I take a shower after games like that. Especially since I've been writing about the Knicks, showering has become my preferred treatment to settle the nerves and clear the head. I'm squeaky clean and swaddled in a towel right now, but still haven't quite settled down. In truly infuriating fashion, the Knicks squandered a double-digit fourth quarter lead, losing their heads and letting down their guards at the absolute worst moment in an overtime loss. Let me see if I can rehash the meltdown without headbutting my computer screen.
Notes, after the jump...
- Let's start at the end, since I'd prefer to get the rough part out of the way. The Knicks held a fluctuating lead for most of the game, and went into the fourth up 8. After some free throws and nice finishes, Nate Robinson buried a runner to give the Knicks a 15-point edge. It was all downhill from there. Donte Greene hit two threes to bookend an 8-0 Kings run that took all of a minute. The Knicks called a timeout, play resumed, and Tyreke Evans took over. Jared Jeffries was too frail and the help defense was too late to stop Evans, who plowed his way to the rim on nearly every possession in the final 3 minutes.
- Not helping matters was the fact that David Lee, Al Harrington, and every other Knick within arm's reach of defensive rebounds seemed completely paralyzed down the stretch. The Kings managed 4 offensive boards in the final 4 minutes of regulation, and 3 more in overtime.
- Particularly in the fourth quarter, the Kings made great use of a zone defense to ice the Knick offense. Danilo Gallinari had already been sidelined with a sore right arm (more on that later), and the Knicks didn't have the shooters to break the zone D. It didn't help that Wilson Chandler, who had a career night (more on that later as well), wasn't getting the looks in the final minutes.
- The part that really made me want to bite off my own fingers was the Knicks' absolutely bewildering choice of shooter on the game's biggest offensive possessions. The cute thing on Twitter was to ridicule Mike D'Antoni's play design, but I've got to believe that each disastrous possession was one part poor playcalling, one part solid defense, and two parts heinous execution. The play at the end of regulation was dribbling, dribbling, and more dribbling, culminating in a 24-foot heave by Chris Duhon that barely hit the floor it missed so badly. With 32 seconds left in overtime, the play was for Nate Robinson to drive into the lane, then kick the ball back out to Jared Jeffries, who bricked a three-pointer with about 17 ticks still on the shot clock. At any point in a basketball game, these shots are less than ideal. In the two most crucial moments of a basketball game, they're crimes against humanity.
So, to summarize, the Knicks defended, rebounded, planned, and executed poorly enough in the late fourth and overtime to completely erase 42 minutes of pretty nice basketball. It's hard to even remember when things were going well, but I'll flesh out some of my notes (including the usual dose of inanity) from the first three and a half quarters.
- Save for that fourth quarter and overtime (during which he rarely had the ball in his hands), Wilson Chandler dominated the action. Silent Wil fired every arrow in his quiver, scoring off drives, cuts, spin moves, pull-ups, alley-oops, and free throws. Omri Casspi and the entire Israeli Army couldn't stop Chandler, and the mum youngster finished with a career-high 35 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. If he could've taken and maken (That's right, maken.) some shots down the stretch to prevent the loss, it would've been a pretty much perfect night for Wilson Chandler.
- Chris Duhon was everywhere over the last two days talking about mirrors and reality checks and the like, and I mentioned before gametime that he ought to back up his words with a solid performance. 9 assist and 1 turnover ain't bad at all, but 2-10 shooting, including 0-6 on three-pointers is poop. Yes, poop.
- All sorts of cruel and unusual injuries were suffered in this game. Jared Jeffries threw a successful wrap-around pass to David Lee in the first quarter, all while colliding with Spencer Hawes. Jeffries' was smarting for a while with a sore back, and Hawes never returned, presumably because the experience of having Jared Jeffries throw a highlight pass in his immediate vicinity ruptured every ligament in his body. Later on, Danilo Gallinari got whacked across the arm while driving to the basket. He airballed the first free throw, then missed the second one with his left hand. He did not return, but assured everybody that he'd be fine for three-point contest, which to me is code for "could have stayed in the game".
- I could write a whole separate blog about Sergio Rodriguez's hairline.
- Jordan Hill got 6 minutes in the second quarter, and looked pretty nice running the floor, rolling off of screens, and attacking the glass. Jon Brockman, who is the lovechild of a bulldozer and an actual bull, pushed Hill around a little bit, but the Knicks' noodly rook still held his own and made a few nice plays. Why he sat when the Knicks' were getting pissed on down the stretch is beyond me.
- It was Jewish Heritage Night. The P&T kids who were at the game (sorry, y'all) will have the word on what festivities took place, but the big attraction was obviously Omri Casspi. The Soaring Semite(?) shot a dismal 1-8 from downtown, but was straight shekels from inside, and finished with 18 points.
- Of all nights, Christoph Waltz (the guy who played Hans Landa) picked tonight to come to MSG and watch the Knicks. The list of available jokes is literally endless, but I'll go with this Twitter response I received from @SportsMachete for the win.
- Meanwhile, Julia Stiles was Jill Martin's halftime interview. Thumbs down.
- Walt Frazier's outfits typically make use of a variety of furry and scaly wildlife, but tonight's was 100% Kermit the Frog.
- Speaking of which, Clyde's line of the night came when David Lee took an incidental karate chop to the throat: "He has a soprano voice now".
- It'd be really cool to be able to palm a basketball.
Well, I'm pretty much calm at this point, but of all the Knicks' atrocious losses, tonight's goes down as the most hair-pulling, gut-wrenching, face-palming fuckup of the season. The best we can do is to try and spit out this sour taste and enjoy the All-Star break.