Commentary

Nets' three party foils Melo's return

Carmelo Anthony is back in the lineup and the Knicks are out of sync -- on defense

Updated: February 21, 2012, 2:21 AM ET
By Ian Begley | Special to ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- You can't blame Carmelo Anthony for this one.

The New York Knicks' loss to the New Jersey Nets on Monday night had little to do with working Anthony back into the offense. The bigger issue for New York was its inability to shut down the lowly Nets from the outside.

New Jersey made 15 of its 31 attempts from beyond the arc, with Deron Williams hitting a career-high eight 3s in a 100-92 win.

[+] EnlargeMike D'Antoni, Jeremy Lin and Carmelo Anthony
AP Photo/Bill KostrounCarmelo Anthony had to say goodbye to Jeremy Lin when the point guard fouled out in the fourth.

"Our energy just wasn't where it needed to be," coach Mike D'Antoni said after the Knicks (16-17) lost to a Nets team playing its third game in three nights.

New York (40 percent) and New Jersey (39 percent) shot nearly identical field-goal percentages on Monday. So the biggest difference on offense was this: The Nets hit their 3-pointers (48 percent), while the Knicks (23 percent) did not. The Knicks clearly struggled without rookie Iman Shumpert, their top perimeter defender, who sat out with a knee injury.

"We did a great job of trying to contain those guys, but they were hot out there," Knicks forward Amare Stoudemire said. "There's not really much to say."

Williams went off in the third quarter, scoring 18 points to help New Jersey (10-24) turn an eight-point halftime lead into an 18-point advantage heading into the fourth. This was the same Williams whom Jeremy Lin torched for 25 points and seven assists on Feb. 4, when "Linsanity" started.

Lin had 21 points, nine assists, seven rebounds, four steals and three turnovers on Monday.

"Obviously, Deron Williams going for 30 or whatever he had is not going to get it done," Lin said. "I need to come out with more energy and our team needs to come out with more energy. At the end of the day, that is why we lost."

Before the game, there were plenty of questions swirling around Anthony's return to the Knicks.

Under Lin, the Knicks had won eight of nine with offense predicated on ball movement. Six of those wins came with Anthony, who thrives in isolation, sidelined with a groin injury.

So many wondered how Anthony would fit into the mix. He didn't force anything Monday, making four of his 11 shots. Most came within the flow of the offense.

"My mindset was just to not try to come in and not do too much, try to fit in and try to play my game within the system," Anthony said. "[I want to] play the way that they've been playing the last few weeks: passing the ball, finding the open man, making the right play."

For the most part, that's what happened. But it was clear that the Knicks had trouble incorporating J.R. Smith, Anthony and -- to a lesser extent -- Baron Davis into the offense with no practice time.

New York had an opportunity to climb back in the game early in the fourth when the Nets started the quarter 1-for-10. But the Knicks couldn't take advantage, missing 13 of 21 shots in the final period.

"I think any time you have three new players coming back your identity as a team is going to change with the personnel," Lin said. "That's what we need to figure out -- what our identity is going to be."

Anthony wants the team's identity to remain the same.

"I want Jeremy to have the ball, hands down," Anthony, who went 3-for-10 in 31 minutes with Lin on the floor. "I want him to create for me, I want him to create for Amare, I want him to create for everybody and still be as aggressive as he's been in the past."

The aggressiveness was there on Monday. The defense was what the Knicks were missing.

Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.

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