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Saturday, December 21, 2013
'Big' lineup comes up small vs. Memphis

By Ian Begley

New York Knicks
Saturday's loss to the Grizzlies was a deflating one for Tyson Chandler and the Knicks.
NEW YORK -- The Knicks have used an eye-popping 12 lineups in 26 games.

The one they went with Saturday didn't work out too well.

New York was outrebounded by 27 and outscored by 32 points in the paint in a 95-87 loss to Memphis.

The Knicks started with Andrea Bargnani, Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler on the front line and quickly fell behind 15-8 after seven minutes. They were outrebounded 10-4 in that stretch and allowed 12 points on shots within three feet of the rim.

"That's embarrassing, especially when you start a big lineup," Mike Woodson said after his team fell to 8-18. "Tyson, Bargnani, Melo, they’ve got to rebound the ball better. We’ve got to do it as a unit as well. I thought that was the difference."

That's a scary indictment on the Knicks' "big" front line, which is the one Woodson had hoped to use most often this season.

To be fair, the frontcourt of Bargnani, Chandler and Anthony didn't play all 48 minutes. But when they shared the court, the Knicks struggled. New York was outrebounded 16-8 with Bargnani, Anthony and Chandler playing together. The Knicks gave up 26 points on shots within three feet of the rim and scored just two with their big trio on the floor.

"That's very disappointing," Chandler said of the points allowed near the rim. "That's something we have to clean up."

Wait, it gets worse, Tyson.

New York was outscored 24-10 when Bargnani, Anthony and Chandler shared the floor in the first three quarters. In the fourth, with the Knicks down 18, they outscored Memphis 23-10 with their "big" frontcourt. But the damage was already done.

Afterward, Anthony hinted he and the Knicks are having a tough time adjusting to Woodson's frequent lineup tweaks. Someone asked Anthony if the Knicks' "big" lineup can be as effective as teams like Memphis and Indiana, which have established rotations.

"We don’t know. Because you never know what lineup we are going to have out there," Anthony said. "We come in and it’s on the board that this is the lineup that is going to be out there and we have to adjust from there."

Thus far, the Knicks haven't adjusted well when starting Anthony, Chandler and Bargnani.

They are 0-4.

Entering play Saturday, they had allowed 121.5 points per 100 possessions and scored just 98.5 points per 100 in the 54 minutes Anthony, Chandler and Bargnani shared the floor. That's not good.

Of course, it should be noted that Chandler is just getting back from an injury that caused him to miss six weeks. Understandably, the 7-footer said it will take time to develop chemistry with his teammates, including Bargnani.

But some would argue all the time in the world won't help the "big" lineup because it's inherently flawed. With Bargnani in the mix, Anthony is forced to play small forward instead of power forward. Playing primarily as a power forward last season, Anthony led the league in scoring and lifted the Knicks to 54 wins. This season, the Knicks are 3-10 when he starts games at small forward. So you can make a strong argument that Woodson's club would be better off with Bargnani in the second unit and Anthony at power forward.

For what it's worth, Anthony didn't want to insert himself into that debate Saturday after another deflating loss.

"I don’t know. I don’t think that’s for me to answer and talk about," Anthony said when asked if the Knicks should stick with one lineup. "At this point, we are going with what is on the board. If it's on the board that it is a big lineup that day, then that is what we are going with. And if it's on the board that we are going with a small lineup, then that's what we are going to go with. We got to be able to adjust to that."

So far, they haven't adjusted well. If they don't do so soon, Woodson may not be the guy filling out the lineups anymore.

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.