J.R. Smith is still sick and still slumping while Tyson Chandler is still criticizing unnamed teammates — perhaps Carmelo Anthony, perhaps not — for undermining the offense.
The Knicks have arrived at a crucial moment of their season when it is imperative that they play well and remain unified. But based on what you see and what they’re saying, Mike Woodson’s team is not as efficient and not nearly as together as it was during, say, its 13-game winning streak in March and April.
In the aftermath of Saturday’s disheartening 82-71 Game 3 loss to the Indiana Pacers, the Knicks returned to practice trying to figure how they barely eclipsed 70 points and how to avoid losing Game 4 on Tuesday and falling behind three games to one in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
After winning their first three playoff games against the Boston Celtics, the Knicks have lost four of their last six and their once high-powered offense has sputtered. Other than their 30-2 second-half run in Game 2 against Indiana, the Knicks have struggled to find any consistency at the offensive end and it all came to a head in Game 3. In producing those 71 points, they made just three of 11 3-pointers, which were season lows in both categories.
“Honestly, we’re doing it to ourselves,” Chandler said on Sunday. “I watched the tape myself and there are open looks. We have to be willing passers. You have to sacrifice yourself sometimes for the betterment of the team and for the betterment of your teammates. So when you drive in the paint and you draw, you kick it. I think we need to do a better job of allowing the game to dictate who takes the shots and not the individuals.”
Chandler, a wise veteran, was careful not to single out any one player. He didn’t mention Raymond Felton, who went 1-for-8 in Game 2 with two assists and three turnovers. He never identified Smith, who is battling the flu and made just four of 12 shots in 25 minutes. And he certainly didn’t point a finger at Anthony, who was 6-for-16 in 37 minutes.
Of course, a case could be made that Anthony needs to shoot more. He attempted just three shots in the fourth quarter of Game 3 and missed all of them. Woodson also felt that three shots isn’t enough for his All-Star forward and now Woodson is considering putting the ball in Anthony’s hands to initiate the offense.
The plan is to run more pick and rolls to allow Anthony to free himself from Paul George’s long arms.