Good afternoon, chums. My apologies for sitting on this recap for so long, but last night's home opener loss required some serious marination before I published any of my thoughts. As Dual quipped in the comments, I think most of us were too stricken with cardiac afflictions to have rational thoughts about basketball last night. More than 12 hours and 100 pieces of candy later, I'm ready to talk about what happened. I don't think I've got a long recap in me, but let's review the basics.
Jump with me.
- The Knicks did two things to start this game. 1. They stuck Landry Fields on Andre Miller, Raymond Felton on Nicolas Batum, and Danilo Gallinari on Brandon Roy and 2. They defended like absolute frogshit. D'Antoni's deliberate mismatching was coy, but ultimately an abject failure. Batum, who stands 8 feet tall with a 9-foot wingspan and never makes mistakes, was way too much for the squat Felton to handle. Fields and Gallo had to rotate over and help, allowing their own guys open jumpers or backdoor lanes in the process. I could swear that all of Portland's first quarter scoring came off of easy backdoor finishes or Andre Miller jumpers (if rising up like his toes are stuck in quicksand counts as a "jumper").
- Meanwhile, the Knicks couldn't hit from outside (1-9) or really anywhere (9-25) in the first period and headed into the second quarter down 7. A few minutes into the next quarter, Wilson Chandler took over. He gobbled up every single rebound, found the touch from outside, and repeatedly got to the rim for 13 points in the period. At halftime, Wil had a majestic 15 and 12 to his name. The game was tied at halftime.
- I don't know that this bears repeating, but Danilo Gallinari continued to struggle. I don't know what to say other than, as with each of the past two games, the Knicks could really have used him out there. Get well soon, Gallo.
- Walt Frazier, who was wearing a festive orange jacket mentioned that he'd deferred the wearing of matching pants because he "didn't want to be too illuminating".
- More from Mr. Frazier: Clyde, positively tickled with the fact that the Blazers have players named "Marcus" and "LaMarcus", but tongue-tied as ever, watched LaMarcus Aldridge take a free throw and chuckled "this man's name is LAMALKMUS!".
- I don't like the new Foxwoods theme song. Not punchy enough.
- I've been harping on the fact that Amar'e Stoudemire is dribbling from the perimeter way too much, and that affliction continued into the closing seconds of last night's contest. With the sentiment that Amar'e should not ever dribble the ball for more than ten consecutive feet already well established, I'd just like to add that it's not totally his fault. As a few of you have mentioned, Raymond Felton and Toney Douglas could do a much better job of hitting Amar'e in stride close to the basket. In transition, the guards tend to feed Amar'e around the three-point line, meaning he's got to negotiate three or four steps to get to the rim, meaning he has to dribble, meaning he's going to turn the ball over. For all of his talent, Stoudemire dribbles like Stanley Hudson and he simply shouldn't be asked to create from that far out. In halfcourt settings, Amar'e is often forced to put the ball on the floor because the rest of the offense freezes whenever he faces the rim. The guy's shown that he can pass well enough to hit a cutter on the run, so the wings should be cutting backdoor and finding open spots constantly. I think I saw this happen just once last night. If nobody moves, the entire D focuses in on Amar'e and he drives directly into trouble. This has happened countless times in the first three games.
- Brandon Roy hits some downright impossible shots. There were a few instances in which Landry Fields just couldn't keep up with him, but we also saw Roy score over perfect defense on more than one occasion.
- A better shooting third quarter and a one-man barrage from Bill Walker in the fourth put the Knicks up 9. The Garden was a-rockin', jerseys were a-poppin', and I was a-clappin' and a-hollerin' like a fool.
- I haven't found a video of it yet, but Felton nearly made me cry last night with one particular play. Starting near the left corner, Felton ran a pick-and-roll, saw a Blazer big man hedging, paused momentarily to freeze him, then blasted right by him along the baseline. When the help came, Felton pulled a back-handed spin move and finished off the glass on the opposite side of the rim. That shot almost had me blubbering like a baby. It was beautiful.
- Then, as quickly as it had been built, the Knicks' 9-point platform came tumbling down. The Knicks went back to over-featuring Amar'e on the perimeter, Felton and Ronny Turiaf missed some free throws, Chandler was nowhere to be seen, and the lead was quickly erased. Down the stretch, the Blazers simply executed better. Nicolas Batum soared to block Felton's layup attempt, Marcus Camby (in what could have maybe kinda been a foul) poked the ball of Amar'e's leg, and Portland hit most of their free throws to put the game out of reach on the other end. It sucked, and when my housemate briefly interrupted my game-viewing to ask me for an address, he noted that I looked like a "psychotic squirrel". Last night's finish had me pretty out of sorts.
- Oddly enough, the Knicks won the rebounding battle pretty convincingly (51-41) against a bigger Portland team.
- Final note: I'd like to see more of Timofey Mozgov. I just keep seeing him improve on little things from one possession to the next, and he had spurts of really superb defense against LaMarcus Aldridge. Why not just let the dude foul out?
I don't have much else to say. While the close loss in Boston was cute and encouraging, last night's collapse was a genuine disappointment. We could go on for days about how the Knicks would've fared better if they'd only hit free throws (14-25 just can't happen), if Danilo Gallinari wasn't in a coma, and if Amar'e Stoudemire was at his absolute best. The Knicks are now below .500, though, with a tough slate of games ahead. It's early, but there can be no excuses at this point. New York needs to win the games they should win and steal the games they shouldn't. This weekend saw the Knicks reach the brink of each of those outcomes, but fall just short of two Ws. With games against Orlando and at Chicago coming up, they must find ways to win.