Another discouraging night for the Knicks.
Okay. I hope you'll forgive me for a short, too-grumpy-to-think-about-this-for-much-longer recap, because I can already feel that's where this is headed. But let's talk.
So, to begin with, this game was hideous. Both teams hit around 40 percent of their shots and, after a fairly exciting first half, kinda slogged through the second half and painful extra period. In some ways, the Knicks managed to negate Brooklyn's anticipated advantages. I typically expect Brook Lopez and his arsenal outside the paint to give Tyson Chandler trouble, but whenever they met one-on-one (especially after the first quarter), Chandler was able to deter him. Chandler, in general, provided a huge silver lining to the loss, breaking out in some ways from the eerily meek play we'd seen from him recently. He handled Lopez, had one of the best nights of his career around the rim (12-13, 28 points), and played a huge role in New York's ample second-chance opportunities. He and Carmelo Anthony combined for 13 of New York's 17 second chances against Brooklyn's weirdly poor defensive rebounding, which nearly made up for the havoc Lopez and that giant, awful, toothy, knee-capping, man-badger Reggie Evans wreaked on their own glass.
But yeah, like SweatbandProliferation said in the thread, the Knicks were mostly terrible. A few morsels of misery that stood out:
- Raymond Felton was not cooking soup. Raymond Felton took all the ingredients one might use to make soup and splattered them against the rim and backboard. There were stretches in the second half in which Felton was penetrating but just unable to finish at the rim, and others in which his pick-and-rolls fed Chandler quite nicely. All that is fine, but everything else was downright ghastly. Brooklyn gave Felton a ton of space over picks and he busily exploited that space to chuck increasingly off-balance (like, by the last one, I think he was standing on one hand and shooting with his ankles) jumpers and bust out some borderline obscene runners off the bounce. I'd love for Felton to incorporate a teardrop floater into his game. Side-arming a low-arcing push shot three feet short of the rim does not qualify as a teardrop, though it does generate teardrops from those who bear witness. Anyway, I'm not as totally appalled with Felton as some people seem to be, but 3-19 shooting is 3-19 shooting. Very, very bad.
- A combination of Felton's heaving, Jason Kidd's absence, some sticky Melo isolations, and just widespread malaise ruined New York's ball movement for long, important stretches. All that stagnation stood in stark contrast to what the Nets had going on the other end. We're not talking about a dynamic offense or anything-- they did shoot 37-91-- but despite a poor shooting night, Deron Williams used the ground he gained over picks to probe, draw help, and make absurd pinpoint passes. That simple pick-and-roll between Williams and Joe Johnson opened up everything for the Nets. New York insisted on switching most of those plays, which resulted in the usual mess of untimely doubling and late help. Brooklyn turned that into dribble penetration, easy post-ups, open weak side threes, offensive rebounds...I could keep going until I list all the things that there are. I can't fathom why the Knicks would continue to switch so readily if they: 1. Have no confidence in the ensuing one-on-one mismatches. 2. Don't have the foresight and communication to anticipate backdoor cuts and open shooters and such. Their defensive approach is essentially offering the opposition ways to score these days.
- New York went on a couple runs and appeared to be rolling at times. They never led by double digits or anything, but there were points at which momentum was palpable, only to be dashed. The stretch that sucked the most came at the end of the third quarter. New York played brilliant team defense to force a shot clock violation, only to watch Rasheed Wallace attempt an unnecessary 28-footer on the ensuing possession. Brooklyn promptly ran off a nine-point quarter-ending run, including one of what felt like 82 Jerry Stackhouse corner threes and an and-one baseline drive by Keith Bogans. That felt like a turning point.
- Even with all that, the Knicks had a chance to steal the win down the stretch. New York led by three with a minute and a half to go, but gave up an easy backdoor lay-in and a pair of free throws (only one of which dropped to Lopez). They ended up with the ball and 22 seconds to go coming out of a timeout. The play call: Raymond Felton dribbled out ten seconds or so, then passed to Carmelo Anthony standing still on the wing. Melo took a couple dribbles, then missed a contested jumper waaaaay too early, giving the Nets a full three seconds to attempt a game-winner. That sucks. Melo will hit that shot now and again, but why not run some movement to find a little space for him in advance? To quote the magnificent Gary Bertier: "Push him, pull him, do something!". It just seemed to me like uncreative play-calling and worse execution at a moment in which the Knicks didn't have much to lose (though, again, they managed to very nearly lose the game right there).
- Anthony and Chandler combined for 23-38 shooting. The rest of the team was 10-47. The bench offered almost nothing in this one. Rasheed Wallace had his moments defensively and grabbed some tough rebounds, but played way too casually on the block. J.R. Smith started the game driving, but was pretty much silenced offensively thereafter and left that backdoor open time and time again on the other end. Marcus Camby looked utterly flummoxed by Evans. Steve Novak couldn't get open. Pablo Prigioni couldn't get any traction off the dribble. Melo and Tyson were more or less alone in this one.
I don't know. I guess there's something to be said for hanging with a pretty solid Nets team despite short-handedness and awful shooting, but the team-wide trends these days are not encouraging. That magnificent season-opening offense has all but frozen, and the defense no longer swarms. It...putters. It sucks, is what it does. I'm saving my notes so we can perhaps talk about this more tomorrow. After that, it's on to Milwaukee. Have a nice night, m'friends.