Not the handsomest faces. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
That wasn't especially fun. The Knicks played a couple stretches of excellent basketball tonight against the Mavericks, but they were few and far between. After a big run in the first quarter, the Knicks gradually crumbled under the weight of the Mavericks' precision from outside and dominance on the glass (see bjk1903's comment above). Dallas pulled ahead by double digits in the third quarter and never really looked back.
Danilo Gallinari (27 points) put together another splendid offensive game for New York, but Amar'e Stoudemire had an empty second half after a 21-point first, and no other Knick but Toney Douglas (22 points) offered much help.
Take the jump for some notes on how the Knicks fell.
- Rarely does a game this dreadful featured a run this excellent. Mike D'Antoni called a timeout with 7:28 remaining in the first quarter and his Knicks down 17-8. Following that break, the Knicks got rowdy and finished the period up seven courtesy of a 26-10 run. The recipe was simple: "Ladle liberal portions of Danilo Gallinari over painted area. Season to taste." Gallo took the keys and went for a spin, scoring 11 points on the following basketball actions:
1. A diagonal dribble drive past Brian Cardinal for an elastic two-hand jam (which is becoming a first quarterly tradition, no?)
2. A leftward drive into open space culminating in a slick lay-up in transition plus the foul from Tyson Chandler.
3. A coast-to-coast ankle break shake with a lefty finish at Cardinal's expense.
4. Two free throws after a shooting foul.
5. A lefty drive and finish despite some heavy (but legal) contact.
Amar'e Stoudemire J'd all the while and Timofey Mozgov responded to a warm ovation with good boxing out, solid defense individually and as a helper, and a very sporty alley-oop from Raymond Felton. The Mavs, previously 7-8 from the field, went 4-15 following the world's most effective timeout.
- That momentum was promptly lost by the second unit. Toney Douglas and company simply couldn't orchestrate an open shot, and the Mavs torched the Knicks' lead with 10 straight points. It was all downhill from there, really. Gallo kept making basketball things happen, but just didn't get enough usage in the game's second half. Oddly enough, neither did Amar'e. He took and missed just five shots, all in the third quarter, including a couple jumpers, a couple runners, and one dunk-up (the dreaded dunk-layup hybrid creature that feeds on unfriendly bounces).
- No other Knick could shoulder the burden once Amar'e and Gallo faded. A three-point barrage would've been just the ticket, but only Toney Douglas (3-6 from downtown en route to 22 points) had any semblance of success from outside. Not Felton (1-4), not Fields (0-4), not Walker (0-1) nor Shawne (0-1) could cook soup from deep. Mozgov got pushy and deliberate and showed very little of the tender touch and timing we saw against Detroit (nothing awful or worthy of a re-benching, just a predictable spell of overexcitement).
- Dirk Nowitzki (who KnickChick, one of our few and prized Toastettes, deemed a "beautiful assassin") kept cookin' soup even after a bit of a bump to his injured wheel (29 points on 16 shots), and the rest of the 'Ricks hit most of their jumpers and rebounded the rest. What makes a 54-34 glass margin even grislier is that Dallas is among the league's worst rebounding clubs, at 22nd in rebound rate and 29th in offensive rebound rate. New York continues to suffer on the glass, which gets folks wondering if Donnie Walsh should just dump a sack of bricks into the deadline trade pool and see who comes up with them. Somebody is needed to chase down misses. The bigs who stay on the floor can't seem to rebound and the bigs who rebound can't seem to stay on the floor. While Stoudemire fails to box out, Extra E cannot keep his hands to himself and the "United Nations" duo of Mozgov and Ronny Turiaf isn't impressing D'Antoni enough to earn minutes. If the Knicks didn't have utility glass-minders like Landry Fields (and Williams) on the squad, they'd get lapped nightly on the boards.
- Clyde during and after a deep Nowitzki three: "whhhhoooooOOOOAAHHH!".
- The Felton thing is tough. My instinct is to fault the penguinman for continuing to pull, not pass, while his dishing numbers (9 assists, no turnovers tonight) consistently outperform his shooting stats. One could make the case, though, that Raymond's jumper was the keystone of New York's mid-December brilliance, and that he ought to just shoot himself back into threat status. At this point, I'm tending to lean toward my instincts. Felton needn't match Danilo shot for shot. Not now.
- What isn't helping matters on the point guard front is the degree to which Felton and Douglas are getting burnt out on the defensive end. Opponents have learned to stay running against those two and Fields, blazing through screen after screen with the knowledge that our guys will lose steam after the second or third hip-check. J.J. Barea was the latest roadrunner to beat the Knicks on the move, scoring 22 off the bench in a flurry of rapid drives and open jumpers. Neither Toney nor Ray had a snowball's chance in hell of catching "Ba-rare"*.
- *-Walt Frazier, obviously.
- Hey, this was the most active I've ever seen Bill Walker as a ball-chaser. He caught my attention with a diving save and a neat little tip-in in the first half. I'm not sure why that little spurt of activity got me so jazzed. It might be that Bill sets kind of a low bar in that department. Either way, nicely done, Bully!
- Answer: This Maverick forward would be the most hipsterest possible choice for favorite Knick of all time. Question: Who is Brian Cardinal?
- I promised my company that I'd mention how excellent Milano cookies are in my recap, so...here we are. Ain't nothing like 'em.
- Halftime: Jill Martin interviews Chris Rock for her "Gimme a Minute" segment. I like the way Mr. Rock says "Snooki". So does he.
- Fields was probably a tad overindulgent, but he also caught some bad breaks, including an unprecedented THREE three-pointers that toilet-bowled around the rim and out in the second and third quarters.
- Only at MSG: Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers was seen chatting courtside with Justin Bieber, presumably about haircuts. Bieber also got plenty of attention from the tween gurlz in the audience, at least one of whom was later seen in utter hysterics over her run-in with the li'l featherhead.
- The Knicks did pull off a nifty li'l 13-0 run in the third quarter. The gullible among us (myself included) got excited, but it was a mere hiccup in the Dallas domination.
That's really it. With Amar'e and Gallo losing touches and buckets in the second half, the Knicks really felt the absence of Wilson Chandler. Hopefully he'll be healthy and ready to go for this weekend's MONUMENTAL home-and-home with the Sixers. Philly crept within three games of the Knicks upon beating the Nets and could stage a coup on the sixth seed if New York doesn't pull it together. For now, it's time for me to do some sleeping.