That is the only possible way to deem losses to the Kings and Suns as successful, however. In every other way the games were as bad as anything we've seen from the Knicks in this season of rebirth. The offense on Monday was better than it was on Friday night, but the defense still specializes in allowing wide open looks at the basket for the opposition. The Knicks don't fight through screens, they don't rotate fast enough and they didn't bother rebounding when the Suns would miss an occasional gimme.
A lack of defensive effort is at the top of the list of reasons for the three-game skid, but there's plenty of company. Raymond Felton's play has cratered with awful shooting and lackadaisical defense after two months of glorious performances. Wilson Chandler can't hit an open shot and you have to wonder if both men are slumping or if they are regressing to the mean. It's never good when you are pinning your dreams to a slump.
Amar'e Stoudemire is brilliant on offense and he's playing out of position, but you can't rationalize an athlete of his ability being unable to grab rebounds. And he's got to be smarter. He has 12 technicals now and he'll be suspended after his 16th, something the team simply cannot afford even if the great majority of the technicals are a result of the NBA's desire to paint the players in as bad a light as possible in advance of the coming labor negotiations.
Danilo Gallinari was back Monday, but he still defers far too often and remains a forgotten man to his teammates. Toney Douglas runs the offense about as well as Isiah Thomas ran the team, the bench doesn't have a scorer capable of carrying the team when the big guns are out and Mike D'Antoni's substitution patterns remain baffling.
Those are reasons, we've also got excuses. There's the cumulative toll of heavy minutes on the team's star players, something that doesn't figure to get any better. The Anthony trade talk continues to hang around and has to have some effect on those involved. And D'Antoni raised the question of overconfidence on Monday, which makes a lot of sense given the way the team has flopped against two straight bad teams on their home floor.
It's not an equation that adds up to anything good. The screams for Anthony will likely increase as a result of these losses, especially with Donnie Walsh talking about being able to grab first rounders, but the issues on defense and the glass won't disappear if 'Melo arrives. That doesn't mean it's a bad idea, just that it isn't a cure-all for a team that's coming to terms with their flaws all of a sudden.