The Knicks and Raptors wrapped up the halfway marks of their respective seasons with play that looked as if both teams were in need of a mini-vacation.
The Raptors held on for the 92-88 win, but it wasn’t on account of it being artistic basketball. Wednesday night is what happens when the finish line to the All-Star weekend break looms, as both teams looked as if they had one foot out the door.
Knicks head coach Mike Woodson insisted earlier in the week that his team’s collective age and tired legs had nothing to do with their current malaise at home, yet his team missed 6-of-8 shots at the rim in the fourth quarter when they needed it most.
Woodson was still defiant after Wednesday’s loss, saying these types of nights are going to happen during the grind of an 82-game season.
“The same shots we’ve been making all year, we just weren’t making them. It was just one of those nights,” Woodson said. “I think we had great looks all night, but we just didn’t make shots.”
The Raptors (21-32) didn’t shoot much better, just 42.5 percent from the field, including 42.9 from behind the arc, but they made the key buckets when it counted. They received just enough scoring from one of their stars (DeMar DeRozen’s 20 points), but also from an unassuming source, in reserve swingman Alan Anderson, who had a team-high 26 points. Anderson came into the game averaging only 11.5 points per game for the season, but torched the Knicks by knocking down six 3s.
The Knicks (32-18) didn’t help matters for themselves, as they shot a meager 35.4 percent from the field, including 36 percent from 3-point range. Carmelo Anthony was uncharacteristically ineffective as he shot just 5-of-24 from the field, including just 3-of-10 in the first half, with five turnovers. Anthony only had 12 points, as he missed multiple layups, as well as free throws (1-of-4), as the All-Star forward never got in synch. The microcosm of Anthony’s night came with roughly 2 1/2 minutes remaining when he got a breakaway steal, only to miss a gimme layup.
Missed layups were the Knicks’ kryptonite as no one was safe from chip-shot gaffes. Woodson acknowledged close-range misses can hurt a team’s morale more than anything else.
“We just couldn’t make shots. We missed layups and free throws. We just had nothing going offensively and it put us in a hole,” Woodson said. “I can see us missing jump shots, but we were missing layups. It puts a lot of pressure on us when we miss shots.”
Woodson said he thinks Anthony’s shooting problems were due to an injured shooting arm, which he hopes isn’t too serious, especially as the scoring maven now heads to Houston to start in the All-Star Game. Anthony appeared to bang his elbow while fighting through an Amir Johnson screen midway through the opening quarter and was never the same.
“He got banged on his shooting arm early and he kept acting as if he didn’t have feeling on it,” said Woodson. “But still, we missed a ton of chances at the rim. It was probably Melo’s worse game of the season. But we’ll bounce back.”
Amar’e Stoudemire also wasn’t absolved of a poor shooting night (4-of-13 for 10 points).
“No excuses, but it could be fatigue. It could also be that guys were excited and looking forward to the break,” Stoudemire said. “But I’m not tired, because I just got back. This was a game we should’ve won.”
Stoudemire said more than anything, he thinks the defense is what let down the Knicks because whether shots fall or not, they still failed to get stops when needed most.
“You definitely want to head onto the break on a win,” Stoudemire said, shaking his head. “But it didn’t happen because defensively we had a few letdowns. Too many guys were getting to the basket too easily and we were missing some shots.”
Woodson had a vision in his mind to finish the stretch run leading up to the All-Star break on a high note, but after suffering their third loss in four games, the aging Knicks will look to regroup over their extended weekend by “going back to the drawing board” during the down time.
“I can’t wait to get back now, because now I have to sit these next three or four days and think about these past two losses,” Woodson said, reflecting on their most recent home losses to the Clippers and Raptors. “Hopefully all the guys who go away think about this over the next three to four days. We have to figure it out. We have a lot of work on our hands.”
» J.R. Smith was seemingly the only Knick who wanted to play with any type of aggression and desire, as he notched 26 points. Smith knocked down five 3-pointers, including a furious personal rally in the fourth as he tried to cut the Knicks’ nine-point deficit heading into the final stanza.
» The Knicks had one bright spot in that they hammered the bigger Raptors on the glass, 52-35. That’s a rare feat for an undersized Knicks team that routinely gets pounded on the boards. Anthony surprisingly led the way with a game-high 12 rebounds.
» Steve Novak seemingly got his shot back, just in time for the All-Star Weekend’s 3-point Shootout, as he notched nine points on 3-of-4 shooting behind the arc. Too bad for the Knicks all of that production came entirely in the first half.
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.