The Knicks avoided another embarrassing and frustrating loss to the Bobcats last night, but did not do so without giving fans a scare first.
The team overcame a 10-0 start to the game by the Bobcats to acquire a lead and keep it throughout the game, no matter how small it became as Charlotte tried to claw back.
The Knicks' 91-87 victory certainly had both its positives and negatives last night. The bad news is that the Knicks still have not begun to play like a team ready to compete at a higher level. Their struggles and inconsistencies still allow the weaker teams in the league to give them trouble securing a victory.
Last season, whether it be the roster that included Raymond Felton and company, or instead the one with Carmelo Anthony, one major gripe about the Knicks was that despite how much they made strides to becoming a better team, they still struggled putting inferior teams away.
Though this season has already seen some of the Knicks' prior troubles plague them once again, perhaps all this squad needs is time to figure out just how to make things right.
With a 5-4 record, the Knicks, winners of three straight games, have perhaps begun to learn how to cope with such existing struggles.
Superstars Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony struggled on offense last night, shooting a combined 18 for 43, good for only 30%.
This allowed the Bobcats to stay in the game until the very end. The Knicks' defense, though solid for most of the game, was spotty at best in the final two minutes, as they allowed Charlotte multiple opens looks to take the victory away.
Fortunate for the Knicks, although the team's bench contribution was embarrassingly minimal, they did in fact get major contributions from Tyson Chandler and rookie phenomenon Iman Shumpert.
Together, the two paced their team on the defensive end, getting three steals a piece. In addition, Chandler had a game many would expect from a player earning $15 million, also scoring 20 points, grabbing 13 rebounds, and blocking three shots. Shumpert added 16 points in the win.
Going into the game, Carmelo Anthony had been knowingly slowed by lower back pain, but lucky for his team, other players had stepped up to fill the void.
This is what needs to happen for the Knicks on a nightly basis. The team needs to continue to turn in solid defensive efforts, while also maintaining a balanced offensive attack in which any number of players can step in to make things happen. Shumpert has especially done a good job of this early on during his rookie campaign, letting his defensive skills propel his offense, enabling him to score in bunches amongst the rest of the Knicks' firepower.
The Knicks have a more difficult test ahead of them tomorrow, as they host the division-leading 76ers.