Defense might win championships in the long run, but it’s certainly not solely enough for a team to win each and every ball game.
Coach Mike Woodson can preach defense as the key to the Knicks’ success this season all he wants. The fact is, with proven results as of late, he’s completely justified to think that way.
But on Saturday evening, a solid defensive effort wasn’t all it took to put away the Bulls in Chicago.
The Knicks only allowed 93 points in their 93-85 loss to the Derrick Rose-less Bulls, but while they worked hard to keep the game close, the team’s fluidity on offense was nowhere to be found.
What’s been different about the Knicks this season is that they’ve been seen shutting down the weaker teams in the league with ease. Even if they struggle to put forth a dominant effort, New York always seems to be within striking distance of its opponent. The team is in position to win every game.
And Saturday night was no different. The Knicks kept up with Chicago well into the fourth quarter, but in the end, the shots simply weren’t falling.
For a team that let the bombs fly (successfully) to help them sink the Heat on Thursday, New York simply couldn’t catch a break on offense in Chicago.
Without Carmelo Anthony for a second straight contest, the Knicks struggled to find someone who could carry the load offensively. Raymond Felton led his squad with 27 points, but shot just 9 of 30 from the field. While he did attack the basket and get to the line efficiently (having made 8 of 9 free throws), it was clear the floor general needed some help.
It was that same necessary assistance Felton never received. J.R. Smith’s struggles from the field continued, as the swingman made just 4 of his 14 shots. His shooting percentage dropped a hair below 40% for the season.
Aside from Felton and Smith, scorers were even rarer to find on the court for the Knickerbockers. Steve Novak was completely shut down by the Bulls’ defense, as the opponent covered him perfectly while limiting the forward to just four shots.
This game eerily reminded me of one of those contests right before Jeremy Lin burst out with a case of “Linsanity.” With Carmelo Anthony or Amar’e Stoudemire both sidelined, the Knicks had been struggling to score the basketball. There was little to no ball movement, and no one was stepping up to emerge as the hero. Until Lin came along.
Lin not only attacked the basket to score with ease last season, but also worked hard to get his teammates involved and elevate each one’s own respective offensive contribution.
With the Knicks obviously now Lin-less, someone else will eventually need to step up to help pace the team’s efforts on offense. Felton simply cannot do it on his own.
It will be interesting to see if a hero will sooner or later emerge, or if Carmelo Anthony will indeed return to fill the void when the Knicks take on his former team, the Nuggets, later tonight at The Garden.