10:13 am Feb. 21, 2013
Following last Wednesday night's disspiriting loss to the Toronto Raptors, the general consensus in the New York Knicks' locker room was that rest would be the key for their aging roster.
"The break is coming at a good time," Knicks center Tyson Chandler said following that game. "Tonight was an ugly game. A lot of missed layups, free throws, brain freezes on defense."
At the very least, the regrouping and fresh start would bring a different attitude defensively, fresher legs to leap and grab rebounds, better accuracy on launched three pointers that make up so much of the team's non-Carmelo Anthony offense.
The Knicks' 125-91 defeat on Wednesday night by the Indiana Pacers suggests that fatigue isn't their only problem, and underscores some flaws the Knicks need to resolve if they're going to challenge the Miami Heat and hold off rivals like the Pacers and the Brooklyn Nets.
The Knicks looked, if anything, less engaged than they did a week ago against the Raptors. Defensive close-outs just didn't happen. Efforts to find the open man offensively were absent, except for Pablo Prigioni, who played primarily once the game had been decided, and collected eight of the team's 17 total assists.
The Knicks continue to get almost nothing offensively from two of their five starting spots, with Jason Kidd once again failing to make a field goal in 17 minutes, and Iman Shumpert shooting 1-for-7. Add Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire combining for an 8-for-26 night, J.R. Smith shooting 1-for-7, then getting ejected, and it is hard to imagine how the Knicks could have scored enough to win, even if they'd been playing defense.
It is important to emphasize just how hard it is to even give up 125 points to the Indiana Pacers, a bottom-tier offensive team who has managed to contend on almost exclusively defense. The Pacers, prior to Wednesday night's game, had scored as many as 100 points just 13 times in 53 games. Three of those efforts required overtime.
Against the Knicks, they reached the century mark with 2:06 left in the third quarter.
The Knicks have an opportunity to both show more effort and avenge a recent loss in one shot, with their next game coming Friday night in Toronto. And really, there's every reason to think they are better than they showed recently, with Anthony a good bet to play better than he has, Stoudemire and Smith likely to provide more than missed shots, and a team capable of basic effort on defense providing it.
But as the trade deadline is set to pass without action, it will be up to this group to not only show they are better than they've looked recently, but to in some way resemble the team that began the season 18-5. That feels like a long time ago.
Elsewhere in New York sports:
The Nets' starters were drained after Tuesday night's overtime win, so the bench took care of things Wednesday night in a 97-94 win over the Bucks.
A trade for a big name is unlikely, but not impossible.
A bulging disc in his back will keep Phil Hughes out for two weeks.
In exhibition play, the Red Bulls lost to the Seattle Sounders, 2-0.
The Cosmos made another two signings, both more in line with an M.L.S. team.
Georgetown and Syracuse both routed opponents, setting up a battle for first place in the Big East Saturday at the Carrier Dome.