The Knicks suffered their fourth straight loss on Sunday night, falling to the Celtics. The nature of such a defeat is becoming all too familiar for New York, as team intensity continues to waver as the players perform lethargically.
Though the team started last season going 5-36, this 14-18 squad doesn't look much different right about now. How does a squad with so many personnel changes look so similar? In this case, the coach is the culprit. On Saturday night against Atlanta, Coach Derek Fisher messed with the team's rhythm early on, even as they were finding success. On Sunday in Boston, he instead fell asleep at the wheel, failing to make the substitutions necessary to ensure the Knicks met the Celtics' level of intensity.
Despite being led by the ever pesky Isaiah Thomas on the offensive end, defensively is where Boston shined. Paced by the likes of Jae Crowder and Amir Johnson, the hometown team's physical brand of defense overwhelmed the Knicks. Spacing was limited as ample ball pressure was applied. Jose Calderon struggled on Thomas, but Langston Galloway quietly did a decent job, at least through three quarters. The Knicks could have overcome his late game heroics, if the rhythm Carmelo Anthony and Co. seemed to find in the third quarter (they outscored the Celtics 26-23) lasted all game long. Building a consistent effort seems to be a difficult thing to do right now. Here are more observations from the loss:
- Kristaps Porzingis has been in an offensive slump during the Knicks' latest losing streak, and in the last two games, he's gotten banged up pretty bad. This isn't just about confidence. The physical nature of the game is taking a toll on his body. Though the Knicks are set to face Andre Drummond and the surging Pistons on Tuesday, it might be better for their long term plans to sit Porzingis a game.
- This was one of those games that proved Anthony cannot carry the Knicks on his own. Isolation plays didn't always work, and often times, his teammates left him out to dry. It's up to Coach Fisher to find the right combinations to reflect a successful effort around him.
- Speaking of, it was clear midway through the second quarter that the team was lacking intensity. Both Lance Thomas and Derrick Williams later proved, based on the positive impact they were having on the game, that they should have been receiving additional minutes. Both reserves did a solid job on both ends of the floor.
- Many will say (Isaiah) Thomas gave the Knicks an up close look at the point guard they need to eventually thrive, and that may be true. He's a great penetrating guard who excels in the pick and roll, all the while serving as a pesky defender. His shot selection (and respective consistency from the field) needs work, but on this Knicks team, he'd have the support he needs around the perimeter to take the pressure off It took Thomas a while to develop into the player he is today. With some similar tools, can Galloway be put on that familiar development track?
- Nevertheless, this lost came from a lack of team effort. New York was bullied on the physical side of things to back off, and failed to really challenge Boston on either end of the floor. The defeat was about much more than poor guard play.