Originally written on Knicks Journal  |  Last updated 11/20/14
Contending teams have been known to play poorly every now and again. As steady as a squad can be, no one can be perfect.That's why it wasn't worth getting up in arms about the Knicks' feeble effort in the first half of Friday night's game against the Kings. New York made sure such a fluke didn't last the entire game, as the Knickerbockers charged back with all their might. Though they even came away with a lead, the Knicks' early struggles undoubtedly exhausted them, resulting in a hectic last possession during which the Kings sank a final shot to win.Despite the poor outing, the fact of the matter is it's just one game. The Knicks need to keep their heads up, all the while ensuring they wouldn't fall into such a rut once again.Unfortunately, the Garden's basketball residents faced a similar deficit against the Blazers as they opened up the new year on Tuesday night.The Knicks fell down as much as 19 points in a poor first half showing yet again. Rookie floor general Damian Lillard was cool as a cucumber under the bright lights of the Big Apple, and paced his team's offensive performance throughout the contest. Nicolas Batum hit a barrage of bombs from long range as Portland looked poised to sink the Knicks' hopes of earning a bounce-back victory.Similarly to the way they came out against the Kings last week, however, New York aimed to narrow the gap against the Blazers in the second half.Coach Mike Woodson cannot be happy with the way the Knicks shoot out the canon to start games. He must have plenty to say to his squad during halftime to light the fire under their butts.Last week, whatever Woodson said seemed to work. The same can't necessarily be said as they jawed with the Blazers, though. There wasn't enough fight in the effort they put forth. Though Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith were able to carry their team offensively, New York was just unable to collectively get enough stops to take control.As the game went on, it can't be denied that the Knicks improved. But being able to win the contest came down to the way they started it once again. It's difficult to play catch up under normal circumstances. Still a little banged up with injuries to the likes of Raymond Felton and Rasheed Wallace, the game doesn't come as easy when you can't slow an opponent down. The Knicks were simply trading baskets with the Blazers as time ran down, and it just...wasn't....enough. You can't win that way.What's more, the contest was even further from the norm with regard to the debut of Amar'e Stoudemire. After missing the season's first thirty games, STAT was welcomed back to the hardwood by a standing ovation from Knicks fans. Overall, all the hype outweighed the Knicks' ability to cash in on such an appearance. Stoudemire looked lost defensively, and was often tentative, with the exception of a ferocious leap and a roaring block.Such a play seemed to ignite the returning big man, who missed his first five shots. Converting sweet dimes from the likes of Anthony and Pablo Prigioni, STAT went on to score a few baskets inside, finishing with 6 points in 17 minutes of play.Stoudemire's appearance may have provided the inspiration, but no one else stepped up to provide that extra spark. Anthony poured in a season-high tying 45 points, and J.R. Smith continued to emerge as a legitimate offensive option, logging a double-double with 28 points and 11 boards. Despite the duo's efforts, the rest of the team lacked intensity and failed to make a positive impact for their squad. The Knicks lacked contributions from key players on both sides of the floor.Batum led the Blazers with 26 points, and floor general Lillard added 21 points of his own as the Blazers defeated New York by a score of 105-100.Instead of charging ahead and never looking back, the Knicks will now need to break things down and put an end to their struggles before taking on the Spurs on Thursday night.

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