Well, that was interesting. In their second visit to Madison Square Garden in three years, Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv couldn't quite handle the Knicks' fast pace or the NBA's foreign rules, but they did leave their mark. If this game, which was to benefit the Migdal Ohr orphanage, is remembered, it will be for a bizarre incident in the third quarter.
Maccabi is coached by the notorious Pini Gershon, who is what NBA and media-types call a "character". He comes across as a difficult, hot-tempered fellow, and that reputation was bolstered by today's events. Gershon had been giving the replacement refs an earful all afternoon, and was whistled for his second technical after pointing and chastising an official. The ref motioned for Gershon to leave the premises, but the coach...well...just wouldn't. Within a minute or two, the court was swarmed with more men in suits and ties (and yarmulkes) than actual NBA folk, all while Gershon stood his ground and hammed it up a little for the camera and crowd. Keep in mind that this match-up was a philanthropic affair and that the crowd was largely Maccabi fans, so this was all super awkward. After the sheepish refs were turned away, some other authorities (including the rabbi who's in charge of Migdal Ohr) managed to coerce Gershon into leaving the floor, lest Maccabi have to forfeit a charity game. It took about 10 minutes, all told, to clear up the nonsense, although Al Trautwig reported later on that Gershon nearly stormed back onto the court when he couldn't find a feed of the game in the locker room. Suffice to say it was an uncomfortable ordeal.
Anyway, there was some actual basketball played this afternoon, so click through for some notes on the main event.
- The one thing that set this game apart from the rest was tempo. The Knicks made a pretty consistent effort to push the action, and it started with defense. Pretty much every unit played half-court pressure, jumped passing lanes, and trapped with conviction. This made for 14 team steals and 21 total Maccabi turnovers off of which the Knicks scored 25 points. Even in the absence of turnovers, the Knicks ran. David Lee and Wilson Chandler did an excellent job either heaving outlet passes or leading the break themselves, and Maccabi couldn't keep up. NBA squads are probably more equipped for the D'Antoni attack, but that's how I envision the Knicks stealing wins this year: swarming team defense, forced turnovers, and quick scores.
- Maccabi played very aggressive halfcourt defense, so Chris Duhon and Nate Robinson deserve credit for still managing to run the set offense. Du and Nate finished with 6 and 4 assists apiece, and both enjoyed some success running the pick-and-roll.
- Despite D'Antoni's decision to keep Nate Robinson in the starting unit, the early lineup looked a bit sluggish. In fact, it took a pair of Jared Jeffries threes to get the ball rolling. After that, things returned to normal: the Knick offense started clicking, and Jared went 0-4 on threes from that point forward.
- Danilo Gallinari should watch video of Dirk Nowitzki to learn how a man of his size and caliber manages to take 20 shots a game and make a lot of them. There were flashes, including a lefty drive and dunk attempt that drew a foul, but Gallo's still far too willing to settle into the role of spot-up shooter. He fouled out, too.
- Maccabi's best player is Alan Anderson, who you may remember from his days at Michigan State or his stint with the Bobcats (during which he and Emeka Okafor led the NBA in eyebrows per 48 minutes). Anderson's not a great shooter, but he did make a fool of bigger defenders like Gallinari with some impressive drives. He also screeches like a bald eagle after missing a free throw, which is neat.
- At one point, Jared Jeffries wound up for what appeared to be a thunderous wide open dunk, then suddenly decided a layup would be better, then realized he was already sort of touching the rim already and tried to dunk again, then missed. You could write an entire play out of Jared's aerial monologue on that move.
- Larry Hughes didn't play in the first half, but finally made his first field goal of the preseason in the fourth quarter. The Jews bring miracles with them wherever they go.
- Darko Milicic looked concerned all game, then dashed to the locker room after a foul call in the second quarter. I predicted correctly that Darko was hampered by a case of the runs. Unfortunately, the Jews bring falafel with them wherever they go, too.
- Maciej Lampe looks very solid, but if you're caught up comparing him to current young Knicks, then you are a child.
- I'm repeating myself here, but Toney Douglas should never shoot threes. He should shoot pull up twos or drive to the basket, because he's very talented at both of those things.
- Nate Robinson was the best player on the floor for just about the whole game. Though only credited with two steals, he was directly responsible for about half a dozen Maccabi turnovers that begot Knick fast breaks. On offense, Nate's passing was spot-on, particularly during a 21-4 run to finish the second quarter. Robinson was also the only Knick to shoot decently (4-8) from downtown, and he finished with a team-leading 19 points.
- Jordan Hill looked typically rushed, but he did have a little more success under the basket this afternoon. HIll went for 8 points (4-8) and 6 boards.
- Wilson Chandler didn't post big scoring numbers (11 points on 4-9 shooting), but that's not a bad thing. Wil limited his three-point attempts (0-2) and didn't overextend himself off the dribble. His scores tended to be assisted, as he'd get out on the break or blow by his man off the ball to make a catch and finish near the rim. That's what I like to see.
- Chris Hunter, Marcus Landry, and Joe Crawford are all NBA players. Hunter and Crawford both had an impact in their first preseason minutes (albeit during garbage time), while Landry continued to show that willingness to outwork every other player on the floor. Even without Morris Almond and Nikoloz Tskitishvili, I love the bench squad.
And there you have it. Despite some extracurricular activity and a hostile home crowd, the Knicks managed a blowout against the talented Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv. The halfcourt offense still wasn't in regular season form, but dogged defense and increased tempo helped the Knicks get in front and stay there. The next preseason is Tuesday against the Celtics.