|Carmelo Anthony, SF 41 MIN | 5-24 FG | 1-4 FT | 12 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 12 PTS | +5|BOOOOOOO!
Oddly enough, the Knicks actually — sorry you know what, hang on a minute.
OK that’s better. Oddly enough, despite how awful Melo was in this game, the Knicks lost this game in the 11 possessions that saw Melo on the pine, possessions in which — as was pointed out by beat writer extraordinaire Chris Herring — the Knicks got absolutely lit. UP.
This provides us with an excellent opportunity to ignore the totality of Melo’s performance this evening — and really the whole game because, and I ask this with nothing but sincerity: WHY? — and conduct a case study on the merits and shortcomings of the +/- statistic in the NBA! Aren’t we LUCKY?
Indeed, it is tempting to write off Melo’s hideous 5/24 shooting performance, his assortment of blown finishes and not-even-close foul shots, his headstrong chuckery even as a couple of his teammates (Shouts to JR and Felton) improbably began to heat up. Tempting to write those things off and point to the +5 in his stat line and conclude that he provided the “intangibles” necessary to give the Knicks an “edge” (or some other similarly half-hearted excuse) and that they only failed when they were without him. BECAUSE they were without him.
This would, of course, be bullcrap.
Herring’s tidbit starts to tell the story — what killed the Knicks in the 9 possessions when Melo sat was their defense. Was Melo’s absence the reason for their defensive failings? Well, Melo was completely unable to contain Alan Anderson (!) tonight, had little to do with Rudy Gay’s 4-for-21 (props for that, somehow, go largely to Raymond Felton), and can point to only his 10 defensive rebounds as evidence of any contribution on that side of the ball.
So, although it’s obviously dangerous to put too fine a point on a any conclusions relating to a parallel universe where Melo played the 7 minutes that he did not actually play, we can probably infer that he would have been unlikely to have a significant positive impact on the Knicks’ defense on those 11 fateful possessions UNLESS second-chance points were a significant element of the Raptors’ offensive success therein.
Let’s go to the play-by-play or, as I like to call it, “The 11 Possessions You Meet in Hell”:
Possession 1: (Q2 11:36 Rudy Gay makes 1-foot dunk (Alan Anderson assists))
First of all: Eesh. Tally it all up and that’s 21 points on 11 possessions (D-Efficiency of 190!), an absolutely stunning number under any circumstances but especially so given that the Raptors scored just 71 points in 87 possessions when Carmelo was on the court (D-Efficiency of 81.6 which, of course, would be historically great if sustained over even a few weeks).
So there’s our answer! Defense with Melo: great, Defense without Melo: terrible. Nice and clean. Except, wait, let’s look at how Toronto got those 21 points:
- 9 came on 3-pointers — two by Lucas and one by Anderson. Unlikely Melo would have done anything about Lucas’ and given how Anderson shot when Melo WAS guarding him, it’s unlikely he would have done much about that one either. Maybe he would’ve prevented Johnson’s offensive rebound but this was the only 2nd chance bucket Toronto had with Melo out.
- 2 came on free throws by DeRozan off of a Kidd foul. No reason to think Melo changes this.
- The remaining 10 came inside 12 feet. This last point is key because there’s one other thing about Toronto’s 11 offensive possessions without Melo on the court. Ready for it? Have you already guessed it?
Tyson Chandler was also on the bench for all 11 of those possessions. Amar’e Stoudemire was playing center on ALL 11 of those possessions. And Toronto had 5 makes from close range and a three off of a second chance opportunity.
I have generally been a supporter of using some Amare-at-the-5 lineups; frankly I don’t see another choice given the current complement of Knick injuries and the Prigs/Shump/STAT/shooters look has been mostly excellent on the offensive end. But tonight, the Knicks got burned for 11 possessions with Amar’e playing center and those burns proved fatal (and his 4/13 shooting performance did nothing to offset the disaster at the defensive end).
If Carmelo had been on the court for most or all of those possessions, the Knicks wouldn’t have won the game; Carmelo would simply have had a negative +/-.
|Tyson Chandler, C 34 MIN | 4-6 FG | 2-2 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | +6|Anchored a very good defensive effort tonight. See Melo’s section: aside from 11 stray possessions when Tyson was on the bench, their defense was superhuman. Had some nice finishes as well, one reverse alley-oop finish off a ball screen in the second quarter stands out in particular.|
|Jason Kidd, PG 32 MIN | 0-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +6|In. Visible.|
|Raymond Felton, PG 41 MIN | 3-9 FG | 10-12 FT | 4 REB | 5 AST | 4 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 16 PTS | +3|Ray’s been taking a beating on the defensive end lately and that beating has carried over into the world of Knicks’ social media. Woodson has insisted upon using him on quick point guards and they’ve torched him on the reg. Tonight he mostly guarded Rudy Gay, which sounds crazy. Gay went 4-for-21. Crazy like a fox? Or lucky like a duck? Or crazy like a bulldog? Or lucky like a Penguin? WOOF WOOF WADDLE WADDLE QUACK QUACK…FOX NOISE.Despite the team’s overall output, Ray ran the offense pretty gamely also. I think the Knicks’ shot selection tonight was better than it’s been in most of their games since the calendar turned. They just couldn’t hit anything. Not the point guard’s fault (except for his own 3/9 mark but even that was basically washed out by his 10/12 from the stripe). A nice performance on a crappy night.|
|Iman Shumpert, PG 21 MIN | 1-3 FG | 3-4 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 5 PTS | -10|Hit the boards. Defense was fine I guess, mostly had him chasing shooters off the ball again which is never my favorite. Invisible on offense.|
|Amar’e Stoudemire, PF 18 MIN | 4-13 FG | 2-2 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | -13|The worst Knick tonight by a decent margin. As bad as Melo on offense and worse — and more critically so — on defense.
