting the game off too hot from downtown is equally detrimental. Making threes at an unsustainable pace means not only that their three point percentage will balance out with a bunch of misses through the rest of the game, but also that you can plan on the Knicks hoisting up even more attempts. They can get away with being hot and cold from behind the arc against weaker opponents, but against the best, they have to be consistent. Without consistency, you can stick a fork in them.
Ingredient #2 – A Banged Up Carmelo Anthony
Of course the Knicks have trouble winning when Melo is missing games, but there’s been a few instances this season where he has played through some pain in the elbow and shoulder of his shooting arm. The difference between a healthy and a banged up Melo is night and day. Healthy Melo dropped 24 points in the first half today, shooting 6-9 from the field and getting to the charity stripe with ease, before heading to the locker room with apparent pain in his ribs. Injured Melo came out in the second half and scored just 8 points, going 3-11 from the field and heaving up some forced, out-of-rhythm shots.
While part of today’s ugly second half can attributed to the often overlooked defensive prowess of LeBron James, Melo also just isn’t the type of player that can overcome any discomfort that affects his jumper. His game is based solely on putting the ball in the hole, and it’s hard for him to be effective if he is physically incapable. To put it simply, if Carmelo Anthony isn’t at 100 percent, neither are the Knicks, so expect a loss.
Ingredient #3 – A Lack Of Halftime Adjustments
Mike Woodson has been just what the Knicks needed since taking over for Mike D’Antoni, but has been out coached of late. It seemed like Miami was guaranteed two points out of every time-out today, and they were really able to turn it on after a few halftime adjustments. These halftime adjustments are something that the Knicks have been failing to execute on of late.
In the Knicks previous loss, they held a 51-48 lead over Toronto at half. A few adjustments defensively (enough doubling!) should have been enough for the Knicks to cruise to victory, but the same old shoot the three and trap on defense philosophy prevented them from doing it. It’s not that they need to fully abandon the game plan, but a little diversity could take them a long way. If you’re seeing an underperforming Knicks squad in the first half, odds are you’re getting that same team in the second.
Ingredient #4 – A Lack Of Composure
By the time we get to this ingredient, the Knicks have already mentally lost the game. I love the passion and emotion that they play with, but the incessant whining when things aren’t going their way has to stop. We’ve seen this over and over again this season and today’s edition was brought to you by Tyson Chandler. With the Knicks down two in crunch time, LeBron blocked an attempted layup by Chandler. I think anyone who watched 90′s basketball would agree that LeBron’s block was hardly a mauling, but still the contact warranted a whistle. When no call was made, Chandler proceeded to throw both hands up in the air and complain to the referees, all the while LeBron was putting back a Miami miss on the other end of the floor, putting the Heat up by four points and essentially sealing the victory.
All Knicks fans who think New York has a chance at hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy this season should take notice of how Miami handled adversity today. They were on the receiving end of the same bad officiating that the Knicks were, but even when they were down by double-digits late in the third quarter, they never lost their cool. In the end, complaining to referees gets you nowhere. The Knicks can lawyer up if they want to,but when an official makes a call there is no changing their mind. If you notice the Knicks acting like the league’s most immature veterans, it’s time to accept a loss.
The “perfect” Knicks loss is preferably made on the road. Start by mixing missed threes with easy transition buckets for the opposition. Allow the crowd to influence the game before peppering in an injury for Carmelo that is serious enough to effect his play, but not serious enough to make him miss any time. Let simmer at half, but continue mixing missed treys while sprinkling a little doubt in their minds upon return. Come fourth quarter, they should be ready to boil over with emotion and take their frustrations out on the referees. At this time, you will know the Knicks are cooked.