Just when you think the New York Knicks are about to break the surly bonds of ineptitude and take flight among the less mediocre teams in the NBA, they come crashing back to earth in a fiery blaze of incompetence. After winning four straight games to end the month of January on a high note, the Knicks have not lost two straight, with their second defeat coming at the hands of the worst team in the NBA, the Milwaukee Bucks, who dealt the Knicks a 101-98 defeat on Monday night. In a season full of embarrassments, losing to the Bucks comes close to taking the cake.
Not every loss is cause for a team to sit in a dark room and weep uncontrollably, but one would not be able to fault the Knicks if that is what they felt like doing after losing the contest. Losing to the Bucks is bad enough, but the Knicks lost without even being in control of the match-up at any point. The biggest lead the Knicks held against the Bucks, who it is worth noting entered the game having only won eight out of their 47 contests for a winning percentage of .170, was seven points and that lead lasted for all of three minutes and 37 seconds in the second quarter before the Bucks tied the game at 31-31. For most of the rest of the game, the Knicks were forced to play catch-up against an opponent that has been outscored by 10.2 points per 100 possessions this season.
To the Knicks' credit, they were able to stay in the contest and actually make a close game of it in the fourth quarter. After falling behind by 10 points with 9:23 remaining in the game, the Knicks went on an offensive tear, going on a 11-2 run over the next 3:31 of game time with Carmelo Anthony accounting for nine of the Knicks' 11 points during that span.
However, in what was the start of a recurring theme for the Knicks as the fourth quarter wound down, while they could keep within sniffing distance of taking the lead, they were unable to overcome the Bucks because they were unable to keep the Bucks from scoring crucial basket after crucial basket. In fact, the Knicks never actually held a lead in the fourth quarter with the best the team was actually to accomplish being tying the game up a few times before inevitably allowing the Bucks to make another shot or sending the Bucks to the free throw line where the Bucks had no issues converting.
Although the shot-making of the Knicks in the fourth quarter bordered on the spectacular, thanks mostly to Carmelo Anthony who scored 17 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter and was responsible for 58.6 percent of the Knicks' fourth-quarter point total (29), it all came to naught for the very same reason their offensive output usually matters so little to their winning efforts: there was no defense to accompany the offense.
In what has been a recurring defensive nightmare for the Knicks, the club turned one of the worst NBA offenses into an elite one. For the season, the Bucks have scored just 99.1 points per 100 possessions, but on Monday against the Knicks, who have established themselves as a mediocre offense's best friend, the Bucks scored at the rate of 115.8 points per 100 possessions; effectively, the Bucks were a league-leading offense on Monday.
The Knicks were no slouch on offense, either, as they scored 112.4 points per 100 possessions, which is not really a surprise considering the Bucks have allowed opponents to score 109.3 points per 100 possessions this season, but they squandered all that offensive efficiency in the end.
While the Knicks have established themselves as an offensive force that can score at a very efficient rate most nights, they will never establish themselves as an overall force if they continue to perform as they did against the Bucks. They might win a few games in a shootout-like manner, but it is certainly no way to try to win consistently on a nightly basis as the Knicks seem to enjoy continually reminding themselves.
If a loss to the Bucks is not enough to serve as a wake-up call for the Knicks franchise, then they are likely to sleepdefense their way through more losses as the season progresses.