As the Knicks went for their first 2-0 start since 1999, it was clear that the team struggled despite commanding a lead against the Warriors through the first quarter last night.
Even with a lead, Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony each had difficulty getting into an offensive flow, as Landry Fields led the Knicks with 13 points in the first half. The Warriors slowly begin to fight back (despite struggling on offense themselves), forcing a 64-64 tie at the end of the first half.
Based on the scoreboard, it could have been anyone's game. But anyone watching the game knew full well that the Knicks were clearly off their game, and it was only a matter of time before the Warriors took control, despite playing without star guard Stephen Curry, who sat out with an ankle injury.
From the wake of the second half, it was almost as if the Knicks' thorough struggles gave way to wake up the sleeping dragon that was Brandon Rush, who erupted for 19 points off the bench.
The former Pacer also filled up the stat sheet with six boards, two steals and a couple of blocked shots. Monta Ellis bounced back from a forgettable first half to finish with 22 points as the Warriors flushed away any hopes of a Knickerbocker victory.
The Knicks' difficulties through this one were evident. Anthony struggled because he was not finding himself in the right spots on the court. Similar struggles for Stoudemire were due to an array of off balance jumpers. The Knicks' captain often found himself also getting the ball with his back facing the basket. The two combined to shoot 8 of 27 from the field.
Much of their uninspiring play was due to the lack of an efficient floor general on the court for the Knicks. Toney Douglas, the newly cemented starting point guard, following up an 8 for 19 shooting performance on opening day with an equally as unimpressive 3 for 11 from the field.
Douglas' style of play is not suited for him to run the floor, especially on a team that already includes two bonafide scorers. He's excelled in the past coming off the bench, and with the team's depth already an issue, that's where Douglas belongs. Many have noted that he fits better as a third guard.
The Knicks' offensive plan is supposed to allow Anthony to bring the ball up, but that does not appear to be happening as much. As a result, whenever Douglas has the ball, his first instinct is to shoot. This bodes well when the team needs a scoring boost off the pine, but not to start things off. Douglas doesn't fit as a starter, and that's why Baron Davis' presence on the court will be so celebrated (whenever it should happen): because he can make things happen and create opportunities for his teammates.
One thing to note is that although reserve Mike Bibby converted only 1 of 5 shots in his Knicks debut, he did dish out four assists. While this may not be such an eye-popping statistic, many of those passes did come in the third quarter, when the Knicks went on a very short-lived run while attempting to keep their heads above water before being sunk completely.
The reason why Bibby's small production was so important is because it simply proves the Knicks need a pass-first minded point guard.
Call it growing pains, say the team still needs time to gel, or even chalk it up to injuries. However one wants to phrase it, this just was not the Knicks' game to be had.
In addition to not having an efficient point guard presence, the Knicks have also not fully felt the impact of Tyson Chandler, who committed five fouls and was thus, limited to 21 minutes of play. Chandler cited the team's overall defensive struggles as the reason for his foul trouble, but the fact of the matter is the Knicks need much higher production from the big man. Perhaps that will come soon enough.
In addition to receiving double-digit scoring efforts from STAT, Melo, and Fields, the Knicks were also paced by Billy Walker's 14 points off the bench. Steve Novak provided fans with a case of Deja Vu (a la Shawne Williams) as he spotted up in the corner to drain a three-point field goal for the only 3 points of his Knicks debut. Making his NBA debut, big man Jerome Jordan efficiently scored four points and grabbed two rebounds in just five minutes of play. With Josh Harrellson still trying to shake rookie nerves, the Knicks should give Jordan a more serious look.
In any event, the Knicks will look to bounce back as they take on the Lakers tonight in Los Angeles.
The key to the team's success going forward is going to be proving they can break the habit(s), showing the struggles displayed in last night's loss do not become constant issues. Needless to say, there is a lot of pressure on Toney Douglas.