The Knicks have been notorious for awful performances in matinees. But a 24-22 first-quarter lead meant they couldn’t even use that for an excuse in their 106-94 loss to the division-leading Sixers.
Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni was almost flabbergasted afterwards as he seemed to suggest he’s run out of ways to motivate his team. He allowed that inspiring his squad has been an issue and sounded near wits-end trying to find a way to rouse this crew.
“It’s what we’ve talked about all year and it hasn’t come through yet. It’s hard to explain. It’s more [about] spirit [because] when we hit a snag [we] seem to wither. And for whatever reason we haven’t been able to overcome any kind of obstacles,” D’Antoni said. “Even when we’re down only two [points] we seem to act like the world is caving. … That’s the first thing we have to solve. We have to keep fighting and just have to play harder and with more urgency.”
There was more urgency amongst the bench players, as the subs were the main reason for the Knicks’ near comeback. Conspicuous in their absences during the final moments were the Knicks’ superstars, Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire. Neither helped matters much as Anthony finished with 22 points (5-of-13 shooting) and Stoudemire could only muster nine.
D’Antoni said while it looked otherwise, the duo’s benching had nothing to do with sending a message, but rather a sign that he wanted to ride the hot hands of the reserves.
“We waited way too late to get going again and we needed a spark. Those guys [reserves] were fighting and almost got us back, so I thought it’d be unfair to take them out,” D’Antoni said, noting he also did the same in a loss in Dallas a few nights ago. “If guys are fighting hard to come back I’m not going to take them out. You try something different. Our energy was going pretty good, so I left them in.”
Tyson Chandler returned to the lineup following a two-game hiatus due to a tight hamstring and said he’s seen both from afar on the bench and first-hand that guys have been hanging their heads way too much.
“Guys get down on themselves when they’re not making shots but that’s when you have to dig deeper,” Chandler said. “You’re gonna miss shots but the thing you can’t do is not get back defensively. You can always give everything you have defensively, no matter what’s going on around you.”
Chandler said he noticed that the stars were on the bench in the waning minutes, but backed up D’Antoni’s assertion that no message was being sent. He said he feels the hardest-working five need to be on the floor, regardless of team status.
“The only thing that matters is the five guys that [D’Antoni] puts out there,” Chandler said. “They have to be the five guys that are willing to play hard on both ends. That’s what it’ll take for us to get wins.”
While Chandler refused to put any of his teammates on blast, deferring to the cliché of having to “watch more game film” before critiquing anyone, he allowed that guys need to look in the mirror to see what — if anything — they can do to right the ship.
“I don’t know but it’s something we have to look at,” Chandler said when asked about the lack of urgency. “We have to get back in the film room and see where we have to fix it. You have to have a commitment [because] we can’t just have great spurts. We need to play with that same sense of urgency in the beginning as we do when we get down. … Everyone in this locker room needs to take a step back and understand what they need to do to contribute to this team.”
» While many seem to have fallen off the Linsanity bandwagon, D’Antoni said everyone needs to just relax. He added he has total confidence in Lin and noted the first-year starter is learning on the fly: “Jeremy has to play a certain way. He’s going to make some mistakes, but he’ll get there. He’s only 20 games into his career so he’ll have some [growing] pains, but he’ll just have to figure it out. He’s going to be a very good point guard.”
» Tyson Chandler (hamstring/wrist) came back to the lineup after missing two games, but couldn’t help fix the team’s ailments. Chandler had eight points and a team-high 12 rebounds, but wasn’t a factor as he was constantly in foul trouble.
» Rookie guard Iman Shumpert said he thinks the biggest problem with the team is a lack of confidence. Even though he’s a neophyte, Shumpert said he’s noticed the lack of fun the team is having and added the team’s mindset has done a 180-degree turn from their not-too-distant seven-game winning streak: “We have to have a swagger about ourselves and know that we’re going to win. Throughout the winning streak, even when we were down, we acted like we were up. It didn’t matter because we knew we were going to pull out that game somehow.”
» The Knicks will need to get their swagger back soon but it won’t be easy with a Monday night date in Chicago with the Eastern Conference-leading Bulls.
» New York was once again outmuscled in the paint as the Sixers held a 46-42 advantage in the paint.
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.