Bronx native Kemba Walker was a handful for the Knicks on Tuesday night. Credit: Getty Images
The Knicks may only have one win, but they certainly lead the league in the amount of times they’ve played down to their opponent.
Tuesday night was no different in a 102-97 loss to the Bobcats.
The Bobcats held a 10-point halftime lead, which at the time was its largest of the game and made the Knicks scratch and claw for every basket. The Knicks, who have now lost three straight and two consecutive home games, shot 42 percent from the field but struggled mightily from behind the arc (29 percent). They still settled for jumpers, as their 23 free-throw attempts attested.
Head coach Mike Woodson was visibly upset at the lack of effort his team put forth. And afterward, the coach held no punches when discussing their defensive execution.
“Our defense, it stinks right now it. We gotta get it fixed. We waited till the third and fourth quarters and that’s too late to pick it up. We’re just all over the place and that’s on me,” said Woodson. “Offense should never dictate how you defend. I think sometimes they let their [missed] shots affect their defense. ... But I’m not worried about offense.”
Carmelo Anthony led the way for the Knicks (1-3) with a game-high 32 points, but it took him a game-high 45 minutes and 28 attempts to do so. His effort was admirable — if not his shooting percentage — as he helped the Knicks cut into the lead late, but it wasn’t enough to offset the great effort from the Bobcats (2-2) who had five players reach double figures. They were led by point guard Kemba Walker’s 24 points on 9-of-20 shooting.
Walker, a Bronx native, tortured his hometown team with numerous forays to the tin and timely jumpers in the face of hard-charging Knicks. The speedy guard, dubbed “EZ-Pass” from his early days at Rucker Park, swiftly weaved in and out of traffic by way of the Bobcats’ well-executed pick-and-roll sets.
Woodson noted how hard it is to defend quick dual-threat point guards in the pick-and-roll, but added it’s no excuse for not even trying — as seemed to be the case on more than a handful of occasions.
“I’m not making excuses for anyone,” said Woodson. “We just have to learn how to defend the pick-and-roll better.”
Walker not only hurt the Knicks with his blazing speed and playmaking ability, but he also literally hurt a Knick early in the game after a nasty collision. The 6-foot point guard inadvertently injured Knicks starting center Tyson Chandler when he banged knees with the 7-footer after drawing a foul and stumbling into the pivot’s legs. Chandler injured his right knee around the 5:25 mark of the opening quarter, hobbled to the bench and checked out for the remainder of the game.
The Knicks’ in-game announcement stated Chandler will undergo tests in the morning to determine the extent of his injury. But judging by the faces of the players and the mood in the postgame locker room, the Knicks may not receive good news on Wednesday.
“Of course we miss him. He’s our anchor,” said Anthony. “But nobody has told us anything about him right now, so we just have to hope for the best. We gotta remain positive, because it’s real easy to go into a dark place right now.”
The Knicks were wounded far before that, as the Bobcats came out charging and capitalizing on errant Knicks shots and lackadaisical defense — much like the Knicks’ atrocious home loss to the Timberwolves on Sunday night.
And much like that T’Wolves contest, the Knicks showed little passion early, spent almost all of their collective energy to battle back before falling just short.
“Not sure [how to fix it],” Iman Shumpert said. “We’ll just have to watch the tape and figure it out. We need to come together and get it done. There’s no real excuse for this.”
Knicks notes ...
» The Bobcats entered the game as one of the league’s worst offenses, yet rang up 64 points in the first half.
» Amar’e Stoudemire offered little production in the absence of Chandler as he recorded just two points, three rebounds and five turnovers — as well as a technical foul — in 11 minutes of action. The Garden faithful noticed, too, as he was booed on many occasions. Two of his first three shots were blocked, including his first attempt. His replacement in the rotation, Kenyon Martin, was supposed to get the night off but was pressed into duty once Chandler went down with the injury. Martin, already a popular player with the fanbase, received resounding cheers when he mercifully subbed out Stoudemire.
» Woodson said if Chandler is out for any period of time, it’ll really mess with his big-man rotation.
“I’ve got a lot to think about right now with Tyson,” Woodson said. “And also with Amar’e and Kenyon being on restricted minutes, so now I’ll have to see how they feel tomorrow after playing so much.”
» Prior to the game, Woodson said the Knicks will “keep an eye on” big man Jeremy Tyler, who was released/injured at the end of training camp. Tyler is now with the Knicks’ D-League affiliate, the Erie Bayhawks. Woodson acknowledged Tyler could “possibly be in a Knicks uniform” going forward.
» Metta World Peace continued his nice start to the season as he added in 18 points.
» New Jersey-native Michael Kidd-Gilchrist added a solid all-around game for the Bobcats, as he tallied 16 points and eight rebounds off the bench, while also forcing Anthony into a poor shooting night.
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter@TBone8.