Texas-Sized Stomping: Spurs Squash Knicks by 31 in J.R. Smith’s Return

NEW YORK — The New York Knicks responded well to last week’s players’ only meeting called by star player Carmelo Anthony on Friday night, paying the Charlotte Bobcats back on the road for a home loss the game before.

Adapting the lessons learned from those dialogues to Madison Square Garden, however, is something they still need to figure out.

Losing a third straight home game for the first time in the Mike Woodson era, the Knicks (2-4) allowed the visiting San Antonio Spurs (6-1) to embarrass them, 120-89, on Sunday afternoon.

San Antonio barely broke a sweat as no Spur played more than the 25:47 logged by starting forward Marco Belineli (seven points).

The return of last year’s Sixth Man of the Year, J.R. Smith, figured to help New York, but that only made things worse, as Smith missed his first five shots and 8 of 9 overall (including 4 of 5 misses from 3-point range), while finishing with just five points in his first game after serving a five-game suspension for violating the NBA’s drug policy.

As for Smith’s teammates, what they did well in Charlotte, failed to carry over to their home floor.

“We had our discussion and we responded the other night in a very high fashion, a great fashion,” said Anthony, who matched forward Andrea Bargnani’s 16 points, with each player making half of his 10 shots from the field.

“And today, we just didn’t respond well,” Anthony continued. “The Spurs did everything right. They did whatever they wanted to do… on both ends of the court.”

That occurred from the outset, as Long Island, New York product Danny Green (game-high 24 points, 10 rebounds) set the tone with a pair of 3-pointers within the first 97 seconds to help the San Antonio score the game’s first 10 points.

“It’s exciting, it’s fun times,” Green said of playing at the Garden. “Every time I come to New York, my family is always going to come out, friends as well. A lot of them get their own tickets, but I always have to go deep into my pockets to get some people to come out.”

Green made half of the Spurs’ dozen 3s (on nine attempts) to surpass the five he had for the season before the opening tip.

Belinelli pushed the lead to 21-4 with a 3-pointer of his own, and San Antonio was off and running toward a commanding 35-17 lead by the end of the first quarter.

Another Green trey put the Spurs up, 42-19, early in the second quarter — the same exact situation the Knicks found themselves in when their bad stretch of home play began during a loss to Minnesota.

The lead grew to as much as 24 points on three different occasions before New York trimmed that margin by one-third, to 61-45, at halftime.

Unable to make adjustments after intermission, the Knicks were outscored 12-2 to start the third quarter, and were down 73-47 before Smith made his only shot (a 3-pointer).

From there, San Antonio swelled its lead to 90-55 before reserve forward Metta World Peace (13 points, five rebounds, three assists) — one of the very few in New York’s new alternate orange jerseys to show that he cared about playing defense — hit a 3-pointer to make it a 30-point game after three periods.

About midway through the final quarter, San Antonio’s lead ballooned to as much as 37 two different times, in front of a Garden crowd that throughout the game, seemed too disgusted or indifferent with the Knicks’ performance to boo that much.

“I haven’t watched many games like that,” said head coach Mike Woodson. “We didn’t compete… and that’s just unacceptable. Right from the start, we let our offense shoot shots that we missed, and that dictated how we defended on the other end.”

Noting the drastic difference from New York’s prior game, Woodson said, “I thought the Charlotte game, we came out determined. [It was] the first time with this team [this season] that [I saw] a 48-minute ball game where we were solid from beginning to end, especially on the defensive end.”

Last Thursday, starting point guard Raymond Felton (seven points, two assists) publicly apologized to fans for the Knicks’ 1-3 start.

Woodson echoed Felton’s comments while acknowledging his team allowing at least 30 points in the first quarter and over 60 points in the first half in each of New York’s last three home games.

“Our last three outings at home have been awful in the first half,” he said. “That shouldn’t be. You should feel good about playing at home in front of your fans. They pay their hard-earned money to watch us play, and we should give them something [to watch].”

As he has before, Anthony again questioned the Knicks’ level of effort.

“[The Spurs] played harder, they played better,” he said. “It was embarrassing for us to come here and lose a game on our home court like this. It wasn’t about losing the game. It was how we lost the game. We didn’t compete today and it showed out there on the court.”

Still, as New York’s leader, Anthony said, “I have to remain very confident and very positive… and hopefully, my teammates feed off of that mentality and that attitude… if I’m being negative, then they’ll be negative and moping around, and then the morale will be down. We can’t have that. Not now. It’s easy to go into that place, but we’re not going to allow that.”

Maybe not mentally, at least.

Physically, the Knicks next play on Wednesday night in Atlanta, where Woodson got his head coaching start before coming to New York. The same Atlanta Hawks then make a return visit to MSG on Saturday night, after the Knicks host their old friend Jeremy Lin, while getting their first looks at Dwight Howard in a Houston Rockets uniform, during a nationally televised game on Thursday night.

About the Author

Jon Wagner

Jon has been a credentialed writer with New York Sports Day since 2009, primarily covering the New York Knicks and Hofstra men's basketball. He has also occasionally covered other college basketball and New York's pro teams including the Mets, Giants, Jets, Islanders, Rangers and Cosmos (including their three most recent championship seasons).Jon is former Yahoo Sports contributor who previously covered various sports for the Queens Ledger. He's a proud alum of Hofstra University and the Connecticut School of Broadcasting (which he attended on a full scholarship).He remains convinced to this day that John Starks would have won the Knicks a championship in 1994 had Hakeem Olajuwon not blocked Starks' shot in Game 6 of the 1994 NBA Finals.

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