Unless one just happens to be a psychopath, beating a dead horse will eventually become monotonous. So while one can easily find a myriad of issues on which to lambaste and criticize the Knicks for once again losing a contest, as they did on Tuesday night when they fell 109-94 to the Cleveland Cavaliers, let's take a moment and find some silver linings in the Knicks' performance. Let's also ignore the fact that for there to be a silver lining, there must first be a cloud, and having lost their 15th game of the season, and their seventh by double digits, there is a cloud hundreds of miles across hovering over the Knicks franchise.
Still, not all was absolutely abysmal for the Knicks on Tuesday as they did receive valuable contributions from two of their highest-paid players, exactly where teams rely on getting most of their production. Carmelo Anthony, around whom the Knicks offense is built, handled his high-usage responsibilities in incredibly proficient fashion during the contest. For the game, Anthony shot 9 of 15 on his two-point attempts, 3 of 4 from three-point range, and also converted on both of his free throw attempts.
His 29 points led the Knicks offense, and his efficient shooting was made all the more remarkable by the high degree of difficulty of most of his shots. Anthony fashions himself an elite jump shooter, which he is not more often than he is, but on Tuesday he was at the top of his game and managed to produce 143 points per 100 possessions despite only taking two shots in the paint and attempting no other shot closer than 13 feet.
Anthony's teammate, Amar'e Stoudemire, took a much different approach to his scoring in the contest. Where Anthony plied his offensive trade like he was allergic to the paint, Stoudemire reveled in the quality looks he received in the paint, making it his home for the evening. All but one of Stoudemire's shot attempts were hoisted up from the paint and he made 7 of his 10 field goal attempts for the contest; he also chipped in a lone free throw, giving him 15 points for the contest, second-highest for the Knicks.
While Anthony and Stoudemire were the stars for the Knicks on offense, the Knicks also received positive contributions from a couple of their role players. Pablo Prigioni made the most of his limited shot opportunities, knocking down two of his five three-point attempts in the game, but was at his best with his distribution of the ball. Despite playing in the Knicks' isolation-heavy, stagnant offense, Prigioni was still able to dish out nine assists, meaning he assisted on 44.0 percent of the Knicks' made baskets during his 27 minutes on the floor, while only turning the ball over once.
Rookie Tim Hardaway, while not excelling overall in the game and showing a complete lack of disdain for filling up the stat sheet, did score nine points on only seven field goal attempts, giving the Knicks one more efficient player on offense.
Even with four players playing so well on offense and the team able to score at an above-average rate for at least one contest, the Knicks offense was simply no match for the ineptitude of the Knicks defense that was no match for the mastery of Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving. Or really, any part of the Cavaliers offense not named Andrew Bynum and Dion Waiters.
Irving was unstoppable on Tuesday, or at least the Knicks made him look the part, as he scored 37 points, shared the wealth with his teammates with 11 assists, dominated a huge percentage of the Cavaliers' offensive possessions (37.0 percent), and produced 156 points per 100 possessions. It was a tour de force performance and one for which the Knicks simply had no answer, not that they have had any answers on defense all season.
With Irving leading the way, the Cavaliers scored 124.6 points per 100 possessions, just a fantastical number.
By their very nature, silver linings will always be overwhelmed by the clouds they find themselves in as the Knicks experienced first-hand on Tuesday. Getting a few good performances from their players did not matter in the long run because the team does so few things right and so very many things wrong, a fact of which their opponents are more than happy to take advantage.