Oh lord, was that obnoxious. Couldn't agree with hvino more. A match-up with the lowly Nets felt like a decent enough time for the Knicks to open the book on their almost-fully-staffed rotation and begin the quest for coalescence on the right foot. The Nets weren't about to be the victim of another experiment, though, and they came out pissy, violent, and determined to exact revenge. There was a moment there-- almost like a flash-forward glimpse of this team's sunny future-- where the Knicks were gleefully zipping the ball around to open scorers and thundering down the floor in transition off turnovers. The success was fleeting, though. It was there only to tease us, as the rest of the night was torturous and pretty thoroughly obnoxious.
The Knicks-- all of the Knicks-- gradually devolved into disorganized offense that didn't produce quality open looks (and when it did, they didn't fall). On the other end, the Knicks' chronic problem of losing three-point shooters ate them alive (the Nets shot 15-31!). DeShawn Stevenson torched them from outside early to dissolve a double-digit difference and Deron Williams, vindictive little toad that he is, took it from there. Williams made it perfectly clear that he had come to avenge the pantsing he suffered in Jeremy Lin's breakout game, and he channeled that spite quite effectively. He shook free for open looks early and, as the game progressed, realized he didn't even need the open looks. He pulled right up and over Knick defenders, often with contact, and finished with 38 points garnered almost entirely from the three-point and free throw lines. Had Deron not fouled out, he probably would've taken a dump at center court at the final buzzer, and the Knick guards would have had to clean it up for some reason.
Kris Humphries was equally obnoxious, smartly trading rib-jabs with Tyson Chandler and baiting him into just 24 minutes of playing time because of silly, hot-headed fouls. Humphries, of course, was probably feeling vengeful himself, since the Garden crowd has harassed him at every opportunity this season (Humphries shushed them after a made free throw).
So, that all sucked, and the referees only exacerbated the testiness by making plainly hideous calls and letting obvious infractions go uncalled. Early on, a lot went in favor of the Nets, and later, the Knicks were aided (too little, too late, though) by some bogus calls. No matter which way the arrow of incompetence was pointing, the officiating was a key contributor to an ugly, sordid battle that only vaguely resembled a professional basketball game.
Take the jump for some individual notes and other details. Spoiler: Nobody really played well. Not anybody.
- Those first six minutes, though. Those really were fun. It felt for a moment like it was going to be another one of those wonderful, delirious nights where everybody just wants to cuddle with each other. And then the Nets started hitting their threes.
- And why the threes? Well, the Nets set a lot of screens for their shooters and we know the Knicks don't like those. Jeremy Lin and Carmelo Anthony both serially got caught going into or under picks. Often, no help came and Williams, Stevenson, and MarShon Brooks (who is just awesome. I feel like suffocating most of the Nets right now, but he is a glittering exception.) got wide open looks. When the help did come, the Knicks didn't "help the helper" and Hump 'n' friends got easy inside looks. Quite simple.
- Lin, overall, had one of his worst games since he's been a Knick. His defense on Williams did pick up as the game progressed-- again, there was a point at which Deron could've hit a three with a bag over his head-- but he got proper smoked in this one. On offense, Lin ended up with a solid if inefficient line, but looked pretty out of sorts. He, perhaps more than any other Knick, tried to create too much for himself. Lin forced some bad, untimely attempts and occasionally went hunting in vain for foul calls. Again, he put up numbers-- 21, 9, 7, 4 steals, and just 3 turnovers-- but did it inefficiently and with spotty decision-making throughout. Nothing to freak out about, just not a good night. This is where we remind ourselves of who Jeremy Lin is and where he came from, and also notice the fact that even on a bad night...shit, that's quite a line.
- Carmelo Anthony returned to the team after a pretty lengthy absence and was as rusty as you'd expect, if not still in pain (some part of his lower body was bugging him by game's end). He missed some easy looks (both figurative "layups" and actual layups) and mishandled the ball on numerous occasions. Honestly, though, rust and all, Melo fit himself into the action better than I expected. He kept the ball moving and, even though he was at odds with the rim, took mostly good shots. If anything, Melo was overly deferential, though I suppose that was the right move given the bad bounces he was getting on easy shots. Anyway, Melo sputtered offensively, but it struck me as more a mechanical/executive problem than it did a struggle to fit. Defensively, Melo was mostly bad. No complexity there. He lost track of Stevenson and/or Brooks fairly often, and they made him pay.
