My apologies for the post-game thread reading "Sixers 93, Knicks 92" all night. I guess it was that kind of game. The Knicks got beaten in Philadelphia last night, or at least that's what it felt like. Samuel Dalembert and company decimated New York on the glass. It seemed like the Sixers got a mulligan on every shot attempt, and with 16 offensive boards and an overall 43-27 rebounding advantage, that wasn't all that far from reality. In the end, though, the Knicks shot slightly better (or less badly), hit a few more free throws, and took care of the ball to steal an ugly victory in Philly. After two discouraging road losses and a streak of 9 straight defeats at the Wachovia Center, we'll take it.
Notes after the jump...
- The game started very crisply on the offensive end. Various Knicks were cutting well off the ball, and Danilo Gallinari and Jared Jeffries each got open for easy dunks. As the first quarter progressed, the offensive turned to David Lee and his accurate jumper, and then, inexplicably, to Jeffries. Jared got loose for for 9 points in the quarter, including a rare three-point make. Somewhere in the world, there was an oil spill.
- Mike D'Antoni opted to sic Jared Jeffries on Allen Iverson for stretches in the first quarter. AI spent that period and pretty much the whole game burying midrange pull-ups, which I suppose is the shot you're gonna forfeit with that defensive assignment. Credit Jeffries with doing a decent job keeping Iverson in front of him, and credit Iverson with scoring anyway.
- Aside from Iverson, the Philadelphia starters were dreadful. Andre Iguodala (2-9), Lou Williams (1-7), and Thaddeus Young (3-13) usually torch the Knicks, but none of them could get it going at any point of this game. Lots of missed layups and open jumpers. The bench squad, meanwhile, had their way against the Knicks' second unit. Jrue Holiday (who I loved before the draft and still love), Willie Green (who, according to my girlfriend, looks like Snoopy), and Rodney Carney all sank the jumpers the starting unit simply couldn't make. Elton Brand, meanwhile, did an excellent job contesting shots in the second quarter, though he, too, struggled shooting (2-9).
- If the Knicks rebounded those oodles of misses, this might have been an easy win. Dalembert and co. were bigger and more determined, though, and second chances kept the game close.
- The Philadelphia PA announcer gets very excited when a Sixers scores, and turns into Ben Stein when the opponent scores.
- I need confirmation that somebody else heard this. At one point in the second quarter, a tangent about bowling led Walt Frazier to reveal that he has twin sisters, both of whom have bowled scores of 300. First of all, Clyde has twin sisters? Are they named Huffing and Stuffing? Second of all, perfect games!? Mike Breen, who sounded as noticeably befuddled as I've ever heard him, asked Frazier if his sisters had ever considering bowling professionally, which Clyde sort of casually dismissed. It was the most passive, matter-of-fact disclosure of some pretty awesome trivia that I've ever heard. There is so much to Clyde that we don't know. Anyway, if I wasn't hearing things, I must meet these sisters.
- Clyde diagnosed Danilo Gallinari with the affliction of "aiming his shots", which seems like a reasonable appraisal. Gallo continues to short-arm jumpers, and it does seem like he's taking an extra beat to release them and not always setting himself right. The good news is that even while Danilo's shot isn't falling, he's finding other ways to contribute. Gallo threw a few gorgeous passes (4 assists), and also finished with 2 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 2 steals to flesh things out. He finished +13 on the night, which led all Knicks. In other news, my girlfriend claims that Danilo has "baby arms", which kind of makes sense in the context of this bullet point.
- I mentioned Jared Jeffries before, and should add that, even on top of his high-scoring first quarter, Jared had an incredibly important game. He finished with a season-high 15 points, and added 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and a block. As has often been the case, Jared was also the linchpin of a 3-2 zone defense used for long stretches of the latter three quarters, and was able to disrupt passing lanes and contest shots pretty nicely. Perhaps his most important play of the game was a tip-in of a Wilson Chandler airball that cut a four-point deficit in half with just two minutes left. Looking back, that score was as crucial as any bucket down the stretch. Hats off to Jared Jeffries.
