The New York Knicks suffered their first loss of the season Friday night on the road against the Memphis Grizzlies (105-95). The difference in this game came from the free-throw line where the Grizzlies were able to connect on 10 more shots.
Memphis showed just how tough they are to beat when their front line plays well. Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol combined for 61 points while Randolph pulled down 15 boards (five more than Chandler and Anthony combined) by himself. Memphis is currently on the longest winning streak of any team this season, having won their last eight games following their win on Saturday night against the Charlotte Bobcats.
Finally, the Knicks showed that they do have areas of vulnerability. To begin with, we can state that Carmelo Anthony really isn’t a power forward. Anthony is a superstar wing and has the ability to grab a large amount of rebounds on any given night. He can step into the power forward spot for periods of the game because he is strong enough to do so. He also has the quickness and talent to cause problems for opposing players on the other end. That does not however, mean that Anthony is easily capable of defending premier post players for long stretches of time. He does not want to have to check players like Zach Randolph on the block for any longer than he absolutely has to. This is the main area that New York will benefit from Amare’ Stoudemire’s return.
The Knicks are also a team that relies heavily on the three-point shot. They will live and die by the three. Friday against Memphis the Knicks cooled down a little bit. They finished the game shooting 26% from three compared to the Grizzlies’ 33%. They will typically be the better three-point shooting team, but on off nights New York will need to find other ways to gain an advantage against their opponents. When you couple the poor shooting with an opposition that also wins the battle of points in the paint, such as Memphis did, it will be difficult to win basketball games. While Stoudemire remains out of the lineup, teams facing New York must look to be aggressive in getting their post players established inside.
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On Sunday morning New York was able to bounce back from their first loss by beating the Indiana Pacers 88-76. The Knicks improve to a 7-1 record and remain unbeaten at Madison Square Garden. The Pacers on the other hand, have been struggling without their star player Danny Granger and have fallen to a 4-7 record. Indiana was only able to get two players into double figures in the scoring column with Paul George scoring 20 points and David West finishing the game with 14.
For Pacer fans, you have to wonder what is going on with Roy Hibbert. He only managed to go 3-10 from the field, ending the game with six points and grabbing eight rebounds. You would expect more from a player coming off his first all-star appearance last season. His numbers today looked much like the stat line of Rasheed Wallace: nine points and seven rebounds (only seven field goal attempts). This is a huge area of concern for Indiana. This may tell us that Hibbert’s all-star year last season was a one hit wonder. It may also tell us that Rasheed can still play a little basketball and has filled in nicely off the bench for Mike Woodson.
New York shot below average again from beyond the arc (28%) but easily won the turnover battle committing only nine turnovers, whereas Indiana gave the ball up 19 times. With the Knicks also grabbing 15 offensive rebounds, they were able to put up 90 shots as the Pacers only attempted 71.
Taking care of the ball has become an area of strength for this New York team. At 10.6 turnovers a game, the Knicks are committing fewer mistakes than any team in the league. This is not entirely surprising with the amount of experience that New York has. J.R. Smith is most susceptible to give the ball up, but has managed to keep his turnovers very much in control by committing just over one a game. It seems as though the veteran bunch has rubbed off on Smith having a positive impact on his game and keeping him focused.
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The Knicks will begin a three-game road trip on Tuesday night as they face off against Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Hornets.