Who are we, really?
The New York Knicks are undoubtedly asking themselves this question now, facing an identity crisis during a critical point of the year which could make or break their season. Whose team is it, anyways? Does the team belong to its best player, Carmelo Anthony, who has had trouble fitting in with the team’s system on both ends of the floor? Does it belong to Amar’e Stoudemire, the team’s leader last season who has been a step slower this year? Does it belong to new sensation Jeremy Lin, who after an explosive few weeks has regressed and now suffers from low confidence and the wrath of opposing defenders? Is it Tyson Chandler’s squad, the team’s defensive leader, who finds it difficult at times at being the only committed defender in an unbalanced squad? The supporting cast of Landry Fields, Iman Shumpert, Steve Novak, JR Smith, and Baron Davis could find a leader, but can they find consistency in their contributions? Or is a team of the system, one run by offensive mastermind coach Mike D’Antoni, who has struggled to bring cohesiveness to the group, overseen erratic defense, and is fighting to keep his job?
The brief spurt of joy and ‘Linsanity’ brought to the Madison Square Garden by Lin’s ascension has been punctured and replaced with doom and gloom. The Knicks have lost five consecutive games, played uninspiring basketball, and looking ahead, face a challenging schedule in the week ahead with games versus the Bulls, Trailblazers, and twice against the Pacers. Fighting for a place in the playoffs, the Knicks are desperate to resolve their identity crisis or they'll be forced to an early vacation at the end of the regular season.
The past week, I watched the Knicks face the Mavericks and the Spurs, and a host of other exciting games from across the NBA landscape.
Wednesday: Knicks @ Mavericks
Trailing by 19 at one point, the Knicks showed heart to make a strong comeback against the reigning champions and even take a lead in the last five minutes of the game. But it was here that Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki took over: Nowitzki saved his best for last, scoring nine of his 28 points in a 14-0 run for the team that clinched the game and handed the Mavericks a 95-85 win. Stoudemire had 26 points for the Knicks in a loss.
Thursday: Knicks @ Spurs
A day later, the Knicks travelled to nearby San Antonio to face the second best team in the West. The Spurs had recently been rejuvenated by the return of Manu Ginobili, and his influence was everywhere in this game off the bench. But the real story was the continuing excellent play of Tony Parker, who was unstoppable as he scored an efficient 32 points. The Knicks tried another comeback behind Carmelo Anthony (27 points) but it wouldn’t be enough as they slumped to a 118-105 defeat.
Friday: Magic @ Bulls
The Chicago Bulls have the best record in the NBA and were at home. The Orlando Magic have been an inconsistent squad troubled with Dwight Howard trade rumours. But for one night, the tables turned: the Magic showed their full potential as a threat they offer with the league’s best Center and accurate three-point shooters surrounding him. The Magic took a huge lead in the second quarter, and although Chicago fought back, it wasn’t enough in the end as Orlando ended Chicago's eight-game home winning streak. Howard had 29 points and 18 rebounds for an impressive Magic win, 99-94. Carlos Boozer led with 26 for the Bulls.
Saturday: Mavericks @ Kings
The Mavs have been maddeningly inconsistent all season, showing impressive, champion performances on certain nights and facing embarrassing losses on others. At the home of the Kings, one of the bottom dwellers of the league, the Mavs faced an inspired Sacramento side who came out hot to defend their home court. In their previous meeting this season, the Kings had been handed an embarrassing loss where they totaled just 60 points. It was sweet redemption for them as they blew out the Mavs in the rematch, 110-97, featuring a balanced offense where seven players scored for them in double digits.
Sunday: Jazz @ Bulls
The Bulls recovered well from their loss to the Magic with a strong showing against the Jazz. Former Utah players Carlos Boozer and Kyle Korver sent out a message to their previous squad, scoring 27 and 26 points respectively. Reigning MVP Derrick Rose marshaled the offense, adding 24 points and 13 assists. Chicago cruised to an easy 111-97 victory. Paul Millsap had 27 points for the Jazz.
…And the rest of the weekend
The NBA’s most-storied rivalry – Lakers and Celtics – added another chapter with a thrilling encounter in LA on Sunday. Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum came up big in the end for the Lakers who survived to win, 97-94. Two of the NBA’s best rookies made news for drastically different reasons this week: Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio found out that he will unfortunately miss the rest of the season due to a torn ACL, while Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving continued his strong showing, leading the Cavaliers to three consecutive victories over the Nuggets, Thunder, and Rockets.
On your TV sets this week: Wed – Lakers @ Grizzlies, Thu – Hawks @ Clippers, Fri – Thunder @ Nuggets, Sat – Timberwolves @ Lakers, Sun – Spurs @ Mavericks.