Victory! The Knicks struggled in the first half, but improved rebounding and shooting by the second unit propelled the Knicks to a satisfying, albeit meaningless win against the Washington Wizards. Amar'e Stoudemire and Raymond Felton anchored the starting squad, but it was Toney Douglas and the bench crew that took this one back and won it down the stretch.
Take the jump for some notes and nonsense.
- After a decent, back-and-forth first quarter, the Knicks really took a plunge in mid-second period. With Toney Douglas running the point, the halfcourt offense was totally hapless. Both Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler were cold and forcing from outside and the ball movement fell off completely. I'd really prefer that Toney not handle the ball unless Amar'e is on the floor to draw the defense, but I suppose there isn't much of an option. To be fair, Douglas looked a LOT better leading the charge alongside 4 bench folk in crunch time. He just didn't have it going with that semi-first team. In any event, the Knicks went into the second half down 11 with poor showings from the field (37%) and glass (out-rebounded 29-21).
- In the second half, a lineup featuring Toney AND Raymond Felton led a big, boisterous comeback. The Knicks poached passing lanes like fiends and got out in transition much more than they were able to early on. The big guys helped out and trapped guards way above the arc, which kicked off strings of desperate passes and ate plenty of shot clock. That only works for stretches, but I'd love to see that every game.
- Walt Frazier was upset to see Felton and Douglas guarding the obscenely fast John Wall full court, while Mike Breen was happy to see them force the Wizards to start their sets late. I figure a decent happy medium would be something I remember from JCC basketball where you check the guy close up to the halfcourt line, then sprint to the three-point line and assume the defensive stance again. That way, you pressure the guard and knock some seconds off the shot clock, but also avoid getting beat to the rim. Or something like that.
- I'm rarely thrilled with Mike D'Antoni's plays out of timeouts, but his call with the game tied and 3 seconds on the clock was divine. The ball was inbounded to Ronny Turiaf at the top of the key. Turiaf turned and faked a pass to freeze Lester Hudson while Toney Douglas squiggled backdoor to draw a foul at the rim. Simple, elegant, and perfectly executed.
- After an 0-7 outing last night, Toney Douglas found all kinds of offense at home in New York. Toney picked pockets for easy open-court finishes, pulled up for quick two-pointers, and even hit a few of the nine three-pointers he attempted. I'm not totally opposed to Douglas handling the ball while Felton sits, but this game served as evidence that Toney's unit should be built and ready to run. His pick-and-roll sense is lacking, but his ability to start the break with steals and deflections means that an athletic lineup can thrive in transition. Tonight's second half featured long stretches of Toney alongside Landry Fields, Anthony Randolph, and bits of Timofey Mozgov. Those speedy kids are Toney's ideal running mates.
- I feel like I was too harsh on Toney in what was supposed to be a positive bullet point. DWTDD, guys. He played a great game, and even threw us a "most definitely" or two in the post-game interview.
- Raymond Felton (8 points, 8 assists) played very nicely and appears to be establishing a steady two-man game with Timofey Mozgov. Again, Felton's pressure on Wall pretty much guaranteed that he'd get beat off the dribble, but he at least did a decent job of funneling Wall in the direction of big man help.
- After an 0-5 start and some disheartening body language, Wilson Chandler came alive in the second half. Chandler couldn't get easy ones to fall early, but he was splash mountain from any range at any angle later on.
- Not so much for Danilo Gallinari, who wasn't forcing threes but still couldn't connect at all (0-7). To his credit, Gallo snaggled 5 rebounds in the first quarter alone, then sat for most of the rest of the game. I get the feeling he's one of those guys that struggles with new faces and the arrythmic preseason rotation. Danilo's just not timing anything right, and often finds himself handling the ball in traffic or far too late in the shot clock. That, to me, suggests a low level of synchrony with his teammates at this point.
- Amar'e Stoudemire missed a bunch of chip shot jumpers tonight, which leads me to conclude that he shouldn't fall in love with the J. He draws so much attention in the paint that it's a disservice to the wing players for him not to drive and collapse the defense. He'd usually hit those jumpers, though. Credit Amar'e with playing some pretty decent help defense (2 blocks) and hitting the glass (7 rebounds in just 23 minutes) as well.
- Ronny Turiaf had by far his best game in preseason. He did pretty much nothing on offense (which, again, is kind of a problem without Amar'e on the floor. Turiaf finds himself wide open all the time but can't do anything about it.), but was superb on the glass (8 rebounds in 17 minutes) and did a terrific job contesting Wizards, right down to getting a hand in Yi Jianlian's face on one of the final possessions.
- Landry Fields got out and sprinted with the second unit, was efficient on the boards, and tied the game on a fake-to-step-in-pull-up jumper with 26 seconds left. Clutch as hell, that Landry.
- Anthony Randolph shot poorly to start, but he was at least missing around the basket. In the second half, Randolph canned a couple of mid-range Js and also scored on a gorgeous, loping give-and-go. Anthony rebounded and defended splendidly as well. For obvious reasons, he's a lot of fun to watch when the team is playing with a little more pace.
- By my count, the Knicks attempted 3 technical free throws and missed all of them. They should not do that next time.
- Turiaf and Trevor Booker got a little chippy in the second half, which resulted in a stare-down for the ages. They're two friendly guys and would never actually fight, but that hostile eye contact alone could probably incinerate anything caught in it's crossfire. Get on that, Sports Science.
- Hilton Armstrong played very well in his brief appearance, and also appears to have added some bulk in the offseason. His neck looks like it can actually support his head now.
- What's the opposite of a shootout? Whatever it is, Roger Mason and Andy Rautins are having one in their battle for that accessory back-up guard spot. It's likely that only one will crack the rotation, but neither one is making a very strong case with his shooting.
That'll do it, buttheads. Your Knicks will be in action again on Tuesday against the Nets. Until then, do what Toney Douglas do.