When NBA schedule-makers sat down to plot out the Christmas Day games, Knicks-Thunder seemed like a layup.
The Knicks were the No. 2 seed in the East last season and had split two competitive regular-season games with the Thunder, including a memorable road win on April 7.
It should have been one of the best games of the day. But the Knicks, obviously, haven't held up their end of the bargain. So, how did we get here? How did a Knicks club with so much promise fall into a 9-18 abyss?
Here are three contributing factors:
The Andrea Bargnani-Carmelo Anthony pairing is a bust so far
And it's certainly not Anthony's fault. The trade for Bargnani was all about giving Carmelo a secondary scorer. Instead, it has given the Knicks' coaching staff another headache to deal with on defense.
Based on a bottom-line statistical assessment, the Knicks would be wise to consider splitting Bargnani and Anthony up. New York is outscoring opponents by 11.5 points per 100 possessions when Anthony is on the floor without Bargnani, per NBA.com. When both players share the floor, the Knicks are being outscored by an average of 6.4 points per 100 possessions.
The biggest difference seems to be Bargnani's defense. With Bargnani and Anthony on the floor together, the Knicks are allowing 108.6 points per 100 possessions, according to NBA.com. With Anthony on the floor and Bargnani on the bench, that number drops to 93.3 points per 100 possessions.
Perimeter defense? Don't count on it
The Knicks' defensive issues start at the point of attack. Point guards are scoring an average of 24.1 points per game against New York. Shooting guards are going off for 20.7 points per game, according to 82games.com. Those numbers are astronomical, but they wouldn't be so bad if the Knicks guards were putting up similar numbers. They aren't.
New York backcourts are being outscored by 10.5 points per game at the point guard spot and seven points per game at shooting guard, per 82games.com.
The Knicks, though, are a net positive at the three other positions.
Late-game miscues/IQ issues
New York has dealt with a major injury to Tyson Chandler and nagging injuries to Felton. That should be taken into account when you talk about the club's record.
But coach Mike Woodson's team has also lost three winnable games this season due to costly errors down the stretch.
First, there was Anthony's intentional foul on Dwight Howard that helped the Houston Rockets secure a win at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 14. Then there was Shumpert's touch foul on a Paul George 3-point attempt late in the Knicks' loss to the Indiana Pacers on Nov. 20.
Finally, of course, there was the Dec. 16 meltdown against the Washington Wizards. The Knicks failed to foul Washington's Bradley Beal when they had one to give on the Wizards' last possession, and then they didn't call a timeout to set up a play with 6.9 seconds to go, sealing another late loss.
It makes you wonder if these are isolated events or if there's something else there.
Is there a communication void between coaches and players? A leadership void?
Several players, most notably Anthony and Smith, have noted that this year's team is different without veterans Jason Kidd, Rasheed Wallace, Kurt Thomas and Marcus Camby in the locker room.
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