Good afternoon, bunions. The Knicks' home opener is tonight against the Portland Trailblazers, but let's go over what happened last night before we move forward. As our friend Major noted in the game thread, last night's loss left a lot of us with a strange, unfamiliar sense of pride. They didn't bring home a win, but the Knicks stuck around to the very end and made it a game against the Celtics. That New York played a pretty poor game against the defending Eastern Conference champions on the road and came a few baskets away from stealing the W is a sign of progress. Relatively speaking, we've got every reason (well, every reason but one) to be proud of our Knicks.
Take the jump for a smattering of notes.
- The Knicks darted out to a quick 9-point lead behind a whole bunch of Celtic turnovers leading to transition hoops. There was one sequence in the first quarter in which Raymond Felton threw 3 consecutive alley-oop attempts. It was delightful. After a few minutes, though, the Cs wised up and started trying. They spend the rest of the evening working the ball around methodically to find Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett open on the perimeter and relying on Shaquille O'Neal and Glen Davis to clean up any misses bulldozer-style (Rajon Rondo also pulled down 3 offensive boards gnat-style.)
- Speaking of Rondo, the Knicks just didn't know what to do with the li'l rascal. The small dude notched a triple-double, including 24 assists (which people have rightfully chalked up to friendly scorekeeping, but still...). Mike D'Antoni let Landry Fields tangle with the point guard for extended stretches, and Landry did the right thing by standing 3 or 4 steps off Rondo and daring him to shoot. Rondo, little creep that he is, simply refused to shoot, bobbing and wiggling his way into the paint for kick-outs and dump-offs while the defense collapsed around him. The guy wouldn't even shoot a lay-up. It made me terribly uncomfortable. I do not like Rajon Rondo. Not one bit. He's super good, though, in his own pervy way.
- Particularly in this match-up, Fields spent a lot of time roaming and doubling big men. That's splendid, but one thing Landry could improve upon (something, by the way, that the Celtics do perfectly) is doubling big men only when they're facing away from the basket. There were a few times when Fields darted over towards Shaq to help harass him, only Shaq was facing the action and could see right over the double-team to find teammates. I hope Landry learned something by watching Boston defenders sandwich-hump Amar'e Stoudemire when he was 18 feet from the rim and blind to the open man.
- The Knicks got absolutely porked on the glass (54-38), but kept the score close by forcing turnovers (17 to just 10 of their own), getting to the line (18-27, which could've been the game-winning statistic if they'd been more accurate), and hitting a few more threes, albeit on many more attempts (9-27 vs. 5-16). Since just about every team (except for the Raptors, apparently) is going to out-rebound these Knicks, advantages in each of those facets will be necessary to go shot-for-shot with opponents.
- Amar'e Stoudemire continued to force silly attempts when he started his drive outside the paint, but made up for it with numerous trips to the line (9-13), some decent rim defense (although he got caught up in Rondo mania a few times and missed Shaq or Kevin Garnett sliding to the basket), and an impressive three-pointer to keep the Knicks in it down the stretch. Amar'e's put the team on his shoulders for stretches of each of the Knicks' first two games, and he's done it against two of the toughest big defenders in the league. We're still waiting for a truly dominant performance, but it feels good to have Amar'e on our side, doesn't it?
- I really can't wait to watch Stoudemire and Felton go up against a team that sucks at defending the pick and roll.
- I just don't know what's up with Danilo Gallinari. I'm sure some of his issues can be attributed to the sore paw, but his movement and on-court demeanor are frighteningly out of whack. After loafing his way through the first half and picking up two fouls in a matter of seconds, Gallo sat most of the second half and ended up with only 12 minutes (and 2 points) to his name. I refuse to lose faith in Danilo, but to see him flounder on a night when his offense could've bought the Knicks a win was a major source of concern. It's not even close to time to pull Gallo from the starting lineup or reconsider his spot in the rotation, but it is time for him to change his approach to each game. I feel a bit like we should be showing our support for the Cock, too. Maybe wear your Il Gallo shirt under your costume tonight? It might take that kind of voodoo to get him going.
- Clyde on Nate Robinson: "Nate's going behind the screen when he needs to go over the top". Crispino: "We've seen that before". Clyde: "Huh-huh-huh-huh...YUP".
- If you subtract Wilson Chandler's 1-7 shooting from downtown (and I'd really love to subtract it), the kid was 8-13 from the field. Wil's uncanny ability to hit difficult shots can be maddening, but he just kept on sinking tough mid-range buckets over Boston's pestering defense. The fact that he can hit an out-of-rhythm, turnaround, fade-away 18-footer over two defenders but can't sink an open three makes little to no sense, but it should inform Wilson's shot selection. I don't expect that it will, though.
- I sort of ragged on him earlier, but let it be known that Landry Fields (11 points on 5-10 shooting, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, no turnovers) is the goddamned truth. I'd like to see him get to the line. That's my only criticism for the time being, and even that might be attributed to shitty refereeing.
- Raymond Felton played well and made a few gorgeous one-handed passes, but rimmed out a few easy attempts. Nice game, though.
- If my memory serves me, I'm pretty sure D'Antoni went with Stoudemire as the center for the closing minutes of the game. That lineup nearly ended up paying off, but I was curious to see how Timofey Mozgov (who kept his fouls in check and defended pretty well, but didn't provide much offense in 17 minutes) or Ronny Turiaf would do with the finishing lineup. I suppose neither would be of use when the Knicks were in full-court press 'n' poach mode, but they might have helped secure rebounds and deter folks at the rim down the stretch. Amar'e looked a bit over-matched at times.
- At one point in the first half, Wilson Chandler shouted "HEY!" while getting maimed on a made jumper, then clapped his hands at the fact that he'd hit one after missing a bunch in a row. This earned him a technical foul. No further comment.
- My mom watched the first half of this one and took it upon herself to send me game notes. Some highlights:
They need to stop shooting the those wild attempts at the basket from half way across the room. Sadly the Celtics seemed much better at that move.
After seeing a long Nike commercial during the game, I feel gratitude that LeBron James is not a Knick because he could singlehandedly prevent my ever enjoying the game.
Do you think they would play earlier so I don't need to stay up past my bedtime?
Couldn't have said it better myself. Anyway, this was a disappointing but encouraging loss. If anything, it gave us some inkling that these Knicks, even at less than full bore, are capable of beating very good teams. Get ready for the Blazers, friends. I'll see y'all tonight.