Despite three wins in their last four contests, the New York Knicks still find their bench serving as a prominent problem.
After back to back wins against Charlotte and Portland, the New York Knicks were riding high heading into Thanksgiving weekend, posting a winning record for the first time this season.
However, despite an emotional team meeting, a renewed passion for defense, and a commitment to an effort on the road, New York fell very short against a Charlotte team missing Nic Batum and Marvin Williams.
Notwithstanding the fact that the Hornets were in the midst of a four-game losing streak, and clearly hungry to get back on track, with this team missing two starters, the Knicks should have rolled to an easy victory.
Instead, they shot an abysmal 38% from the floor and lost to the Hornets 107-102.
The chief offender for the Knicks was none other than Carmelo Anthony, who shot 7-for-25 in Charlotte for a whopping 18 points. Despite his late game heroics when the Hornets visited the Garden, Melo was pitiful on the second end of the back to back, after playing 41 minutes the night before. Nonetheless, Jeff Hornacek insisted on playing his star forward 35 minutes the very next night.
Kristaps Porzingis, who has been the most efficient player by far for the Knicks this season, also had a similarly poor shooting night, as he made just seven of his 16 shots for 25 points. While KP still got his buckets, he didn’t display his typical levels of efficiency we’ve seen for the majority of this season.
Luckily for Knicks’ fans, Hornacek addressed the issues immediately after the loss.
“Back-to-back nights, I thought (Anthony) and KP, when they did miss, I thought they missed them short,” Hornacek told the Daily News. “That’s usually a sign your legs aren’t there. Maybe I have to do a better job of getting other guys in, giving them more rest.”
No one needs to remind Hornacek how taxing back to backs can be on a 32-year-old aging superstar and a sophomore player getting used to his new role as the team’s offensive focal point.
However, the Knicks loss to the Hornets illuminates one of the major fears New York fans had coming into this season: the Knicks lack depth.
Certainly, there’s something to be said for Brandon Jennings, who has relished his role as the sixth man in New York and performed admirably against Charlotte Saturday night. Additionally, Justin Holiday has been a pleasant surprise after being considered mostly a throw in with the Derrick Rose trade.
Regardless, the Knicks bench looked barren against Charlotte on Saturday.
While Kyle O’Quinn and Willie Hernangomez provide some nice defense and rebounding, they can hardly keep up with the offensive production Porzingis provides from the center position.
Additionally, on the wing, the Knicks are desperate for help. Mindaugas Kuzimingis has shown flashes of brilliance but has yet to provide consistent performances on the wing. Sacha Vujacic looked over the hill last season, and his inclusion on this roster remains one of the most perplexing moves in the NBA. Maurice N’dour can’t seem to find any playing time.
It’s no wonder Hornacek is counting on Melo to play 76 minutes in a 24 hour period.
The facts remain that unless the Knicks can acquire a wing over the course of the season, back to backs and road games will continue to be the Achilles’ heel of a team with enough talent in the starting lineup to make a playoff run.
The Knicks have surprised a lot of people thus far with the fluidity of their offense, but until they can find someone to step up on nights where Melo and KP can’t carry the team.
They will continue to hover around mediocrity, as there’s simply not enough energy between those two — or any two players in the league for that matter — to carry a team for 82 games.