The New York Knicks continue dealing with some mid-season adversity that has produced a stretch of poor play of late after a strong start to the season.
The Knicks loss to the Bulls on Friday night was their third-consecutive L against Eastern Conference playoff contenders bearing down on them in the standings. It was also their sixth loss in the past nine games, which has put their spot in those standings in peril.
Somehow the Knicks remain in second place, one game behind the Heat, but a quick look over their shoulder reveals Indiana just one game back in third place and three other teams, including the Brooklyn Nets, within two games. So considering the way the Knicks are trending, they are getting perilously close to the edge of a drop off that could see them fall down the standings in a hurry.
The Knicks had a desperate 41-point outburst in the fourth quarter against the Bulls, but they only scored 36 points in the first half. That was better than the 34 first-half points they scored against Indiana on Thursday. So much ugly basketball is getting tough to watch, as Seth Rosenthal points out at Posting and Toasting.
Again, even accounting for the absences, we saw some truly flatulent basketball tonight. Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni ran the pick-and-roll feebly, shooters whiffed everything, and Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith consumed the rest of the possessions by shanking isolation jumpers (though it was mildly encouraging to see Melo heat up late). The defense-- especially with Tyson Chandler slacking and Amar'e Stoudemire seeing minutes (including down the stretch, which continues to not work)-- somehow looked even sleepier than usual, and any halfway decent possessions got shot down by the obnoxiously accurate Luol Deng. So many mindless switches and doubles, so many late close-outs, so much grief.
The Knicks are just trying to keep things together while dealing with injuries, including the loss of point guard Raymond Felton to a hand injury. The defense took a hit on Thursday when Marcus Camby left the court with a foot injury that expects to keep him out at least two more weeks. Camby joins fellow aging front-court contributor Rasheed Wallace on the bench. Carmelo Anthony can only score so many points to keep New York afloat.
The Knicks should add some youth soon with guard Iman Shumpert. And as Amar'e Stoudemire continues working himself into game shape, the offense should move back to the elite status they held just a few weeks ago. But the Knicks will remain a risk all season while relying on older players to remain healthy enough for the playoffs and trotting out a playing rotation that is familiar playing with one another.