Commentary

Knicks' scary movie no laughing matter

Team pores over film of Friday's defensive breakdown before big Sunday matchup

Updated: March 6, 2011, 9:32 AM ET
By Ian Begley | Special to ESPNNewYork.com

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The New York Knicks watched a horror film on Saturday morning. But it wasn't anything by Alfred Hitchcock.

No, this was much more frightening. It was tape of their fourth-quarter defense against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night.

Cleveland shot 58 percent in the fourth quarter and outscored the Knicks 27-11 in the final seven minutes. The worst team in the NBA erased a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat New York for the third time this season and 11th straight time overall.

[+] EnlargeAmare Stoudemire
AP Photo/Mary AltafferAmare Stoudemire and the Knicks surrendered 119 points to Samardo Samuels' Cavs.

"Down the stretch, we weren't very good," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said.

They weren't very good in the beginning or middle, either.

The Cavs scored 119 points, marking the fourth time in the six games since the Carmelo Anthony trade that the Knicks have allowed an opponent to score at least 108 points.

Which is why the Knicks (31-29) spent time looking at tape Saturday morning.

"Guys have been playing pretty hard on the defensive end, they're just not playing that smart," point guard Chauncey Billups said.

The Knicks have never been known as a defensive juggernaut under D'Antoni, but one of the first things Anthony talked about in his introductory news conference was a commitment to defense. Those words have yet to come to fruition.

Outside of strong performances against Miami and New Orleans, Anthony's Knicks have struggled on defense, allowing opponents to shoot 50 percent or higher in four of six games since his arrival.

Knicks foes have also hit a staggering 38 percent of their 3-point attempts in the Anthony era.

"We're like half a step slow because guys were still trying to figure out what they were doing," D'Antoni said.

The Knicks have added seven new players in the past 12 days. And with 18 games on the slate in March, there isn't much time to practice.

Starting Sunday night against the Atlanta Hawks, the Knicks play 15 games in 25 days, including five sets of back-to-backs. Their next full practice will be on Friday, so the next three and a half weeks will be D'Antoni's personal March madness.

"It's like training camp, man," Amare Stoudemire said. "It takes a week and a half, two weeks in order to really get it down. It takes some tough losses."

Recent injuries have also hurt the Knicks on defense.

Billups missed the past two games with a bruised left thigh and is questionable for the Hawks game on Sunday night.

Starting center Ronny Turiaf sat out Friday with a sore left knee and is also questionable for Sunday. So is Bill Walker, who sat out of practice Saturday with a left knee injury.

The Knicks are 3-3 since the Anthony trade. They enter play on Sunday as the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, a half-game up on Philadelphia.

The last time the Knicks played the Hawks, they held them to 44 percent shooting in a 102-90 win. That was the last game prior to the three-team, 13-player trade that landed Anthony in New York.

"There's just no way you can throw six new guys or four new guys into a rotation and they're all on the same page, and you play great every night," D'Antoni said. "That just does not happen."

D'Antoni predicted it may take four or five weeks for the Knicks to become fully acclimated on defense. For a franchise that hasn't won a playoff game since 2001, it would be worth the wait, the coach says.

"We've waited 10 years," he said. "We can wait another month."

Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.

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