The New York Knicks can be infuriating to watch at times. This season has been a bizarre roller coaster of about five different teams, all of which are deeply flawed but unquestionably talented. The current version is entirely too reliant on Carmelo Anthony on the offensive end and is still prone to mind numbing lapses on defense despite having two candidates for first team All-Defense in Tyson Chandler and Iman Shumpert.
Prior to this week starting, we knew the Knicks would need to split with Chicago and beat Milwaukee if they wanted a chance to make the playoffs. They pulled it off. Last night was a textbook example of this team finding a way despite their flaws. Milwaukee gave them their best shot in their building. Monta Ellis finally woke up and ripped off 35 points. Brandon Jennings hit a number of ridiculous shots en route to 22 points. Ekpe Udoh and Larry Sanders were blocking shots like Serge Ibaka and Dwight Howard but the Knicks still prevailed.
The primary reason is that Carmelo Anthony is playing as well as he ever has in his career. He dropped in 32 points on an efficient 13-26 from the field, along with grabbing 10 rebounds. Whenever the Knicks offense begins to sputter, he has found a way to bail them out. His support on the offensive end has been erratic at best. Tyson Chandler added 19 last night but really at this point JR Smith or Iman Shumper is the team’s number two scoring option.
Smith has been wildly inconsistent. He literally has zero conscience and will continue to jack up shots and make head scratching plays mixed in with making unbelievably difficult shots and distributing the ball like a point guard. Last night he was brutal for 3 and a 1/2 quarters but woke up when it mattered most and hit what turned out to be the game winning 3 pointer in the final minute. Simply put, he deserves the minutes over Landry Fields, a shooting guard who can’t shoot. I like Landry’s intangibles but you can’t play him in crunch time.
At point guard, Baron Davis is the starter in name only. He logged a forgetful 19 minutes last night and had more turnovers than assists. For some reason Davis repeatedly drives into the paint and passes up an easy shot to attempt a difficult pass that is usually stolen. The Knicks crunch time point guard is turning into rookie Iman Shumpert who played 42 minutes last night. We know how good Shumpert is on defense but his offense game still has a ways to go. He is inconsistent shooting the ball but similar to Smith, doesn’t lack confidence to attack the basket.
So this is what you have with the Knicks. A team entirely too reliant on an erratic shooting guard and a rookie point guard but a gutsy team that has shown an ability to scrap out wins. When you play defense and with confidence on offense, the wins will come. Will they come consistently enough to win a playoff series? That is the question that still needs to be answered.