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New Look Knicks Lack Defense, Toughness


New York Knicks' head coach Mike D'Antoni reacts in the second half of the NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers in New York, Sunday, March 13, 2011. The Pacers beat the Knicks 106-93. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

If you pay attention to all the Knicks commercials on the Madison Square Garden network you would think the Knicks were among the best teams in the NBA.

Carmelo Anthony is home, one commercial tells us.


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Landry Fields shouldn’t be one of the best rookies in the NBA—but is—another hyped-up commercial explains.

After Anthony came to the Knicks in a trade with the Denver Nuggets right before the Feb. 24 deadline, the MSG network started pushing out a flurry of commercials, because apparently, the “Knicks are back.”

When you look at the team now, that statement seems a little bit premature.

The Knicks and their big three of Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire and Chauncey Billups look old and disinterested. Maybe the “big three” watched too many of those MSG commercials and believed the hype.

Since acquiring Anthony and Billups, the Knicks are 6-6 and suffered two embarrassing losses to the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers. Just recently, they lost back-to-back games to the Indiana Pacers.

After losing at home to the Pacers last Sunday the Knicks talked big. They said their defense would improve. They said they would come back with more energy as they prepared to take on the Pacers again on Tuesday. Unfortunately for the Knicks, they talked big, but weren’t able to control the paint, and were out hustled throughout the game.

At one point, there was a loose ball directly beneath the hoop and three Knicks were looking around as a Pacer picked up the ball and scored. And that was after they talked about coming out with more energy and emotion.

The Knicks (34-32) are currently tied for sixth in the Eastern Conference with the Philadelphia 76ers—a young team that has surprised the league under new coach Doug Collins.

They are still six games up on the Indiana Pacers for the eighth and final spot in the conference required to make it to the playoffs. Although they are struggling, it would take a huge meltdown for the Knicks to fall out of playoff contention.

As the Miami Heat have shown throughout the season, it takes a while for great players to blend in and play together. The Heat still haven’t put it all together, and that’s through 68 games this season.

Nobody can fault the team for struggling due to a lack of chemistry. But what every coach expects is a team to play with energy and emotion, especially during a playoff race.

Their biggest win during their short run together was when they beat the Heat in Miami back in February. They played with heart, energy and actually showed off some defense. The final possession for the Heat was an example of how the Knicks played tough and didn’t back down.

LeBron James was isolated against Carmelo Anthony with the game on the line. He drove to the basket and Anthony stayed with him the whole way. When James went up, Anthony got a piece of the ball, and then Stoudemire helped out just in time to block the shot, and secure the victory for the Knicks.

Against one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference the Knicks showed heart and toughness. Against two of the worst teams in the league they looked lazy and lacked intensity on defense.

As they hit the stretch run the Knicks should look back on that game against the Heat and learn how to play together on defense like they did on that final possession.

With only 16 games left in the season, they don’t have much time to get it together, but they can. Scoring isn’t the problem, just their effort and their defensive play.

Starting Thursday against the Memphis Grizzlies they need to gang up on the ball like they did to James in Miami, instead of looking around while somebody else on another team picks up a loose ball and slams it home.

Apparently, those commercials got to their head.

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