Winning any contest in the absence of a star player is a difficult task for any team. But on Wednesday night, the Knicks put forth a relatively steady effort for 36 minutes. Unfortunately, they couldn't close.
Despite falling behind in the first quarter in Brooklyn, the Knicks kept themselves afloat by staying close, and then going in attack mode after that.
Led by Derrick Williams' season-high 31 points in Carmelo Anthony's absence, the Knicks' offense was admittedly strong in small spurts, rather than a consistent effort from all throughout. But a strong effort on the boards (they out-rebounded the Nets with four players grabbing 7 or more) helped them cash in on the easy buckets.
It was struggles in the fourth quarter led to the Knicks' demise. They failed to close out defensively, as six Nets scorers in double-figures overwhelmed them late in the contest. Brooklyn's offense flowed rather nicely late in the game. Such a rhythm was one that the Knicks failed to find.
Too many Knicks players tried being "heroes" with Anthony watching from the sidelines. Nevertheless, the "home" team created a strong enough balance to defeat the Knicks, who just couldn't come up with enough stops as time wound down.
Here's a look at some other observations from the loss...
- Williams is an absolute force to be reckoned with. He's exactly the type of player the Knicks have needed for years. Williams is assertive offensively and isn't afraid to charge full speed ahead when given the green light. He's been solid off the bench for a while, but Wednesday proved his ability to carry the team once in a blue moon -- the same way J.R. Smith liked turning up the heat off the pine. Williams' ability to draw fouls is rather special.
- Kristaps Porzingis has been solid all year long, but when Anthony is forced to sit (be it because of injury or foul trouble), the rookie still gets overzealous at times. He was off on Wednesday, likely because he was given too much of a green light. Feeding the big man the ball and encouraging him to just make it rain (rather than creating spacing and finding him in the flow of the offense) is a rather vulnerable strategy. Isolating for him is not the way to go.
- Coming off a huge victory on Tuesday, it's a shame to see the Knicks surrender such momentum on a back-to-back, regardless of whether Anthony was playing or not. One would have liked to see more fire out of the team, given how Tuesday's impressive win could very well represent a turning point in their season. They have a tough matchup on Saturday against Memphis, where a lot of negative energy will be centered around Derek Fisher and Matt Barnes.