NEW YORK NY - FEBRUARY 16: (L) Amar'e Stoudemire #1 of the New York Knicks jostles with (R) Al Horford #15 of the Atlanta Hawks for a rebound at Madison Square Garden on February 16 2011 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading and/or using this Photograph User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. The Knicks defeated the Hawks 102-90. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
After 50+ games, it becomes increasingly difficult to describe essentially the same thing in a variety of different ways. Many of the same problems that have plagued this Atlanta team over the last two seasons were on full display once again Wednesday night in New York. An inability to defend the pick and roll while also failing to close out on shooters combined with a sluggish offense that is predominantly perimeter oriented sent Atlanta to its third loss in its last four games. We know this team can play better as we have seen such this season, but at this point though it appears that they have fallen into a rut. Nothing is cohesive and everything looks forced. The players don't look like they are on the same page with each other or with the coaching staff and that is a major problem going forward.
No doubt the Hawks got the Knicks attention in the last match up in Atlanta. They came out last night spirited and simply did a better job of executing. It isn't hard to find shots against the Knicks, but they did do a good job of deterring Atlanta at the rim at least until the Hawks gave up on that plan and just took their attack to the perimeter. When this Hawks team is making shots, sometimes that strategy works but when they are not then it is a major flaw. They haven't been lately but hit on 11-22 from three point range last night and still lost. For every basket the Hawks made, the Knicks had an answer showing that by penetrating the Hawks defense they could set up any shot that they wanted which on this night they made.
Eleven three pointers made would have been significant had Atlanta been able to slow the Knicks down defensively or even slow the pace down more to the Hawks liking. Mike Bibby went 5-7 from deep scoring 15 points but was once again the focal point of the Knicks attack. Lets be fair though, it doesn't all fall on Bibby's shoulders. Jamal Crawford also showed that if his shot isn't falling then there is little need for him to be on the floor.
"I started to get touches a little later in the game as opposed to early or the start of the second half," he said. "I didn’t get touches in the post like that so I could really get established."
I don't remember Al every saying anything before and there have been countless opportunities given that the team has completely went away from him at times throughout the season. Perhaps Al felt like he had something to prove last night after all of the pre game talk and he didn't feel like his teammates awarded him the opportunity. Or it is much more likely that he is growing tired of watching the same thing night after night. There are plenty of guys on this team that need to take shots but perhaps there is one too many in the backcourt. Atlanta has to once again find that balance.
Marvin Williams led the way for Atlanta with 17 points and eight rebounds. Josh Smith added 14 points, while Al Horford and Joe Johnson added 12 and 11 points respectively. Jamal led all Hawks scorers off the bench with seven points but was -15 in +/- stats in just 26 minutes. Mo Evans was the only other Hawks player to play double figure minutes off the bench with 12.
Which brings us right back to Atlanta's recent struggles. There is a possibility that the emerge from the All-Star break rejuvenated. We know they can play much better than what we have seen over the last two weeks. We know that Jamal Crawford won't continue to shoot this way. We should also know that no matter if the play does improve, a change is likely still needed. When Mike Bibby was acquired four seasons ago, it helped to jump start this team. That in my opinion is what is needed now. It seems with each passing game, Atlanta is getting less and less from its bench. At this point, there are no signs that improvement can come from within. This team needs to make a move and they have roughly seven days to do it.