Notebook: Knicks' defense crumbles


Early on in the season, the Knicks had an average first-quarter scoring margin over plus-4.0. Now, it's slighty below plus-1.0, fueled by their poor defensive starts. In fact, their opponents in the last six games have won the opening period each time. And the Knicks have gone 2-4.

"Really, it's the start of the game and that’s on me," Mike Woodson said after the Knicks fell to the Trail Blazers, 105-100. "I've got to figure out why we're coming out flat because, to me, it sets the tone in how we play. And the last few outings have been a disaster in terms of how we started the game, and I've got to help them figure it out."

Where the Knicks have been especially struggling on defense is guarding pick-and-rolls. In fact, entering Tuesday night, they had allowed a total of 752 points this season on pick-and-roll plays, including passes -- the 7th-most in the NBA. Tonight, Damian Lillard (21 points and six assists) and Nicolas Batum (26 and six) had their way, and they represent a potential problem for the Knicks with Jason Kidd, 39, and Pablo Prigioni, 35.

The league is filled with young and talented point guards who may not treat the Knicks so kindly looking ahead. Kidd and Prigioni are going to need a whole lot more support from their teammates in the days ahead.

Hey, Iman Shumpert, get back soon. The team needs you, buddy!

THE SEARCH GOES ON FOR THE PRODUCTIVE STAR PAIRING: Entering Tuesday night, the Knicks were 30-33 when Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire started together. The two stars have struggled at times to develop cohesion on offense, so it will be interesting to see if that trend changes this season. It didn't tonight. In 14:04 minutes together, the Knicks were outscored by five points.

WHERE'S THE WINDOW CLEANING? At the end of the first half, the Knicks only had seven defensive rebounds. To make matters worse, the Trail Blazers had nine offensive boards, led by LaMarcus Aldridge (19 points) and J.J. Hickson (18 points). Tyson Chandler, who suffered a sprained right ankle against the Kings, was still not himself tonight.

"It was a little sore," he said. "Trying to hit the glass was a little tough for me."

FINALLY BREWING: For the first time since Dec. 9 against the Nuggets, Ronnie Brewer made a 3-pointer. He finished the month of December shooting 15.4 percent from downtown.

MIX AND MATCH: After starting Kurt Thomas at power forward, Mike Woodson went with Marcus Camby at the start of the third quarter -- and the chemistry was evident early on. After finding Tyson Chandler for an alley-oop, Camby had an offensive tip-in.

Woodson has been experimenting with different lineups and flip-flopping players at times at the start of third quarters because of injuries and the lack of offensive sparks when Anthony has sat out. As every coach looks for, he would eventually like to settle on a rotation, so the guys can feel comfortable and prepare better for certain minutes and roles. A lot of that has to do with where Stoudemire will fit in.

MELO'S HELPING HAND: Before the game, Anthony took some time to put a smile on Nicholas Pedone's face. Pedone, 7, is fighting neuroblastoma, a rare type of cancer. He was sitting courtside about two hours before tip-off when Anthony walked over to him and offered some words of encouragement.

"He said, 'Keep your head up,'" Pedone's father, Nick, told ESPNNewYork.com. "He will, he's a fighter."

Said Nick, "It was cool."

FORMER KNICK SIGHTING: Jared Jeffries, who spent most of 2006-12 in New York, returned to the Garden for the first time since last season. He finished with two points and two rebounds in 15 minutes off the bench for the Trail Blazers. The backup center shared some thoughts with ESPNNewYork.com about being back.

"Man, it was awesome," he said. "I love the Garden. It was great seeing all the guys, coaches and staff."

On Amar'e Stoudemire's debut, Jeffries said, "He will get better quick."

Jeffries was also excited to hear that Brewer is a fellow fisherman. He's interested in linking up with the Knicks' small forward this summer.

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