The Knicks weren’t bad at all tonight but they weren’t quite good enough either as they hung tough on the road and got more great play from their bench. The truth is (and I don’t think this is controversial), the Sixers are the better team right now and the Knicks didn’t have enough answers down the stretch, particularly for Andre Miller and Andre Iguodala.
The Knicks were right there in the fourth quarter and had a narrow lead midway through the period but they couldn’t hold it due to a combination of careless ball-handling, reckless shot selection and too many fouls that put the Sixers in the bonus too early in the period. By the time the Knicks got their bearings again, time was running out and they were down by 6. A couple of times they got within 2 points but just couldn’t get enough buckets or enough stops to take back the lead.
Once again, the bench severely outplayed the starters as no starter netted a plus in their plus/minus rating for the game. In fact, the best plus/minus ratings posted by any Knick starter tonight were achieved by Chandler and Duhon at -8 (and Chandler only played 19 minutes). At some point, the starters need to pull their weight. They can’t keep putting the team behind the 8-ball every night and then hope to get bailed out by the bench.
That said, the Knicks once again got an outstanding contribution from the bench despite having to go without Danilo Gallinari. Presently, the Knicks’ plan is to hold Gallo out on the second night of back-to-backs and in this game the Knicks did seem a man short. Gallinari might well have been the difference between a win and a loss.
A few more odds and ends:
- With the Knicks trailing 100-98 in the fourth, Duhon had a terrible and costly sequence. First, after getting a step he drove the lane but then just flipped up a careless layup at the basket hoping for a foul. He didn’t get the call and on the Sixers next trip down the court he played lazy defense committed a dumb foul himself to put Andre Miller at the line where he knocked down both shots. That was a pivotal moment and it gave the Sixers some much needed momentum.
- One of these days, David Lee needs to get a body on someone. He’s great at going after the ball and obviously he racks up the rebounds but, too often, he doesn’t box out, especially on the defensive glass, and taller or more athletic players just go up over the top of him to grab the offensive board or get a put-back. Dalembert was able to do this to Lee several times tonight (including a costly instance with time winding down in the fourth). I love his effort and energy, but at some point a big man needs to get physical.
- Al Harrington just has to take smarter shots. I like Harrington though I recognize that he’s flawed (not as athletic as he looks, dribbles too much, listless defender etc.). He’s got heart and balls and the Knicks can use more of both. Also, when he’s right, he can keep a team in a game. On the other hand, when he throws lazy passes or just flips guarded three pointers up at the rim, he can take a team right out of a game too. At some point, he’s got to rein in his shot selection and start showing more discipline in the offensive system.
We should try not to lose sight of the big picture though. The Knicks played very well on the second night of a back to back even in losing. And because they’re playing so much better, expectations are naturally higher. After all, if Gallinari was available tonight, they might have won this game. Still though, if the Knicks are going to make noise later on this season, they’re going to have to figure out how to execute down the stretch so they can pull out a few of these close roadies.