April 20, 2012; Cleveland, OH, USA: New York Knicks head coach Mike Woodson during the game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Eric P. Mull-USPRESSWIRE
Well, the signs were all there. The Knicks were a rotation in transition playing in a city in which they haven't won in five years on a Friday night 24 hours after learning they'd made the playoffs. It was as "Friday Night Knicks" a game as they come. As DonMoosavi and others noted in the thread, Robert Randolph's fingerprints were alllllll over this one.
Amar'e Stoudemire's return was the big story going in, so we'll start with him. Amar'e didn't look too out of sorts-- he bounced for a big dunk and a nice blocked shot-- but he certainly didn't play well in his first game back. On offense, his jumpers didn't fall and his drives were of the January sort: ill-conceived and totally fruitless. His defense, per usual, was pretty horrendous. He looked a bit better late in the game, but his early work was riddled with holes. He switched and doubled when he shouldn't have, got torched off the dribble a few times, and did a pretty poor job of boxing out. So, though Amar'e looked healthy enough, his game was of its lowest caliber. (Granted, this was Amar'e sans point guard, but that's going to keep being the case, so...)
So yeah, Amar'e blew some possessions, but this went waaaaaay deeper than that. The offense with or without the guy was stagnant as ever, and on top of that, open shots just wouldn't fall. Carmelo Anthony went a bit cold, J.R. Smith fell off after a hot start, Landry Fields continued to struggle, and Tyson Chandler just couldn't get the looks. (Mike Bibby hit four of five threes. Thanks?). The scores of missed shots fed Cleveland fast breaks, and New York's transition defense was as sluggish as anything has ever been ever. I've seen slugs that were less sluggish, and slugs are notoriously sluggish.
The Cavs, being the Cavs, missed a ton of shots, but the Knicks, being the Knicks, allowed rebounds on an absurd portion of those misses (16 of 43) and plenty of open lanes to get point blank looks. And again, Stoudemire was responsible for some of those lapses, but the whole lot of 'em pitched in to the mess. Everybody on up to Chandler and Iman Shumpert was guilty of needless switches, inane doubles, and just slow, sloppy footwork.
And, of course, there was the curse. The Knicks made their runs, but Robert Randolph swatted 'em aside. The Cavs routinely drilled contested shots or benefited from weird bounces in broken plays. With 10:08 remaining in the fourth quarter and the shot clock in the tenths of seconds, Manny Harris beat the buzzer with a 40-foot fade-away bank shot. And that's when I stopped taking notes and started writing this recap.
So, it wasn't the end of the world, but it certainly wasn't a pleasant evening of basketball. There's just something about Cleveland, something about Friday nights, and something, every once in a while, about these Knicks. Oh, and this more or less squelches New York's chances of grabbing the sixth seed.