Celtics 90, Knicks 86: "Bad bad bad bad"

Jared Wickerham

bad bad bad bad bad bad bad

I could show you long, continuous clips of each of the Knicks' games this season and convince you they were like 17-6 instead of 6-16. (That's right, I could convince you they've played one more game than they actually have. I'm very persuasive.) That, to me, makes all of this more miserable. When I watched the Knicks not just topple Boston's 17-point lead, not just take a lead of their own, but burst ahead by double-digits-- in the fourth quarter!-- I didn't get excited. I got ill. My least favorite part of Friday night's game was when Amar'e Stoudemire and Beno Udrih put together a few buckets to push New York's lead to 11. I get sickly calm at this point-- comfortable-- when the Knicks are down big. It's the phony momentum that really bothers me.

The first half in Boston had an opposite arc: The Knicks stayed with the Celtics early because Carmelo Anthony was truly cookin' soup from the field, canning enough jumpers off the catch and duping Jeff Green (guarding him often for some reason, even when Brandon Bass was on the floor) enough to keep pace with all the open buckets and rebounds the Celtics got at the other end. When he took his break to begin the second quarter, the Knicks promptly fell behind double digits. When he returned, they came back.

I just rewatched the second half, because I care not for my mental well-being. My intent was to type out some plays to compare how the Knicks made so much good out of the pick-and-roll in their third-quarter run then isolated themselves to death in the fourth quarter, but that's not what happened. Well, the first part is true. Pablo Prigioni used Kenyon Martin and Andrea Bargnani picks to create poppin' jumpers for Bargnani, an open decoy three for Iman Shumpert, and free throws for Amar'e Stoudemire. Melo and Amar'e ran a nice pick-and-roll, too. Also the Celtics missed a ton of jumpers.

The collapse was starkly different in that the Celtics made open threes, but subtly, perniciously different on offense. The Knicks didn't just dump the ball into Melo isolation every time down. He forced it a few times, but they didn't stop calling sets. They just looked tight and reluctant running them. The screens were weaker, the use of them more tentative. Guys ate the open shots created out of sets, or just bricked them. When the Knicks did isolate Melo, they got him the ball too late in the clock, often because the previous action was busted or neglected.

Maybe that kind of thing is why I find myself much happier watching the Knicks when they're down big. They play so loosely and competently when they're coming back, or when the game isn't yet on the line. The moment the Knicks face a dwindling clock and the baskets affect the score in exponents, not increments, they shrivel. We've seen Mike Woodson stop calling plays. We've seen the Knicks stop running the plays right. The failure comes in all flavors, but these Knicks are broken and sad and stupid from top to bottom and I hate watching them. alleyhoop_20 (quoted in the headline) summed it up better than I ever could.

Just a few notes:

- Pablo Prigioni took his first free throws of the whole season early in the first quarter. J.R. Smith-- who dealt some truly lovely set-ups off the dribble-- refused to shoot the ball until he rimmed out an open three in the fourth quarter. So he went like 23-ish minutes of court time without shooting. I don't need to do any research or think for even a moment to tell you that's never happened since he's been a Knick. I didn't watch him that often when he was a Nugget or Hornet, but I bet the same is true for those years. Doubly true for his time as a Zhejiang Golden Bull.

- I've been happy watching Bargnani defend in isolation this year, but that goes mostly for big post-up guys. Jared Sullinger is way too versatile for him. Also, someone should box out sometimes.

- Kenyon Martin strained an abdominal muscle in the second half. There is some confusion about whether or not Amar'e Stoudemire will sit the second of a back-to-back tonight against the Hawks. If both sit, that'll get weird.

- I noted that Melo shot 7-13 for 20 first-half points, which means he (mathmathmath) shot 2-11 for 6 second-half points.

- Did anyone else notice a lot of pointing? On offense, especially late, the Knicks-- and not just the point guard-- did a lot of ordering each other around, like guys weren't in the positions they were supposed to be in.

- After a nice catch-and-three out of a Pablo/Bargnani pick-and-roll in the third quarter, Iman Shumpert felt he had license to pull up for a heat check in transition. He airballed it. Clyde: "Can't wish them in! Gotta swish them in!"

- As Chris Herring mentioned during the game, Mike Woodson seems to believe in casual Friday. He looks particularly embattled without a tie, which really fits the Friday Night Knicks aesthetic. There was also Pearl Jam. Last night sucked.

- I would not say Beno Udrih telegraphs his passes to opponents. I would say he handwrites a memo that says "I am going to pass" and mails it to each player. Then he scans the memo into his computer and sends them each and email (subject line: "I am going to pass", body text: "I am going to pass") with the image attached. Then he uploads the image to his Facebook account, which is public to friends of friends, and posts it with the caption "I am going to pass". Then he tweets "I am going to pass", then he hacks into @KatyPerry and tweets "Beno Udrih is going to pass" with a Twitpic of the image of the memo that says "I am going to pass." Then he commandeers a manned spacecraft and zooms around space hijacking satellites and rewiring them to broadcast "Beno Udrih is going to pass" on every television and cell phone in the world. Then he passes and an opponent steals it.

More basketball tonight! Check back for more Kyle Lowry rumors, injury updates, and A NEW PODCAST! (but maybe not until tomorrow. We're recording this afternoon). Also, remember to email me with the subject line "marzipan" if you want to come to the meet-up in a few weeks.

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