CHARLOTTE, N.C. - If the season-opening blowout loss in Miami was cause for concern, then consider the 102-100 double-overtime loss to the Bobcats Friday night an alarming overall performance to take into Saturday's home opener against the 76ers before what is expected to be a sold-out Garden.
There was anger about a foul called on Al Harrington in the final seconds of the second OT, when D.J. Augustin went to the line with the score tied and hit two free throws with 2.5 seconds left. Harrington clearly made contact with Augustin, though the veteran disputed the call.
"It was a block,'' Harrington said. "The ref knows it was a block, everybody knows it was a block." But anyone watching knew that call should be the least of the Knicks' concerns right now.
Shooting once again was a major issue, as the only player with more than 10 shots for the Knicks (38.8 percent from the floor ) to shoot over 50 percent was Danilo Gallinari (6-for-11), who finished with 16 points and five rebounds. Harrington, Nate Robinson and David Lee each had 17 points for the Knicks (0-2). Raymond Felton led the Bobcats (1-1) with 22 points.
Regardless of the disputed call, the bigger issue that comes out of this game is the Knicks' maddening lack of intensity at the start of the game - this after the team admitted it was flat for key stretches in the loss to the Heat.
The Bobcats had the Knicks in a 21-point hole by the second quarter. Chris Duhon went so far as to point out that the team was not focused "even in the layup line," a noticeable trend for this team.
"We lost this game before the game even started," Duhon said. "A lot of us weren't taking the game serious, joking around, not really preparing for the game, and it showed."
But coach Mike D'Antoni, ever the optimist, preferred to focus on the second-half comeback, in which the Knicks rallied from an 18-point deficit early in the fourth quarter. "I can see how we need to play," he said. "I think I can figure it out. There were some signs out there that we turned the corner in a few things."
One obvious sign is that the only real scoring threat right now is their 21-year-old "redshirt" rookie, who in two games has shot 13-for-25 and has proven to be a dangerous perimeter scorer. But his troubles come on the defensive end, which was one of the reasons D'Antoni said he did not play Gallinari much in the overtime periods.
Gallinari had picked up his fifth foul with 5:39 left in the fourth quarter. He went back into the game with 7.2 seconds left in regulation for an attempt at a game-winner but missed on a straight-away look from well beyond the arc.
Brown: NBA needs good Knicks
Bobcats coach Larry Brown, who lasted one season with the Knicks in 2005-06, said he believes in his old friend Donnie Walsh's 2010 plan. Brown also believes that the Knicks - who are owned by Cablevision, which also owns Newsday - will be able to attract a big-ticket free agent and said it is important to the NBA.
"We need New York to be great," he said. "You've got the most knowledgeable basketball fans, you've got great fans. You've got the media there. It's important. We've got to have New York being successful; it's important . . . I think so many players want to play there, especially the way Mike plays and Donnie. I don't think that's going to be an unrealistic goal. It would be great for our league."