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The Knicks Get a Breather in the Pistons

Smith #8 of the New York Knicks drives to the basket vs the Detroit Pistons on November 25, 2012 at Madison Square Garden in the Manhattan Borough of New York City.

Since we last saw you, the barnstorming ride that has been the New York Knicks has been a bit derailed: The Knicks have looked, alas, mortal. They blew a lead against Dallas on Thanksgiving Eve and then, more worrisome, the day after Thanksgiving were absolutely drilled by the Houston Rockets, 131–103. That's 131 points. This whole Knicks identity is supposed to be the opposite of that. Well, the defense wasn't much better yesterday in a trip back to the Garden, but fortunately for the Knicks, they were playing the Pistons.

The Knicks pounded the Detroit Pistons yesterday 121–100, thanks to 29 points from Carmelo Anthony and a welcome-back bench performance from Steve Novak, who scored 18 points with five three-pointers. (So nice to see him draining those again.) But the main issue of the last two games — interior defense — is still unquestionably a problem. Tyson Chandler, defending Defensive Player of the Year, has been oddly lethargic in the last week, and the result has been wide-open lanes for the opposition. Even Detroit was able to take advantage of this yesterday.

This is a big problem, because the whole Knicks' plan requires Chandler being his dominating force underneath; Chandler's presence allows Carmelo to play power forward, and Carmelo at power forward is what has made this offense sing for the first few weeks. Chandler had to keep being the badarse. The last week, that hasn't been the case, and coach Mike Woodson's limited minutes for Marcus Camby must mean Camby isn't healthy or conditioned enough yet to fill in. (Since that's why the Knicks got him, after all.)

It didn't matter yesterday, because the Knicks could just blitz the 3-11 Pistons. But it's going to matter tonight against the Nets — more on that later today — and against teams that are a lot better than the Pistons. The Knicks are 9-3 and have the fourth best record in the NBA. (If not the best in the Eastern Conference anymore; the Heat have passed them.) But in the last week, they've sprung a leak defensively. Let's see how they plug it, if they can.

Photo: Ray Amati/NBAE/Getty Images