Throughout his entire coaching career, Mike D'Antoni has been criticized for his teams' lack of defensive talents. In a large NBA market like the Big Apple, the noise and criticism only naturally has gotten louder and louder as D'Antoni entered his fourth season as Knicks head coach, so much so that he brought in Mike Woodson as a defensive preacher.
The fact of the matter is that an NBA team can win games one of two ways: by either playing lockdown defense, or simply running their opponent out of the building by outscoring them with ease.
D'Antoni's teams have always won games implementing the latter strategy, so it's no surprise that the defensive practices of these teams would be a cause for concern.
That being said, it is in fact a surprise that the Knicks were only able to score 78 points against the Warriors Wednesday night. The team's offensive woes continued on Thursday, as the team struggled its way to 82 points in a 99-82 loss to Kobe Bryant (the superstar poured in 28 points) and the Lakers.
For a team that was second in the league in points per game with 106.5 last season, out-dueling the Lake Show's 99 points (and the Warriors' 92 on Wednesday) should have proven to be no problem for the Knicks.
Unfortunately, the Knicks of last season (or even an improved version as of yet) is no more. An offensive flow has been thus far nonexistent as Toney Douglas has struggled to lead the charge.
Carmelo Anthony controlled the ball a bit Thursday as a point forward, powering his way to 27 points (while also dishing out a team high five assists), but simply is not as much of a playmaker for others besides himself.
The otherwise stagnant Knicks backcourt rotation struggled, with Douglas, Landry Fields, Bill Walker, and Mike Bibby combining to shoot 5 for 22 from the field (including 1 of 12 from downtown).
The team's offense fails to pick up a steady pace when the likes of Douglas, Bibby, and Walker run the ball up the court only to pull up in front of the three-point line to let bricks fly.
As a result, many of their Knicks teammates struggled as well. When the offense is not efficient in transition, failing to excel in dribble penetration, Landry Fields is often left without fitting shot opportunities. The lack of pace also limits what Amar'e Stoudemire can do with the ball, only finding him in awkward spots. He shot 4 for 17 from the field.
A couple of bright spots from tonight's performance? Though there aren't many at all, Steve Novak sunk two three-point fields goals for six points off the bench, and Tyson Chandler began to come into his own, scoring 13 points while grabbing 11 boards, blocking two shots and recording three steals. He was truly a stat sheet stuffer, also sinking 11 free throws.
Is the Knicks backcourt struggling because they are failing to play smart basketball in D'Antoni's free-flowing offense, or are the difficulties a result of D'Antoni's inability to conform his playbook to fit the current players' abilities?
Chances are that dilemma will continue exist for quite a while for quite a while, at least until Baron Davis makes his debut and the Knicks seemingly get the answer to that glaring question.