All told, this wasn't a bad game. The Knicks hung tough for over three quarters, but Kobe Bryant and the Lakers proved too much to handle, as they should. It takes magic for a team like New York to beat a team like L.A., and the Knicks just ran out of pixie dust in the fourth quarter.
Some quick notes, after the jump.
- No turnovers in the first half. None. Zero. That's the kind of magic I was talking about.
- Mike D'Antoni went with the "put Chris Duhon on the opposing superstar even though he's far shorter than said superstar, thus requiring constant double teams and leaving all the superstar's teammates with open looks" defense. Guess how that went? Ron Artest and the Lakers' bench guards (Shannon Brown, Jordan Farmar, and Luke Walton) got a bunch of easy outside looks because Knicks had to help out when Kobe Bryant posted up Duhon. The Lakers pulled away late when D'Antoni matched Kobe straight up with Wilson Chandler or Jared Jeffries, so I guess I can't complain.
- One of the most difficult mismatches was David Lee on Andrew Bynum, who got stupidly good position for easy baskets, contested or not. To his credit, Lee was able to exploit his own mismatch on the other end by canning jumpers and beating the bigger Lakers off the dribble.
- Danilo Gallinari sort of faded late in the game, but he had a very enjoyable stretch of offense in the early going. After Ron Artest blocked his three-point attempt, Gallo beat him off the dribble and threw down a two-handed dunk, then followed with a nice righty floater. I'd still prefer to see Danilo anchor the offense for more of the game, but it was great to see him step up when challenged. Somebody needs to poke Gallo with pins or wave a red flag in front of him before he steps onto the floor. He's better when pissed.
- Jordan Hill made an extended appearance in the second quarter and looked excellent. Hill played diligent man defense on Pau Gasol, and was a huge presence on the boards. Between a long stretch in the second and a short stint in the second half, Hill managed 5 offensive rebounds (7 total) in just 11 minutes of play. He had a couple tip-ins, a nice up-and-under at the rim, and generally out-muscled Pau Gasol on a number of plays. For a guy whose own musculature has been in question, it was a delight to watch. If Hill hasn't earned a real spot in the rotation, I'd be very surprised.
- Chris Duhon missed shots and just didn't get it done. He had 8 assists, including a few pretty ones, but went 1-9 (including a face-palming 0-7 from downtown) in 31 minutes. Nate Robinson also missed shots (1-5 in the first half before he strained his hamstring and had to sit), but got it done better than Du did. Since I've already harped on this subject for months, I'll just add that one advantage Nate has over Chris is that he misses better shots. That sounds silly, but Duhon tends to attempt awful, heat check threes that are out of the rhythm of the offense. Nate takes those too but 1. Hits them more often and 2. Also takes shots that are set up by a pick or are within the offensive scheme, which makes it more likely that there are rebounders in place and at the ready. Maybe this isn't a season-long trend, but it certainly seemed to be the case tonight. Jordan Hill was in perfect position to clean up Nate's misses, in part because he knew they were coming. I don't know if that's an intelligent point, but I've run out of ways to describe the plight of the Knick backcourt.
- Nate also passed very nicely. He made one feed to David Lee-- a one-handed bullet of a pass off a pick-and-roll-- that has been available literally all year. I can't tell you how many times Knick guards have turned their heads and missed rolling big men when opposing defenses hedge after picks.
- Lamar Odom looks like he has smelly farts. Well, he looks just like this kid I went to camp with who had really smelly farts.
- Mike Breen's heartfelt halftime interview with Bill Clinton (support Haiti, y'all!) was pretty neat, but I preferred Jill Martin's talk with Thomas Jones. Jones shared that a fan asked him to sign his arm so that he could eventually trace over the autograph with a tattoo, and also mentioned that he went to the dentist before the Jets' first playoff win, and now pays a quick visit before each game.
- The highlight of that Clinton interview was the former president mentioning that Pau Gasol, Jordan Farmar, and "Danilo Mugglari" were donating money to the Haitian relief effort.
- Another interesting halftime feature: In a Delta Airlines promo, Toney Douglas and Al Harrington tried out some "Business Elite Seats", which they found to be very comfortable. Al Harrington really liked the personal movie screen.
- Wilson Chandler started poorly, relying too heavily on his jumper and missing some bunnies, but made up for it with inspired play in the latter three quarters. Particularly in the third, Wil's offensive versatility was on display- he spun to his left for a tough righty finish, pulled up from midrange, posted up Kobe, drove to his right off a handoff, and had a very nice reverse lay-in off a pretty feed (from Harrington, I think). Wil finished with 28 on 13-22 shooting.
- Funny that the Knicks out-rebounded (42 to 40) a much larger Laker team. Really, if L.A. wasn't so hot from downtown (12-23) and didn't have such a healthy edge at the free throw line (25-31 to 17-21), this could've been the Knicks' ballgame.
- Larry Hughes made an appearance and missed a couple ugly shots, but also had a really nice block on Kobe's buzzer-beating attempt at the end of the first half. MSG followed this with a montage that included a shot of a sign that read: "Kobe Bryant: Only God Can Stop Him". Not sure if I'm ready for a world ruled by Larry Hughes.
- Kelly Tripucka to Kenny Albert: "What do you think President Clinton and Woody Allen are talking about?"
- David Lee put up some nice numbers on the national stage, posting a season-high 31 points to go with 17 rebounds and 4 assists. The funny thing is Dave didn't even play that well. Even his imperfect games, though, have been resulting in numbers like that of late. Also, the Knicks' ball movement picks up noticeably when he's on the floor. I've got a post brewing within me on just how far Lee has come.
Don't lose any sleep over this one. The Knicks looked solid against the likely champions, and avoided satisfying the douchebooger Laker fans in the crowd with another marquee performance from Kobe (8-24 by the way. The Knicks did something right). I don't mean to say that all Laker fans are doucheboogers...just that the ones at the Garden tonight probably were.