Thoughts on the Loss to the Kings

On those occasions when I'm able to catch a large portion of a game, I like to express my thoughts (read: vent usually, exalt occasionally)

I caught this game from mid-second quarter on.  When Nate's layup pushed the lead to 15, I went up and got a glass of water.  When I sat back down, the lead was 7.  How did that happen?  I knew we were in trouble at that point.

Give the Kings credit - I thought they were shooting pretty well for most of the game.  I do think they got an inordinate amount of lucky bounces on offensive rebounds... but still.  Luck is the residue of design, as Branch Rickey once said.  They stepped up their defensive intensity at the end and kept shooting well, and on those rare misses, they got the offensive rebound.  I think the Knicks got about 2 stops in the last 10 minutes of the game.

Points, in order of how they popped into my head:

1. Wilson Chandler is a very good player.  He really impressed me tonight.  He's not a great player like Kobe that can kill you no matter what you do.  But he brings a lot.  At the end of the game,  I think the Kings finally figured out a way to get the ball out of his hands.  When that happens, it creates opportunities for other players on the floor.  Unfortunately those other players are Chris Duhon and Jared Jeffries.

2.  Speaking of which, I don't necessarily have a problem with the play where they went for the 3 with Jeffries on the kickout.  He can occasionally hit a three, and he hit one tonight.  But on a couple of occasions, one in regulation (it may have been in the second quarter) and one in OT, they gave the ball to Jeffries in the post and he executed a post move.  Execute, as in killed.  He dribbled, backed his man down, turned, and hurled the most haphazard touchless brick toward the general vicninity of the backboard that I have ever seen.  It makes sense to give the ball to Lee and have him do this - he actually can score this way.  But Jeffries can't.  And this is what happens every time Jeffries tries to score in traffic.  He can't.  You might as well just give the ball to the other team.  And they did this in OT.

I know that people have been singing Jared's praises, and he hustles and tries, and the defense does seem to suffer when he's not in there.   He's pretty good at staying in front of any player on the floor.  He can draw a charge, and he can get a rebound if there's no one around him, and he might hit a shot occasionally if there's no one around him.  But he can't do anything in traffic.  He can dribble and pass a little.  He's useful for situational minutes.  But as a core rotation player?  He just doesn't bring enough to the table.  Maybe if he was the only player on the floor that couldn't shoot, they might survive.  But with Duhon out there?  Forget it.

3. Speaking of which, Seeing Duhon out there next to Tyreke Evans was um.. illuminating.  Evans is supposed to have no point guard skills but with the game on the line, even at 20 years old, the guy looked like a leader out there.  He made something happen when they needed buckets.  Duhon?  no.  N8?  Not really.  Al drove at one point and got us a critical bucket, and he made a great pass to Jeffries for a slam.  But for the most part, they looked scared to lose out there on offense, and a point guard has got to rally the troops some way.

4. Which brings me to my next point.  Down the stretch an in OT, when Evans was driving in on Jeffries every time down the floor, and Duhon was not being a leader or showing any ability to score, I was wondering - how could it possibly be worse to have Toney Douglas out there instead of Duhon?  Douglas would be up to the challenge of guarding Evans and I know he would have done something to slow him down.  On the other end, Douglas is a threat to score, which Duhon isn't.  Duhon runs the pick and roll with Lee, but the Kings shut that down toward the end of the game.  Douglas may not have what it takes to be a point guard and he may not be as good as I hoped.  But I think if he was in this game, the Knicks would have won it.

5. I actually thought Gallo was OK tonight.  He was crashing the defensive boards and since everyone in the league knows that the Knicks are susceptible to offensive rebounds, I think that helped neutralize the Kings o-board crashing.  Gallo, unlike Jeffries, can actually do stuff in traffic..  Even when he's not having a great shooting night, it's obvious he's a basketball player out there.  I think losing Gallo (it seems like he's got some kind of carpal tunnel thing) is what led to all those late offensive rebounds for the Kings.  You can blame Lee and he seemed a bit spent down the stretch, but I think that when he's the only guy rebounding the Knicks suffer. 

6. Which brings me to my next point - the Knicks desperately needed some interior energy down the stretch.  I would have liked to have seen Hill get some 4th quarter burn to give Lee a blow (pause)... because clumsy as he can be, Hill brings great energy and Lee needs a rest sometimes. 

Bottom line - if the pick and roll isn't working, having Duhon and Jeffries on the court at the same time is the kiss of death for their offense. 

Bottom line #2: Defensively, they need more rebounding skill on the floor.  I think that other teams have figured out that if they have Lee's guy concentrate not so much on getting the offensive rebound but, on denying it to Lee, other players can swoop in and outrebound all the other Knicks players.

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