As the Knicks fall to 2-6, extending their losing streak to what seems like an eternal five games, President Phil Jackson remains optimistic, reassuring the public in a press conference before tonight’s game that patience is most definitely in order and progression will eventually develop.
“[It’s] going to be a very tough start,” Jackson stated. "[We] can’t get disappointed if things don’t go well right away.” The hall of fame coach, with 13 rings supporting his legendary reputation, has foreseen the Knicks’ early struggles, but the frustration still weighs heavy in the minds of Knicks fans and players alike.
Coach Fisher enforced the same lineup he started in the Knicks’ first matchup against the Hawks Saturday night, which features Tim Hardaway Jr. at the shooting guard position, who displayed another impressive shooting performance in his 22 minutes of play. The second-year guard scored 15 points on 6-for-11 shooting and left many wondering why he wasn’t seen much in the fourth quarter, when a hot hand and timely hooping were much needed factors. Iman Shumpert, who has played extremely well in the start of the season, dished out five assists and finished with 18 points, shooting 8-for-12 from the field. The apprehensive Shumpert that often passed on open looks last season has emerged as a more confident player thus far - a bright spot in the midst of what has been anything but a smooth transition.
As for Carmelo Anthony, who has struggled tremendously during this losing streak, he almost finished with close to triple-double, recording 25 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists. Anthony seemed to lose steam down the stretch as Fisher made a conscious decision to play him every minute of the second half. Coach Fisher assessed his level of play as balanced and took the opportunity to extend Anthony’s minutes for what he hopes would lead to a win. Unfortunately, Anthony received little help from his supporting cast in the final quarter. The Knicks were heavily outscored yet again at the costless throw line, this time by 16 points. The Hawks went 27-for-28 at the costless throw line in comparison to the Knicks, who shot 7-for-12. In the last game, Coach Fisher voiced his concerns that the Knicks needed to defend without committing as many fouls, which he felt they did accomplish tonight.
Despite holding the Hawks to 38 percent shooting from the field, it wasn’t enough to hold them off from a back-to-back win and their first road win of the season. The game was tied at 38 going into the half, but the Hawks took over down the stretch, going on an 11-0 run in the third quarter. Though the doom was not as ominous, it eventually manifested itself into a lead the Knicks would never be able to surpass. Again, it was Millsap and Korver who led the way for the Hawks, scoring 19 and 17 points respectively. Horford also contributed 12 points and six rebounds to the victory. Teague was almost a non-factor in tonight’s win, registering a minuscule three points, but it was Dennis Schroeder who came up big for the Hawks, scoring a career-high of 14 points; two of those baskets came in the final two minutes of the game, giving Atlanta an 81-74 lead with less than a minute left. The Knicks would ultimately fall 91-85, in their fifth consecutive loss.
Phil Jackson’s composure is a difficult feat for us mere mortals to achieve and understand, but Coach Fisher has certainly adopted the trait. In an impressive display of leadership, he apologized to his team for not being able to draw up a win despite their obvious efforts. “It’s early in the season for sure, in terms of how to finish games,” he told the press in a post-game conference. The Knicks are still trying to solidify their identity.
Some questions that still linger:
Who will step up as the Knicks’ second scorer behind Carmelo Anthony; more specifically, will the former sixth man J.R. Smith emerge as a significant role player within the still developing triangle?
Where was Quincy Acy tonight---a player who brings a great intensity to the game and high-energy defensive efforts?
Patience Knicks fans. The Zen Master says this is a ride we must buckle in tight for and the ride continues Wednesday night at the Garden, as the Knicks take on the Orlando Magic.