The Knicks have a funny habit of misusing their resources for quarters at a time, then unleashing the entire armory all at once, only to run out of bullets at the last second. At least I imagine it would be funny if we weren't so emotionally invested in the action. Or if it ever resulted in a win. At home against a feisty but vulnerable Golden State squad, the Knicks pottered away the first 30 minutes of the game, stormed back into it, then couldn't execute in the closing moments. The whole ordeal is reminiscent of, well, just about every Knick team from the last decade, only it's twice as maddening because we KNOW these guys can do better (and I'm certain they will, but...yikes.)
Amar'e Stoudemire led the Knicks with 33 points and 10 boards while David Lee dropped 28 and 10 in his emotional return to the Garden. Hit the jump for details.
- The Knicks' front line looked a bit different in this one. Ronny Turiaf was relegated to suit-wearing and beard-grooming because of a sprained left knee. Timofey Mozgov, meanwhile moved out of the starting lineup while Wilson Chandler stepped in at power forward and Amar'e Stoudemire slid to the 5. I'm not sure whether those two events are related, but Turiaf's absence and Timofey's two quick fouls off the bench left the Knicks lacking in rim defense. Lee had no problem scoring from the block, and the Monta Ellis/Stephen Curry tandem delighted in beating their men off the dribble or off the ball for easy buckets.
- I thought the comment by StarksMiddleFinger (kind of a weird phrase out of context) that I quoted in the headline was on the money with regard to the past three games. There are a handful of chronic errors plaguing this team on both ends. On offense, they shoot far too many contested threes and never use the pick-and-roll to penetrate. When Amar'e Stoudemire faces up with the ball, everybody freezes and he's forced to go one-on-everybody. On defense, they help late and routinely fail to close out. These problems are plain as day, yet there is little effort to correct them, save for the occasional moment of clarity in a second half. If they're watching film, they must see the same stuff we see, right?
- When I say the Knicks "never use the pick-and-roll to penetrate", I'm referring to the fact that Raymond Felton has all the tools to blow by a defense that over-commits to Amar'e Stoudemire's roll, but he either gets turned around or kicks the ball to the perimeter. I like Felton much better as a slasher for the following elegantly enumerated reasons: I. His entry passes stink. II. He's a much better passer off the dribble. III. He's shown repeatedly that he has the speed and creativity to finish in traffic. IV. At the very least, those kick-out threes would actually be open sometimes. If I can get my Synergy account to work, I'll probably dig through some video to make sure I'm not talking out of my ass, but I swear that good things happen when Felton penetrates. To my eye, much of the second half energy could be attributed to an aggressive Felton.
- In a welcome departure from the usual, the Knicks stayed in this game because of free throws. Amar'e (who missed two biggies, but we'll talk about that later) spearheaded the effort with 14-16 at the line, while Danilo Gallinari sank 9-9 and Raymond Felton and Wilson Chandler both dabbled as well. The team as a whole shot 38-43, which is an excellent statistic.
- To avoid picking up technicals under the new rules, I think I'd either carry a pacifier onto the court or bring back thumb-sucking.
- I was floored at how well Toney Douglas shot the ball in last week's games, and he's plummeted back to earth this week. Toney was 0-7 from downtown and 4-12 from the field, with some pretty unsightly attempts to his name. Credit Toney with a couple of key plays to keep the Knicks alive down the stretch, but Toney Douglas did not DWTDD this evening.
- Incidentally the MSG mics caught Mike D'Antoni telling Toney to "do what you do" during a timeout. Agreed and applauded.
- Stoudemire never dominated this one, but 33 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, and a block means he must have been doing something right. After shooting well but turning the ball over 6(!) times in the first half, Amar'e ran the floor better, got better positioning, and earned points aggressively in the second half. Seeing plenty of time against Lee and Vladimir Radmanovic, Stoudemire had an opportunity to buck wild, but didn't get quite as many looks as you'd expect, particularly in the final minutes.
- As a lot of people have pointed out, Wilson Chandler appears to shoot much better from outside when he catches and releases immediately, as opposed to dribbling or faking in advance of the shot. He was 4-10 from outside, but missed a couple of ghastly contested attempts and momentum-breakers, as well as what could have been the tying bucket in the final minute. Wil's 27 point, 9-20, 6 rebound, 3 block line really isn't anything to sneeze at, but I can't help but expect better. The guy is too talented a finisher to settle for jumpers that often.
- By the way, with Chandler's services moved to the starting unit, the Knicks' bench suddenly looked useless. Mozgov played only 2 minutes because he simply couldn't check the Warriors' athletic "big men" without fouling, Anthony Randolph saw surprisingly few minutes against his old team, Bill Walker was silent, and Toney's struggles have already been documented.
- Chandler's tooth got KO'd by David Lee's arm in the second half, and nobody had any idea where it went (history told me it was probably in Lee's arm). Credit the MSG production team with a thrilling Zapruder playback of the incident that clearly showed Wil spitting his tooth toward the sideline. I'm not sure whether or not they ever found the lonely chopper, but the MSG crew CSI'd the hell out of that.
- I don't know what to say about Danilo Gallinari's game. He got beaten badly a few times and didn't shoot well (3-9, 0-5 from outside), but he got to the line, rebounded (7), and made some great deflections and loose ball plays in the second half.
- Speaking of Walker, the white headband he wore tonight gave me a violent Al Harrington flashback. I wouldn't mind if the Knicks just retired the headband entirely. Also, mouthguards.
- David Lee was welcomed back with a video tribute and a warm ovation, and he appeared to get a little emotional during the affair. I kept my cool right up until I saw that Lee was a little choked up, then I got a little misty myself. Not ashamed of it. Not one bit.
- Andris Biedrins, known and beloved for his spiky hair, looked like he'd been wrangled and besmoothened (cool new word) by his mom in preparation for a school portrait. Has the "KGB operative from 1956" look been going on all season?
- Would anybody be opposed to giving Landry Fields a little more burn in crunch time? While we're at it, would anybody be opposed to playing Landry Fields 48 minutes a game? How about we just saint him?
- Rodney Carney, I guess.
- Plenty of weird stuff happened in the final minute: In no particular order, Amar'e Stoudemire missed two free throws, Amar'e Stoudemire hit a three, Dorell Wright committed a one-shot-and-the-ball foul before the Knicks could inbound, and the Knicks missed roughly 70 three-pointers.
That'll do it, I think. The Knicks aren't a bad team, but they aren't playing to their strengths or giving maximum effort from buzzer to buzzer. For now, these are the growing pains of a new team. The familiar feel of the losses, though, is an understandably nauseating sign for the Knick fanbase, and we all know what happens when they start piling up. After blowing chances to "turn it around" against Milwaukee and Golden State, the Knicks REALLY need to pull a 180 against Minnesota on Friday. A turnaround like that will take energy from the outset, better halfcourt execution, and an "attack-first" mentality for the guards. Given the amount of talent on this squad, that shouldn't be too much to ask. I swear!
Thanks for reading.