Print and Go Back ESPN.com: New York Knicks [Print without images]

Thursday, January 19, 2012
Knicks keep getting outplayed at the point

By Jared Zwerling

NEW YORK -- Mike D'Antoni may need to take his guys out on the Hudson River so they can get a sense of where the ball should end up. As Carmelo Anthony stated after the Magic loss on Monday afternoon, "We can't shoot the ball in the ocean."

Entering Wednesday, the Knicks were fifth-worst in the league in field goal percentage. In their 91-88 loss to the Suns tonight, they shot 37.2 percent, compared to their opponent's 45.6. After the game, Iman Shumpert had a solution for how the team can score: more open looks, especially for Carmelo Anthony (5-for-22 tonight) and Amare Stoudemire (7-for-22).

"We're making them take a lot of tough shots and we're depending on them to score points," Shumpert said. "We've got to make the offense a lot smoother."

Welcome to the world of Steve Nash. Nash finished with 26 points, 11 assists and three turnovers, whereas Shumpert had 20 points, two assists and three turnovers. In fact, his 11 assists were more than all of the Knicks guards had combined (eight). Nash (37 years, 345 days) became the oldest player in NBA history with at least 25 points and 10 assists in a game. Previously, it was Jason Kidd who accomplished the feat on his 37th birthday in March 2010.

The Suns proved that when you have a legit point guard running the show, the game becomes easier on the entire team.

"The [Suns] play under control," Stoudemire said. "They never get forced into playing out of their speed. They're always under control. They take what the defense gives them and they play smart. That's what we need to get to."

Most of the Knicks' previous losses demonstrate that the team's opposing point guard was able to dictate the game by breaking down the defense and establishing efficient ball movement. The losses also prove that the Knicks need to improve their pick-and-roll defense and force the primary ball-handler into more turnovers. Tonight against the Suns, the Knicks didn't fight through screens and they switched way too often, putting the big man on Nash.

Here's a breakdown of how teams' opposing point guards have outplayed Shumpert, Toney Douglas and Mike Bibby so far this season, and how they're not getting enough defensive pressure from the Knicks:
  1. Dec. 28 (92-78 loss vs. Warriors): Monta Ellis (the main floor general with Stephen Curry out due to injury) -- 22 points, 8 assists, 3 turnovers; Douglas -- 6 points, 2 assists, 2 turnovers
  2. Jan. 2 (90-85 loss vs. Raptors): Jose Calderon -- nine points, 12 assists, two turnovers; Douglas -- 22 points, four assists, one turnover
  3. Jan. 4 (118-110 loss vs. Bobcats): D.J. Augustin -- 14 points, 10 assists, 0 turnovers; Douglas -- 13 points, five assists, four turnovers
  4. Jan. 12 (94-83 loss vs. Grizzlies): Mike Conley -- nine points, seven assists, one turnover; Shumpert -- 12 points, three assists, six turnovers
  5. Jan. 14 (104-92 loss vs. Thunder): Russell Westbrook -- 21 points, eight assists, two turnovers; Bibby -- six points, three assists, one turnover
  6. Jan. 16 (102-93 loss vs. Magic): Jameer Nelson -- eight points, seven assists, two turnovers; Shumpert -- 12 points, two assists, one turnover
  7. Jan. 18 (91-88 loss vs. Suns): Nash -- 26 points, 11 assists, three turnovers; Shumpert -- 20 points, two assists, three turnovers

Shumpert knows exactly what Nash does well (where the Knicks are scathed right now): "He's going to make sure they get an open shot every time." Nash does that by setting a consistent pace (and change of pace), and getting the ball up the court quickly. He also knows how to loosen up the defense with different looks in consecutive halfcourt sets. "Mixing it up" is key Shumpert said. It's going to have to happen or the Knicks are going to continue to lose by not balancing decent defensive efforts with scoring games around 100 points or more.

"I'm not understanding how we can sore only 88 points and that's almost a good night for us," D'Antoni said. "That's what's frustrating. It'd be hard to imagine how we can do that and we're doing it, so somehow we've got to figure that out."

After the game, Nash said the Knicks haven't found their rhythm collectively yet, but he didn't only cite their lacking point guard situation as the only reason for their early-season struggles. He spoke about the Knicks having to find that confidence. However, Nash didn't back down from pointing to Baron Davis as the possible solution.

"If Baron is healthy, he could be the answer for sure," he said. "He's a terrific player, very skilled and can facilitate and score. When he's healthy, he can play at a high level with anybody. That's the key if he can get healthy.

"He'll be great here."

You can follow Jared Zwerling on Twitter.