He’s been great the past month. He was terrible tonight.
|Steve Novak, SF 12 MIN | 3-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 9 PTS | +2|Is it me or do we get him more shots on nights when he doesn’t have it than on night’s when he does? 9 points and 4 boards on 4 shots in 12 minutes which is awesome but on a night when we couldn’t buy a bucket by conventional measures why only 12 minutes? Why only 4 shots? Could’ve stood to give him a few of Carmelo’s FORTY-FRIGGING-ONE minutes, that’s for sure.|
|Pablo Prigioni, PG 7 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -7|Not much to go on tonight so I will just restate my disappointment that he won’t be in the Rookie/Sophomore Game where he could have a chance to psyche out one of his teenage opponents by telling him that he hooked up with his mom when she was on Spring Break in Buenos Aires in the late 80’s. The world is poorer.|
|J.R. Smith, SG 34 MIN | 8-17 FG | 5-8 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 26 PTS | -12|In the land of the low-percentage offense, the one-eyed Earl is King. Was so, so sure he was gonna get hot down the stretch and win us this one. Proved to be right on one of two counts, I suppose. I hate to say that anyone other than Melo should have been our first option in the dying minutes but he really didn’t have it at all tonight. Would’ve liked to see JR have a go.|
|James White, SG DNP COACH’S DECISION MIN | FG | FT | REB | AST | STL | BLK | TO | PTS || THREE DAYS TIL THE SLAM DUNK CONTEST!!!!|
|Mike Woodson |A pretty good grade for the potato man tonight. The offense created decent looks; Woody can’t make the shots. The defensive match-ups and schemes worked nicely; it ain’t Woody’s fault that we didn’t sign a back-up center under the age of 38. His team held the opposition to 42.5% shooting, turned it over only 11 times, had 20 (TWENTY!!!) offensive rebounds. Defense, discipline, effort — these were not the issues. Can’t pin this one on the coach. My one gripe was that we didn’t see more Novak on a night when he seemed to have it and the other forwards didn’t.|
Five Things We Saw
- An abomination of a game before the eyes of our Benevolent Maker. Or, for the less religiously inclined, before the eyes of Bernard King which is really almost as bad.
- I mean what can you say? They really didn’t play THAT badly they just missed a TON of easy shots. I get that this isn’t a game that you can lose and feel good about yourself but this is not the kind of performance that we need to worry about in the long run. The things that went wrong tonight were weird and flukey. Deciding that tonight says anything damning about the team is tantamount to saying that a night where they hit 60% of their threes is proof that they’ll cruise to the Finals (and, yes, I know those people are out there).
- The timing here does kind of stink though. The Clipper loss was demoralizing enough but at least that happened against a contender. This happened against a lifeless Raps group that wasn’t even defending well and it happened on a day that sets us up for a week of “Are the Knicks Fading?!?!” stories which, while not entirely unreasonable in concept, will surely have all the incisive, analytical, measured gravitas of a frat boy getting kicked out of a bar at Mardi Gras.
- So this is the All-Star Break and we’re 32-18 after an 18-5 start. The glass-half-fullers among us will focus on the first two thirds of that sentence and the glass-half-emptiers on the last third. I think the biggest thing to take from the ups and downs of the Knicks season thus far is that they need their depth to be special. The sword hanging over this team since training camp has been its age and propensity for injuries and when they’re unable to field a complete wing rotation or a legitimate backup center, mistakes get made. Worse, injuries and inconsistency mean that those able-bodied players that CAN be trusted get run into the ground, which leads to more injuries, which resets the cycle. This is a good basketball team and it should be applauded for playing passably throughout the season despite being forced into a number of different iterations. But it’s going to need its full complement of weapons — and it’s going to need those weapons back in time to get the rotation just right — if it’s going any deeper than the second round of the playoffs.
- Put me down for 51 wins and a First Round victory as I sit here tonight. I want to see the matchup and who’s healthy before I go any deeper than that.And with that, we can put the non-mathematical “First Half” of the season in the books, call it a success with some notable asterisks, and look forward to the most compelling homestretch in more than a decade.
- Don’t miss it.