Despite a Friday night victory over the Milwaukee Bucks, snapping a six-game losing streak, the New York Knicks have lost seven of their past eight games and have struggled defensively.
That was evident on Saturday when New York suffered a 123-109 loss to the Indiana Pacers, a team that ranks 11th in the league averaging 105.8 points per game (PPG). Defensively, the Knicks are allowing the sixth-highest total of PPG (108.8) in the NBA and the recent losing stretch has highlighted those problems.
Brandon Jennings, the team’s backup point guard and leader of its second unit, has been one of the team’s sparks this season. However, Jennings’ play is consistently streaky and his recent struggles had led to decreased playing time — despite his 17-point, four-assist performance against the Pacers.
Before Saturday, Jennings scored five points or less in seven of the Knicks’ last nine games. Speaking to Marc Berman of the New York Post, Jennings blasted his and the team’s recent performance.
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“Honestly, I don’t think we’ve played well at all this year,” Jennings said. “I don’t know if you’re watching it. We’re winning games because of our talent. Basketball-wise, I don’t think we’re playing basketball like we should.”
The Knicks are currently 17-20, good for 10th place in the Eastern Conference — 3.5 games behind the Washington Wizards for the eighth and final playoff spot.
Carmelo Anthony has played well this season, averaging 22.1 points and 6.3 rebounds through 36 games. Injuries have bothered the nine-time All-Star all season, but he has missed just one game (the Knicks’ 103-90 loss to the Golden State Warriors on December 15, 2016) this season. However, he did leave the team’s game in Houston on New Year’s Eve (a 129-122 loss) due to a knee injury.
However, the knee doesn’t seem to be the 32-year-old veteran’s main concern. Speaking to the Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News, Anthony confirmed that his right shoulder is causing him discomfort.
“It’s bad. You know what it is, it’s an adjustment that you have to make on the fly,” Anthony said.
“Like some days it feels good, some days it’s tight. Throughout the course of the game, certain shots, certain moves, you feel like the strength isn’t there. So it’s just a matter of figuring out how to play through it. What’s working? What’s not? It feels good during the game. And then you irritate it. And then you kind of have to work backwards again to get it back stronger. But I’m constant around-the-clock treatment.”
Anthony noted that he does not expect to miss any games due to the injury. Instead, any games he misses would likely be for overall rest of his body, not just his shoulder.
With Jennings struggling, undrafted rookie Ron Baker saw significant action in Friday’s win against the Bucks. The Wichita State product contributed six points and four assists in 12 minutes of play as neither Jennings or Rose played in the fourth quarter.
The deadline for teams to make roster decisions on players non-guaranteed deals is this Tuesday. As confirmed by Al Iannazzone of Newsday, the 23-year-old point guard will remain with the Knicks and coach Jeff Hornacek is happy to keep Baker in the rotation.
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“As a coaching staff, we’d love to have him,” Hornacek said. “Everyone around the organization knows what Ron can provide for us and loves what he does, when we make that decision. If I was Ron, I’d feel pretty good.”
The Knicks return home to Madison Square Garden on Monday night to face Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans.
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