At several points during the first half of the Knicks' 120–118 loss to the Nuggets last night, you had to wonder if the three-point line at the Pepsi Center was some sort of physical barrier, like the line separating the diamond from the stands in Field of Dreams. You can't go back, can you? We want to get the stats right here, so let's look it up: At the half, the Knicks were 2-for-95 million from the three-point line. (All right, they were actually 3-for-19, which is only a little better.) As Alan Hahn of Newsday put it, "Knicks should really save themselves the trouble and with every possession, just throw it off the backboard really hard." And yet, with three minutes left in the game, despite a sixteen-point fourth-quarter deficit, the Knicks were tied with the Nuggets. Then they went ahead and lost anyway.
It was the type of game that has typified this season so far: Flashes of promise, moments of brilliance, glimpses of massive potential ... but none of those things coalescing into an actual victory. The Nuggets did what they could to help: Carmelo Anthony had a dreadful fourth quarter, full of missed shots, dumb fouls, and a healthy dollop of whining (which led to a technical, and probably should have led to two). But, as has been the case so often, the Knicks couldn't put it all together in the end. Their excellent comeback, fueled by intensity we haven't seen in a week or so, fell short because, once they got the score tied, they stopped hitting shots again. And when they had a chance to tie the game with a three with sixteen seconds left ... Raymond Felton dropped a pass out of bounds. It was that sort of night.
The loss masked a terrific game for Landry Fields, who had 21
boards points and 17 rebounds. The team fed off his energy throughout; this was as hard and tough a Knicks team has played since this losing streak began. But they still couldn't score when they needed to: Toney Douglas had a particularly awful game, going 0-for-4 from the field and missing several defensive assignments. The Knicks were ultimately 9-for-31 from the three-point line. They're a better shooting team than that — they were 34-for-67 from two-point range — but it doesn't really matter: This is still a dysfunctional offensive team. At least it was until the fourth quarter, when they drove the lane better and got better shots. And then their defense fell through. The Knicks right now cannot chew gum and walk at the same time.
If the Knicks had not come into last night's game 3–7 with a five-game losing streak, the loss might have almost been a moral victory: Denver is a talented team, at home, after all. But the Knicks do not have time for moral victories. They desperately, profoundly need victories. They are now 3–8. They have lost six in a row. The encouraging signs are still there — True Hoop points out that the Knicks led the Nuggets in field goals, three-pointers, rebounds, assists, and blocked shots and had fewer turnovers; the last 266 NBA teams to lead their opponent in all those categories won, until the Knicks lost — but without the wins to accompany them, you know, who cares? This is dangerously close to spiraling out of control. They play the Kings tonight, at 10 p.m. They are very strongly advised to win that one. The Knicks are out of moral victories; they are morally winless. They need a victory. Like, right now.