The Knicks defense, or lack thereof, remains a major problem. (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images)
You don't often get opportunities to sum up a loss so succinctly, so let's take advantage of this one, from the third quarter of the New York Knicks' dispiriting 103-80 Monday matinee blowout at the hands of the Brooklyn Nets:
Nets point guard Deron Williams, back in the lineup after five games on the shelf with a sprained left ankle, runs a high pick-and-roll with reserve forward Mirza Teletovic. Knicks point guard Pablo Prigioni, back in the lineup after missing 16 games with a fractured right big toe, works over Teletovic's screen, but stays with the Bosnian big man, because the Knicks (somewhat maddeningly) pretty much always switch ball screens under head coach Mike Woodson's defensive philosophy. Knicks center Andrea Bargnani, however, does not seem to be on board with that strategy, so he stays with Teletovic, too.
The result? Williams, who entered the game shooting 41.9 percent from 3-point range (including a 50 percent mark from the left-hand side of the floor), gets a wide-open look from the left wing, which he splashes to put Brooklyn up 19 points. As the ball ripples through the twine, Carmelo Anthony, seated on the bench during one his brief periods of rest, drops his head in defeat before lifting it up, the disappointment written clear as day across his face.
That's about the size of what transpired at Madison Square Garden on Monday. Anthony, the league leader in minutes per game at 39.2, scored 26 points on 8 for 19 shooting. The rest of the Knicks offered him a frustrating lack of help, contributing 54 points on 16 for 52 (30.8 percent) shooting, with Raymond Felton, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert combining to go 8 for 31. The reintegration of Prigioni into the lineup, and the return to the small-ball, Melo-at-power-forward, two-point-guards configuration that powered the Knicks' offense last season was largely cosmetic, as Prigioni played just 19 minutes and was yanked in favor of Smith early in both the first and third quarters, but even so, the two-PG look wasn't such a hot one in this particular contest, as the Knicks shot just 31.3 percent from the field and were outscored by four points in 10 Felton-Prigioni minutes, too.
The New York defense repeatedly switched ball screens to give Brooklyn advantageous matchups all over the court, and especially when Bargnani was on the floor. When the Nets pressed one of those advantages, the Knicks either provided overly aggressive help defense or outright doubled, giving Jason Kidd's team opportunities to swing the ball from side to side and find open looks, especially from the perimeter — Brooklyn went 14 for 38 from 3-point range, with Joe Johnson knocking down 4 of 8 on the way to a team-high 25 points to go with six rebounds, five assists and no turnovers in 30 minutes.
Nets reserve Andray Blatche feasted on the uncommunicative Knick defense, too, pouring in 19 points on 9 for 11 shooting, while adding 12 rebounds, two steals and some legitimately helpful defensive work off the bench. All told, Brooklyn looked like a team with a plan and the means to execute it; they've now won seven of eight since the start of 2014 to improve to 17-22, sliding into the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference and coming within 2 1/2 games of the Toronto Raptors for the Atlantic Division lead.
The Knicks, on the other hand, looked like ... well, the Knicks. Bad on-ball defense, bad help, bad non-Anthony scoring, poor ball movement and, for the fourth straight game — and the 13th time this season — a double-digit defeat. After yet another home-court debacle, Anthony's not the only one left staring in dismay and shaking his head in disbelief.
Video via gsports bball.
- - - - - - -
- Sports & Recreation
- Brooklyn Nets
- New York Knicks
- Pablo Prigioni
- Mirza Teletovic
- Deron Williams