The Knicks Can't Stop Losing

Knicks have lost six straight and seem to have no answers

By Josh Alper
|  Monday, Jan 23, 2012  |  Updated 7:22 AM EDT
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For the Knicks, Saturday night's double overtime loss to the Nuggets felt like much more than the 16th game of an NBA season.

Even though it marked the end of the first quarter of this truncated season, 16 games is still not enough to write any obituaries or celebratory odes to a basketball team.

The Knicks, who entered with five straight losses and an angry fan base, couldn't be written off just because they lost.

And lose they did as an Andre Miller desperation three, Tyson Chandler's sixth foul and the haunting image of an improved Danilo Gallinari combined to send the Knicks to a sixth straight loss.

Those were the final notes of the loss, but the entire symphony told the story of a season that has gone terribly wrong for the Knicks.

Carmelo Anthony carried the Knicks to overtime with a strong fourth quarter, but he was dreadful for the first three quarters as he hit just three of 17 shots in another poor shooting performance that made you wonder if his wrist injury is worse than reported or if there's something else bothering a player who simply isn't as bad as he's looked for long stretches of this season.

Amar'e Stoudemire was barely evident outside of getting whistled for a technical and missing a key free throw in the fourth quarter.

Stoudemire took just nine shots all night, compared to 30 for Melo, and he fades deeper and deeper into the background of the team with every passing game. The fact that he isn't getting regular touches is troubling, but so is the fact that he can't seem to make the shots that were second nature to him a year ago.

Stoudemire barely saw the ball down the stretch as the Knicks once again went with the all-Melo all the time approach to the offense, something that can be easily blamed on Anthony, Mike D'Antoni or both. But suggesting that the team simply spread the ball around is too facile because there's no one else on the team who seems willing or worthy of having the ball in their hands during key moments.

Landry Fields showed some flashes on Saturday night, so perhaps he's finding his role after a long walk through the wilderness but the rest of the team isn't doing much of anything to earn the trust needed to let the players take big chances offensively.

There are moments where you need to try -- this picture shows one from the end of the first overtime when Melo refused to pass out of a triple team -- but let's not make it seem like the rest of the team is particularly well-suited to the task at hand.

That's an issue with the makeup of the roster, obviously, and the seriousness of that problem was underscored by watching Gallinari (and Timofey Mozgov and Al Harrington, for that matter) scorch their old team thanks to the crisp ball movement that comes with a balanced offense teeming with options.

Against another team, these things would be frustrating, but it's depressing because it's the Nuggets.

The team is a living, breathing reminder of both what the Knicks gave away to get Anthony last season and how much they need to do in order to become that kind of team themselves. Saturday night became a measuring stick and the Knicks aren't where they were expected to be or where they need to be after making such a big move for Anthony.

Getting there is going to take a lot of work. Forget the pie-eyed notions of trading Anthony for Deron Williams or whoever else because wildly changing directions every few months isn't going to get this team where it needs to go.

And, while we're at it, forget about trying to have everything that happens to the Knicks right now become a referendum on the Anthony trade in the first place. Everyone was loving Melo last year, even while they admitted that they paid too much to get him, and the fact remains that the Nuggets' better overall roster has them no closer to a championship than the Knicks are right now.

As for firing D'Antoni, that will happen if things continue along these lines but it's hard to generate much enthusiasm for the idea. Not because he's doing some amazing job, but because it is really hard to come up with a coach who could win with this mismatched roster devoid of a creative distributor on the offensive end.

The team needs to figure out a way to make the pieces they have work together. Anthony admirably held himself accountable after the game with suggestions that he needs to be more selective offensively and an admission that the team needs to figure out a way to get Stoudemire more involved in the offense.

Those are noble intentions, and it could be that Saturday night becomes one we look back on as the night when the Knicks finally figured out what they needed to do to become a winning team.

Or it could prove impossible -- Anthony isn't a star because he's a great distributor, after all -- and a Saturday night in January could stand as the last night we thought there was a chance this thing could all come together.

One way or the other, it feels like a lot more than just another close regular season loss.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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