Entering Tuesday's nationally televised contest against the Los Angeles Lakers, in theory, the New York Knicks were still in the running for the final playoff seed in the Eastern Conference. With 12 games to go and trailing the Atlanta Hawks by 2.5 games for the eighth seed, it was mathematically possible for the Knicks to finagle their way into the postseason. In actuality, though, the New York Knicks were never really a threat to make the playoffs; when it comes down to it, the Knicks are no more than a middling team that is able to display flashes of brilliance, but inevitably regresses back to their mediocre form.
For those who are in doubt as to the true make-up of the Knicks roster, the way in which they were run out of the gym by the Los Angeles Lakers, who currently sit in 14th place in the Western Conference, should have definitively shown what the Knicks are capable of doing (e.g., losing badly) and what they are incapable of doing (e.g., playing even the most infinitesimal hints of acceptable defense). In losing 127-96 to what has been a struggling club all season, the Knicks put to rest any thoughts that they are capable of making a run to the playoffs.
Although the loss ended up being one of the most embarrassing the Knicks have suffered this season, which is saying a lot since the Knicks have lost on 42 separate occasions and have had plenty of opportunities to lose badly, it was not a complete disaster from the opening tip. The Knicks actually led for the first fourteen minutes and twenty seconds of the contest before the Lakers wrested the lead away from them, thanks to an Xavier Henry three-pointer that tipped the balances of the scoreboard in favor of the Lakers.
From that point in the second quarter, the Lakers gradually built up the foundation of their lead, making sure that the infrastructure was secure before they erected an advantage of such skyscraping proportions the Knicks could only stand and watch helplessly, knowing they would never be able to scale the heights quickly enough to overcome their opponent.
At halftime, the Lakers held an eight-point lead. By the end of the third quarter, the Lakers were leading by 28 points as they were able to overwhelm a Knicks defense that continually, and unsurprisingly, failed to make the easiest defensive rotations or adjustments or even acknowledge the fact that the NBA rules allow defenders to communicate with each other. As a result of the non-existent defense the Knicks played in the third quarter combined with some outstandingly hot shooting on their part, the Lakers converted on 19 of their 26 field goal attempts in the period, which translated to a robust .731 field goal percentage.
If a horrendously bad defensive performance were an exception for the Knicks, then one would be inclined to cut them some slack and chalk it up to a bad night, but when bad defensive nights become the norm, there are no more excuses to make. All that is left is to classify the Knicks roster as one whose most consistent ability lies not in stopping their opponent from scoring, but in making sure that their opponent has as easy a time scoring as is possible; perhaps the Knicks are simply being benevolent to the teams they play.
After Tuesday's loss to the Lakers, there should be no more false hope surrounding the Knicks franchise. More than likely, their season will end after their 82nd regular game season, and instead of setting unreachable goals like reaching the postseason, the Knicks should start settling for tasks they might actually accomplish. One of those goals should be to make sure that their opponent does not have one of the best offensive performances of the season against them. Never mind; even that goal might be an unreachable one for the Knicks at this point.