Whether the product of sheer West Coast jetlag, an injury-riddled roster, or a New Year’s Eve team peyote seance, New York’s deflating 90-85 loss to the Raptors Monday night wasn’t exactly the kind of start to 2012 we’d hoped for.
Despite cutting the Raptor lead to three at various points down the stretch, the Knicks were unable to dig themselves out of a 17-point halftime deficit — a woeful stretch in which they shot a Y League-like 28% from the field, including 5-19 from behind the arch.
Carmelo Anthony led all scorers with 35 points. On 31 shots. That’s it — that’s the joke.
Tyson Chandler netted his second consecutive double-double, chalking 11 points, 10 boards, and pawing away a number of loose balls down the stretch which failed to materialize into points at the opposite end. Chandler also logged 43 minutes — the most he’s played in a four-quarter game since 2008. Which, when you realize the Knicks needed all 44 of them, isn’t the best of signs.
Once more the ficklest of beasts, Toney Douglas finished with 22 points, four rebounds, four assists, and only one turnover. He also took 19 shots, got lost on a number of ball screens, and — judging by Mike D’Antoni’s sideline reaction — ran the wrong play out of a late timeout with the Knicks down three, resulting in a desperate Melo huck with a full 14 seconds left in regulation.
After a promising outing against the Kings on Saturday — where he had his first professional double-double not purchased at In-‘N-Out Burger (14 points and 10 ‘bounds) — Josh Harrellson’s two points, five boards, and pair of side-of-the-backboard heaves brought the rookie fan fave back down to Earth.
Still, the noobig (noob + big = noobig) made a number of admirable hustle plays, and took shots that seemed totally reasonable at the time… before they sprouted wings and flew away.
Meanwhile, Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozen paced the ‘Ptors with 21 each — both of them on 13 shots — as Toronto improved to 2-3 under new skipper Dwayne Casey.
The already heroin-thin ‘Bocker bench tallied just 10 points, with the four largely comatose contributors — Mike Bibby, Steve Novak, Bill Walker, and Jerome Jordan — netting an average +/- of -11.
Think that’s crazy? Landry Fields went 1-7 from the floor, grabbed three rebounds, committed at least two criminally inept crunch time fouls, and ended up with a +13. Numberz!
After a bounce-back Saturday outing against the Kings in which they connected on 10-28 three point attempts, the Knicks were stymied from distance, hitting just 10 of their 35 tries — many of them wild heel ricochets and heavy front-rim grazes.
Playing their second consecutive game sans a hobbled Amar’e Stoudemire, the ‘Bockers reverted time and again to a default Melo-on-five offensive scheme, with mixed results. On the one hand, Anthony really was the only reliable option in an offense still searching for a consistent rhythm, scoring 11 fourth quarter points to keep the Knicks within striking distance.
On the other hand, Anthony seemed at times preemptively reluctant to look beyond the linear plane of defender-and-basket, on more than one occasion driving recklessly into a collapsing defense and failing to find the open shooter.
In the wake of three losses in four games, the Knicks’ Christmas demon-shunning of the Celtics now seems as distant as a deckled fir’s unwrapped booty; their rotation’s depth a fading menorah’s meer shadow.
Luckily, help appears to be on the way: The extra night’s rest should be enough for Amar’e Stoudemire’s and his ailing ankle to give it the old college try on Wednesday. Or high school try. Whatever.
Iman Shumpert, meanwhile, surprised many Monday afternoon when word leaked that the much-heralded rookie — once expected to be out as long as six weeks – could be back in full battle garb as early as Wednesday.
Given the dearth of offensive firepower, neither can lace ‘em up soon enough.
Prior to the game, many a Knick fan were lamenting the ongoing Time Warner-MSG feud for depriving countless thousands the pleasure of enjoying their beloved hoopsters. But if the two sides somehow end up coming to terms before Wednesday’s date with the Bobcats, it’ll be those of us who were able to watch — indeed, had to watch — last night’s drawn-out dud that’ll seem the dumber.