The Knicks are not the worst defensive team this season, let alone in history, but they are one of the poorest and have become worse since last month’s trade for .
The lasting image of Tuesday’s loss in Indiana was Danny Granger’s game-winning jumper with 0.3 of a second left. But before that shot, Darren Collison easily shed Chauncey Billups on a crossover move and Tyler Hansbrough dunked over Amar’e Stoudemire on his way to setting career scoring highs (29 and 30) in consecutive games against the Knicks.
“I think we’re all frustrated and I’ll reiterate again: the thing we have to do is get better defensively,” said at Wednesday’s practice as the Knicks prepared to host the on Thursday. “That’s going to be the mark of whether we are a good team or not.”
D’Antoni described the team’s defense as their “hurdle” and “Achilles’ heel,” and said the Knicks looked scared at times on both offense and defense against Indiana.
Many players have come and gone in D’Antoni’s nearly three seasons as coach. As the quality of his roster improves, though, the criticism directed at D’Antoni remains the same: his teams struggle to defend.
D’Antoni is still trying to figure out with whom to surround Anthony and Stoudemire. Recently, Anthony Carter and Ronny Turiaf, the closest player the Knicks have to a natural center, were out of the rotation.
The Knicks, who have lost three straight games, are a mediocre 6-6 since the trade. They have allowed 108 or more points in nine of those games. In brief occasions, the defense has limited quality offenses like those of Miami (86 points) and Atlanta (79 points). Over all, opponents are scoring 106 points a game. Only Minnesota is allowing more (106.7).
The Knicks won in Memphis last week when a 17-point lead evaporated and Anthony bailed them out with a game-winning jump shot with 0.5 of a second remaining. That was their last win.
“Sometimes, you’ve got to take steps backwards to go forward,” Anthony said. “I think right now this is what we’re doing. We’re losing some games that we shouldn’t be losing right now. I think that’s the frustrating part, just knowing that we should be winning games that we’re supposed to.”
After Tuesday’s 119-117 loss, Anthony said he thought the Knicks would have changed strategies on defending Hansbrough. On Wednesday, Anthony went in another direction, suggesting the team is changing defensive schemes too much each game.
“Right now, we come in and it’s one scheme, and another game we come in with a different scheme,” Anthony said. “I think it’s a little bit confusing at times. We get confused out there on the court. There’s spurts where we played some of the best defense out there and there’s spurts when we don’t. I think that’s just familiarity. We’ve got to get used to each other and figure out exactly what we’re going to do and just do it.”
On Wednesday, the Knicks’ president, , said that Stoudemire and Anthony were blending well together and that the entire team needed to play better defensively.
“You can sit and talk about it all you want, but when you get on the floor, you have to react real quick and it’s hard for new guys coming in to react to each other that quickly,” Walsh said. “That’s not an excuse, but I expected that.”
“We know what we need,” he added. “We still have to add pieces to this team. We know where our weak points are. They haven’t changed.”