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If the story on Sunday afternoon at the Garden was that the Knicks showed up just in time to save the day, the story on Tuesday night was that the Knicks were a step slow across the board.
That was best exemplified by a play in the fourth quarter with the Knicks down 10 and desperately trying to find a way back into the game. Baron Davis, who played his typically whirling game of alternating assists and hideous turnovers, knocked a ball away on defense but lost the ball before completing the steal.
Kyle Korver recovered, whipped the ball to a wide open Taj Gibson and the Bulls led by 12 when it seemed the Knicks were going to cut the lead back to single digits. It was like that all night for the Knicks.
They were a beat slow on the boards, giving the Bulls 15 second chances thanks to offensive rebounds, and they left three-point shooters open a moment too long on several different occasions on their way to a 98-86 loss.
The loss means winning Wednesday night's game in Milwaukee becomes absolutely necessary for the Knicks as they'd fall out of playoff position with a loss.
Avoiding such a loss won't be easy if the Knicks don't figure out a slightly better offensive approach. Playing Hero Ball with Carmelo Anthony isn't a terrible strategy and it worked out fairly well with Melo on Tuesday night as he hit 11-of-19 shots for 29 points, but there needs to be a way to generate points with someone other than Anthony.
That's not going to happen if teams keep doing what the Bulls did defensively on Tuesday. They trapped Anthony high in the zone, forced the ball out of his hands and allowed the rest of the Knicks to try to beat them.
Because Davis isn't very good and the team doesn't have another point guard who can run the offense, scoring comes down to giving J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, Toney Douglas and Landry Fields a ton of shots that come out of iso-heavy sets. Those sets work with Anthony, but not so much with these other guys who went 14-of-40 from the floor and Anthony isn't going to overcome those kinds of performances on a nightly basis.
It would be nice to think that there's a solution to this problem with the flow on offense, but, frankly, it is hard to see one on the current roster. There will be nights when Shumpert's energy is enervating, but also ones like Tuesday when his every jangle makes you nervous and winds up creating more problems than solutions.
There will also be nights when Smith gets hot and there will hopefully be a point when Steve Novak rediscovers his shot after missing all eight in the last two games, but the lack of a point guard is just as big a problem right now as it was in the first few weeks of the season. That means more Hero Ball and it means running the risk that some nights will end without the hero getting a chance to take his gun out of the holster.
If that turns out to be the case in Milwaukee, the Knicks might find themselves a step too slow when the music stops on the entire season.