Friday, January 17, 2014

Offensive analysis: Melo needs help

Carmelo Anthony had probably his best quarter of the year Thursday night against the Pacers. He hit six of his first eight shots, including two three-pointers and came out of the gate with 18 points. He was hot and knocking down shots. However, he quickly cooled down in the second quarter and none of his other teammates came to help. Melo finished with just ten more points for the rest of the game, finishing with 28. The next leading scorer for the Knicks: Tyson Chandler with 13 points.

No other Knick came close to Melo's first quarter hot start. So, what was the problem? It wasn't the usual suspects. Both Raymond Felton and JR Smith (who actually got off the bench) both shot 50% for the game. However, they both finished with just 12 points. So while they were shooting efficiently, neither took that many shots (they combined for 22 shot attempts).

So who was missing shots? Andrea Bargnani, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Iman Shumpert. These are three important players for New York. This year, Smith hasn't been the Sixth Man of the Year award winner we saw in 2012-13. I think his fall from grace has been a big part of the Knicks recent failures. So someone has got to step up to make up for that scoring. The best candidates for that role are the three men that were terrible tonight. Bargs and Hardaway shot bad and Shumpert barely shot at all.

He only took four shots in the game and his last make came with five minutes left in the first quarter. Yikes. That's part of the problem for the Knicks. We saw in the playoffs last year that Shump can be a great shooter and scorer. But far too often he slinks away and his scoring takes a backseat to the rest of the team. Shumpert needs to be more aggressive, even when he's not absolutely on-fire. Woodson needs to do something to get him more involved offensively. Perhaps let him handle the ball more or start calling some plays for him. I know it's been a tumultuous season for Shump (trade rumors, problems with Dolan, general team instability), but we got to see him make that next step.

Speaking of Hardaway, he was terrible in Indiana. He had some bad, bad looks on shots; pulling up multiple times for contested jumpers when there was still plenty of time of the shot clock. Hardaway shot an abysmal two for ten. Eight of his ten of attempts were jumpers from 15 feet and out.

Bargnani (3 for 8) wasn't much better. Seven of his shots were jumpers, with one drive to the rim and horrendous, sloppy turnaround post shot that floated over the rim.

Getting to the basket and finishing was a big problem for New York, not just Hardaway and Bargs. The team made only 10 shots on just 24 attempts near the basket. That might have been a result of the Pacers working hard to keep the Knicks from penetrating, but some of it was a lack of effort and execution. At points, it felt like the Knicks were playing D'Antoni ball. Taking the first good look, rather than the best look. Settling for jumpers, not attacking the rim, running few plays and relying on pick and roll plays to create open shots.

I also think Melo didn't play enough high post during the game. Likely a result of Paul George's defense and length along with the strong help defense from the Pacers big men. The Knicks are so much better when Anthony is posting up efficiently. When they get away from that is when you see outings like Thursday. But it's hard for him to keep scoring when the defense focuses on him and no one else is stepping up.

Hopefully the Knicks can rebound at home after these last two bad road losses.

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