Taking on the Bucks in Milwaukee on Friday night, the Knicks' simply couldn't end Steve Novak's homecoming on a high note.
In Novak's first game back in his hometown since becoming a bit of a household name, the Knicks let the Bucks' offense torch them, falling by a final score of 119-114.
After struggling earlier in the week, losing to contending teams, the contest against the Bucks appeared to represent what could have been a pick-me-up game for the Knicks. Milwaukee clearly had other plans.
Ersan Ilyasova, who has stepped up for the Bucks during the absence of Andrew Bogut, led his team with 26 points. Sharp-shooting Mike Dunleavy came off the bench to explode for 25 points, and young stud Brandon Jennings also added 25 points of his own. All three had stellar offensive outings as they exploited the Knicks' defensive woes all game long.
After having seen their defense elevated by the arrival of Tyson Chandler this season, the Knicks looked utterly helpless without him, as both he and Jared Jeffries sat out with injuries for the second straight game.
With the squad still struggling to find their rhythm on offense with all the new dynamics in place, the Knicks' defense has been what's surprisingly anchored them to many victories this season. Without their two sturdy defensive forces, the Knicks quickly fell behind and couldn't maintain enough of an attack throughout the game to sustain a comeback. Playing "catch up" is a tough thing to do.
With Chandler and Jeffries both out, the Knicks opted to go with a small lineup in an attempt to outrun the Bucks. Jeremy Lin, Landry Fields, J.R. Smith, Carmelo Anthony, and Amar'e Stoudemire all started the contest, hoping to overwhelm the Bucks with offensive firepower.
And in a refreshing development, the offense did in fact look better than it has in previous weeks. There was solid effort, a nice flow, and players looked aggressive. Lin and Baron Davis even combined for a total of 22 assists as each looked to get their teammates involved. Lin finished with 20 points and 13 assists, and Davis played his best game as a Knick, logging 9 points and 9 assists.
What's more, Anthony and Stoudemire got things going on the offensive end as well. STAT recorded yet another double-double with 27 points and 11 rebounds, and Anthony added 22 points. Many things just happened to go right for the Knicks on that side of the ball last night, as even Fields broke out of his slump with 18 points, and Novak added 11 points in his homecoming. Shooting the ball well, the team wasted a 55% night from the field.
It's great that the offense is coming together, but as the Knicks have realized in years past, there is no way they can win without a sound defensive effort. When both begin to click, the team will be on their way, but such an effort needs to happen quickly. The team is quickly reeling after its fourth straight loss, and if they want any chance at stopping the bleeding, Chandler and Jeffries need to return ASAP.
The Knicks will take on the division-leading 76ers Sunday afternoon at the Garden.