By Joe Manganiello
The New York Knicks have had a really good season, both generally speaking and in conjunction with the incredibly low standards they have created for themselves over the course of the past four decades, since their last championship. But I am beginning to worry that this season is coming off the tracks a bit.
A blistering, hopeless loss to the Indiana Pacers Wednesday night has extended the Knicks losing streak to three games. Paul George’s 27-point on 11 of 19 shooting and eight-rebound performance paced Indiana as New York suffered their worst setback of the season, 125-91. The win put Indiana just a half-game behind New York for second place in the Eastern Conference standings.
Indiana’s quest to pass New York and claim the No. 2 seed in the east seems inevitable, but not just because Indiana has the league’s top defense and best next-generation wing player. New York has some serious question marks coming down the stretch of this regular season, and is running out of time to address them.
The Knicks have not won a game since Feb. 8, albeit the drought is inflated because of the all-star break. But their victory on Feb. 8 was by just six points against the Love-less Timberwolves, and the Knicks were outscored 76-70 through three quarters. If the Timberwolves had anybody capable of matching Carmelo’s fourth-quarter gutsiness, I have doubts that the Knicks would have still won the game.
Before the Minnesota game, the Knicks lost by 10 points to the Wizards. Even with John Wall back, the Wizards have only been a .500 team, and if the Knicks are truly an upper-echelon team, they are not supposed to drop games like that. New York has not beaten a team firmly in the playoff picture since Jan. 27, when they managed to beat the Atlanta Hawks – a lesser playoff team, no less – by a mere two points inside of Madison Square Garden.
Part of the issue is scoring, as the Knicks have scored over 100 points just one time in the month of February.
The Knicks have attempted 242 three-pointers in their last eight games, a whopping 30 attempts per game, but not surprising, considering they average 29 attempts per game on the season. But they only made 84 of their attempts, a costly 34.7 percent.
Are the Knicks just, dare I say, chuckers?
It is clear that this team lives and dies by the three-ball. Historically, and almost without fail, jump-shooting teams do not win championships. On the season, the Knicks are hitting 37.7 percent from behind the arc, which is fine. But it sure takes them a lot of attempts to get that number.
That brings me to my most honest and objective point: the Knicks are not a championship contender.
The basketball community, even non-Knicks fans, got excited when they got off to an 18-5 start and had 20 wins under their belt before the New Year. But what was true then, and is even truer now, is they cannot win without hitting the three-ball. Even if they are hitting double-digit three-pointers per game, it is still taking them an obnoxious amount of attempts to do so.
While Eastern Conference opponents like Miami (LeBron and Bosh), Indiana (Hibbert and West) and even the cross-town rivals in Brooklyn (Lopez) have quality offensive options in the post, the Knicks do not scare anybody inside the arc. Until that solution gets remedied, they can shoot all they want. Another misguided post-season series will befall them.