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Knicks Look Great, But Still Lose

Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose (1, in red) is surrounded by New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7), Iman Shumpert (21) and Amare Stoudemire (1, in white) as he looks to pass the ball off to Bulls center Joakim Noah (R) in the first quarter of their NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden in New York February 2, 2012.    REUTERS/Adam Hunger  (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL) Collapse on Rose!

The Knicks, particularly in the second half, looked like a legitimate NBA team last night, a playoff contender, a smooth and efficient offensive machine, a team that has two superstars who can work together to make each other even better superstars. It was really something to watch: Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire finally — finally! — fed off each other, Carmelo (starting All-Star Carmelo, actually!) hitting Amar'e and Tyson Chandler in the right spots, Anthony choosing the right moments to let fire himself and the Knicks generally just moving the ball like a team that knew how to do such a thing. They scored 102 points against one of the best defensive teams in the league. It was a relief to see the Knicks could still do this. And with all that, they still lost.

The Bulls beat the Knicks 105–102 at the Garden, in large part because the Bulls have Derrick Rose and the Knicks have a couple of holes in the floor that they sometimes call a point guard, just for roster clarification purposes. Rose was brilliant as usual, and Iman Shumpert and Toney Douglas were quite definitively not. In fact, the bench was almost a total zero, with just six points, all from Douglas. The Knicks need to rely on their superstars, but not that much.

As always, it comes down to the point guard position. It's as tiring to talk about as it is to watch, but last night was a good reminder that the Knicks' lack of a point guard isn't just a problem on the offensive end; Shumpert, whose defense is supposed to be his strength, was eaten up by Rose all night. He was eaten up by C.J. Watson, for that matter. Combine that with a turnover-riddled second quarter, a hungry Bulls team coming off a tough loss, and a last-second attempt to tie going awry, it adds up to a loss.

Still, the Knicks were extremely encouraging last evening, and if Amar'e Stoudemire keeps playing like that, the Knicks are going to be a lot more fun to watch, with or without a point guard. But again: Still a loss. And we know it seems like the season is young, but it kinda isn't. As well as they played, they're at the beginning of a back-to-back-to-back in which the easiest game is the final one (home against New Jersey), when they will be the most exhausted. An 0–3 run here would be disastrous. The Knicks looked like a real team last night, one that could get itself in the playoffs, but that said: They still lost. And they still have to play at Boston tonight. If they play like they did last night, they might well beat the Celtics. But the Knicks haven't shown much of a tendency toward consistency this year, to say the least. There's a little bit of a fear that they'll regress tonight and score 72 points. If that happens, no one will remember how they played last night. Everyone will just remember that they lost.

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Photo: Adam Hunger/Reuters