- D'Antoni employed as much zone defense last night as he ever has, and it worked most of the time. There were plenty of possessions in which the Knicks got deflections or forced the Sixers into out-of-rhythm jumpers, but the zone also compounded the already dire rebounding problem and surrendered a couple open threes. It's a give and a take.
- Eddie Jordan opted to double Wilson Chandler pretty frequently when he caught the ball inside the arc. Wil had a bit of trouble finding the open man in these scenarios, but was usually patient enough to dribble out of them and find a way to score. Chandler finished a solid 18 and 6 on 8-14 shooting, including a brilliant three-point play in the final minute. All of this, of course, without so much as cracking a smile.
- It was Jewish Heritage Night at the Wachovia Center. Clyde and Mike Breen had to sit high up to call the action, while Matisyahu (who performed at some point) got to sit at the sideline desk. I'm not sure what Jewish about the evening aside from the Matisyahu concert, but...cool.
- After Thaddeus Young rimmed out a gorgeous spinning layup, Clyde quipped "if it was gymnastics, he would've gotten a 10", to which Breen replied "you've still gotta land it in gymnastics". Touche.
- Samuel Dalembert deserves some love for dominating the glass, even when his heart was elsewhere. Dalembert had 12 and 21 in 30 minutes, all while remaining uncertain as to the condition and whereabouts of various friends and family members in his native Haiti. Best wishes to Samuel, who was ready to catch a plane back to Haiti yesterday if they'd allowed him to. It was a noble basketball effort on a night when basketball was the least of his worries.
- I don't fully understand Mike D'Antoni's use of Danilo Gallinari in fourth quarters. As is often the case, Gallo got benched very early (10:48) in the fourth, and didn't return until there were just over 3 minutes remaining. If it were up to me, Gallo would play the whole endgame, but that's just me. I'd also start Toney Douglas, so don't take my word for it.
- Why doesn't Marreese Speights play more?
- David Lee, who was playing with an understandably heavy heart, shot below his usual clip for most of the night, but made up for it in the final minute. First, Lee calmly sank the mid-range jumper that he hadn't been able to find since the first quarter with 43 seconds remaining. After a Marreese Speights drive (which Jared Jeffries defended pretty damn well, if you ask me) put the Sixers back up by 1, Lee ran the pick-and-roll with Chris Duhon, caught a tough pass, and finished with some contact on the right side of the rim. Those two ballsy makes by Lee, as well as Chandler's difficult and-one and Jeffries' tip-in were huge when it counted.
- That's really what I took away from tonight's game. After two really disappointing losses, the Knicks flat-out executed down the stretch. They scored on all 5 of their possessions in the final 3 minutes, and played active team defense to seal the victory. The Sixers had the ball with 13 seconds left and the chance to win, but the Knicks closed off each of the primary options. Marreese Speights took the ball towards the left baseline, but Wilson Chandler helped David Lee immediately, forcing Speights to make a tough pass out of the double. Allen Iverson caught it at the top of the key with an eye for the rim, but Danilo Gallinari threw himself towards the little dude to deter the mid-range jumper he'd been sinking all game. Instead of forcing a tough shot, Iverson kicked it to Rodney Carney, who missed the three at the buzzer. Even though Carney had previously connected on a few big treys, I'll take that shot over twos from Speights and Iverson every time down. D'Antoni made the unpopular decision of pocketing the foul to give, but the Knicks reacted quickly enough on defense to win anyway. With that loss to the Thunder still in the back of our heads, it was nice to be reminded that is not, in fact, November anymore. The Knicks of old might not have executed so swimmingly in crunchtime. Case in point.
Like I said, big win, especially considering that the Knicks didn't play their best basketball. The Knicks are back home on Friday to face the Raptors, and if things go as planned, there is going to be all sorts of nonsense on this website between now and then. Keep an eye out.