- Amar'e Stoudemire had at least one moment of physical excellence-- an and-one dunk on Shelden Williams in the fourth quarter-- but other than that, he looked feeble as ever. I did a lot of cringing. Amar'e couldn't sink his jumpers, couldn't explode to the rim, and couldn't contain Shelden fucking Williams off the dribble. He was physically over-matched on both ends of the floor, and without that jumper to help his cause...yikes. I'm really hoping Amar'e, his sore back, and his mind can get some real rest (but also some repetitions) during the All-Star break. He needs it. Some of these shot attempts look like volleyball sets-- like he knows in advance that Humphries is gonna spike that shit into the floor. That's just not Amar'e.
- Tyson Chandler has been terrific, and he had some terrific moments in this one, but his tendency to get frustrated and commit truly inane fouls kills the Knicks every once in a while. Tonight, he just couldn't manage his loathing for Kris Humphries and let himself get run right of the floor. It must be difficult for a guy who plays that hard to know when to back down a bit, but biting on pump fakes, flailing for low-percentage rebounds, and-- worst of all --getting all rowdy and retaliative when he's annoyed only hurt the Knicks.
- Landry Fields probably played the best game of any Knick. He made some great finishes at the basket, including an immensely satisfying cram in Kris Humphries's mouth, and also ripped down 11 rebounds. He did his darnedest on defense, including long stretches on Williams, but it was mostly for naught. So, decent game from Fields. Still really, really needs to either hit open threes or take a step inside the arc.
- Baron Davis played ten minutes and looked healthy enough, but didn't do anything of note besides miss an iso jumper, sink a three, and hit Steve Novak with a pass to close to the first quarter buzzer because he decided to wrap the ball around his back for no reason. Still, it was great to see him upright and running around. He's massively important to this team.
- ...and that was readily evident when the Knicks-- missing Iman Shumpert because of knee tendinitis-- opted to go without a point guard. J.R. Smith was the de facto lead guard at times and he did a decent enough job of pushing off misses (anybody else noticing that he pulls down some really impressive rebounds?), but couldn't really create much for anybody. Oh, and he missed all five of his three-point attempts.
- Shump, by the way, might have helped on Williams, but I doubt it. If anything, he probably would have fouled him more and given up more four-point opportunities.
- We did see the "Earl Baron" backcourt for a few minutes, so the night was pretty much a win despite the loss.
- Jared Jeffries squandered a couple wide open opportunities off the pick-and-roll (though, of course, there's a reason he's open there), but made his typical handful of big defensive plays-- some blocks, some charges (one of which was an awful call, but still...), some nice rebounds-- the usual.
- Steve Novak just doesn't help much when his three-pointers aren't falling. He was 2-8 from outside.
- Mike Breen on Linsanity: "We see so many signs! Nobody makes signs anymore!".
- Beyonce dancing in her chair to Rob Base and DJ EZ-Rock was terribly endearing. I always feel bad when the Knicks lose in front of someone who I want to love them so we can have something in common and maybe hang out sometimes. I don't care who her husband is. In my head, she's open to loving the Knicks and possibly me.
- The Jumbotron operator (who I imagine as a Zordon-like being, but that's probably not the case) had quite a bit of trouble with the scoreboard at the beginning of the second quarter, and the game had to pause until the score no longer attributed 123 points to the Knicks. If you're looking for a scapegoat...
- Deron Williams played so well that he got Breen-- not Clyde-- to say "dancing and prancing". I don't want that to happen again ever.
- New York never realllly seemed like they were going to come back, but they made a game of it in the fourth quarter, cutting a 19-point deficit to 8. The defense really tightened up, but they squandered several consecutive stops by turning the ball over and missing not-bad shots.
- That guy who frowns and points to a giant picture of himself frowning (you may know him from college games. I think that's where I've seen him before.) was in attendance. He actually appeared to bug Williams at the free throw line a couple times.
And that's more or less it. Both teams played pretty badly, but the Nets got some massive individual performances that the Knicks did not and they benefited more (both passively and actively) from horrible refereeing. The Knick defense was slow and the offense didn't mesh for most of the night. I'm sure some folks will say otherwise, but that failure to cohere didn't seem to me like the product of any one player. None of the guys-- the principals, the new faces-- looked comfortable, and none of them performed up to par. We all hoped they'd get away with that in their first night against a bad team, but this was the wrong night and the wrong team for such an outcome. The Nets got embarrassed before, and they were determined not to let it happen again. It was obnoxious, but this was 1. A special night from the Nets and 2. An instance of each Knick playing individually worse than he should and the overall team output suffering in turn. Unfortunately, there will probably have to be more nights like this one before this group looks right. We're going to have to be patient. Again.