By: Kento Kato
The Knicks seemed to be on the come up, but last night’s nationally-televised showing against the defending champs, Cleveland Cavaliers, showed that they still have a lot of room to grow. Carmelo Anthony, maybe in response to Phil Jackson’s comments about him holding on to the ball too much, only shot 9 times and managed to score just 8 points. Porzingis, who many believe should be the centerpiece of the offense, showed that he still is not the star he has shown flashes of becoming as he only added 12 points on 5 of 12 shooting. Brandon Jennings led the team with 16 points on 6 of 14 shooting and Courtney Lee might have had the best game for the team as he contributed 15 points on 5 of 10 and 5 assists.
The Knicks were coming off a good stretch in which they were 9-3 in their last 12 but they also showed vulnerability during that span. As is always the case, it is easy to feel good about wins, regardless of the substance, but the LeBron James-led Cavaliers made sure to show Knicks fans and basketball fans all around that the Knicks still need to improve. And those improvements need to come, not only on the highlighted offensive side of the ball, but on defense. And this is probably the biggest problem that the Knicks have. Their offense seems to be potent enough and while better ball movement and efficiency would be nice, they have talent there. But Joakim Noah is a shell of himself, Rose, who did not play last night, and Jennings, try hard to guard opposing point guards, but are still not good defensive players, and Carmelo Anthony’s defensive effort remains inconsistent.
With Porzingis and Lee in the starting lineup, they have some decent defenders and if Noah can get back to even 80% of what he was a few years ago, the Knicks can be a good defensive team, something they have shown signs of being. But their two leading scorers (Anthony, Porzingis) cannot both struggle on the same night and have the team struggle defensively. When they have Derrick Rose, they can do with having one, maybe even two of the scorers being off their game, but that is only is they can step it up defensively. Until they can get a consistent effort from the defensive side of the ball, the Knicks will hover around .500 and struggle to beat the elite teams.