By DAN KELLY
Special to ZAGSBLOG
NEW YORK — It was a wild and crazy night at Madison Square Garden in the Knicks’ 110-106 loss to the Chicago Bulls.
First, Carmelo Anthony got ejected, then Mike Woodson got ejected, and then Tyson Chandler got tied up with Joakim Noah, and both were ejected.
Beyond the drama of the disappointing home loss, a concerning December trend continued for the Knicks: Ronnie Brewer can’t make shots.
The Knicks’ starting small forward went scoreless on the night and hasn’t scored more than 4 points in his last four outings.
“I have to help Ronnie,” Woodson said. “When guys lose confidence, and it happens throughout the course of the year, as a coach, and our coaching staff, we have to show Ronnie some more love. He has been a big part of what we have done, and has been a big part of us being 19-7, and I’m not going to kick him to the curb.”
The Knicks raced out to an 11-4 record in the month of November due in part to the Brewer’s offensive contributions. While the Knicks have mostly sustained their winning ways in December, going 8-3, Brewer has begun to struggle and the Knicks have lost two of their last three games.
Brewer pleasantly surprised New York fans by coming out and shooting 41 percent from three point range in his first month as a Knick. The career 26-percent 3-point shooter seemed to have finally found his shooting rhythm. And then, just as quickly, he lost it.
In the month of December Brewer has shot 4-22 (18 percent) from three point range. He bottomed out on Friday night against the Bulls going 0-4 from the floor and 0-2 from beyond the arc. Opposing defenses have begun to sag off Brewer so much that he can’t make any more of his sneaky back door cuts and the lauded Knicks offensive spacing is suffering the consequences.
Anthony (29 points) and J.R. Smith (26) have to score more when guys like Brewer and Steve Novak (scoreless) can’t.
“Tonight, we didn’t shoot the ball well, especially in the first half,” Anthony said. “We missed a lot of open shots, missed a lot of chip-in shots, shots that normally make. When you don’t make shots and you’re not stopping the other team, it kind of makes it hard out there on the court.”
Brewer is literally shooting himself off the floor and maybe out of the lineup. He’s started all 25 games this season and has averaged close to 22 minutes per game. His minutes, which have declined all month, bottomed out on Friday when he played only seven in the first half and two to open the second half before he collected some garbage seconds after Melo, Chandler and Woodson were all ejected.
The fact of the matter is that, with the exception of his 41 percent 3-point shooting in November, Brewer has never been a long-distance shooter and his inability to keep defenders honest is clogging the lane for Carmelo on drives and for Chandler on rolls to the rim. A lineup change is not likely for a 19-7 team but there are extenuating circumstances.
Amar’e Stoudemire is likely to be back sometime soon and much has been made of his potential to disrupt the chemistry of the team. But the Knicks have dropped two of their last three games and Brewer’s offensive struggles might have already changed the chemistry of the Knicks as we knew it in the first quarter of the season.
Woodson will “not kick Brewer to the curb” but the Knicks are going to look different with Amar’e and even more different with the return of Iman Shumpert, and Brewer is not doing anything to secure his spot going forward.
Dan Kelly covers the Knicks, Nets and college basketball for brooklynfans.com. He has coached select teams, high school teams and individual players on the West Coast and in South America.