Hey, at least they tried, right? There were totally some sharp moments in there. Some guys played some solid individual games.
I'm so sad, guys. There are enough games remaining that the Knicks have time to turn things around, fall apart again, and so forth. Right now, though, the Knicks are really torquin' m' innards. It hurts. Tonight, they really did have their moments. They scored splendidly in the first quarter to offset their crumbling defense, then flipped that and overcame poor second quarter offense behind Tyson Chandler's titanic interior D. Even after a dismal, horribly depressing third quarter rife with Rudy Gay jumpers, they charged back into the game early in the fourth. Then crunch time came, the Knicks flubbed their most important possessions, and here we are staring down a fourth straight loss.
Before I go sit in the middle of the street prodding a puddle with a twig, here are some notes:
- Mike Woodson spoke before the game about staying small because the Raptors play a small starting lineup, but the Knicks' small sure looked a lot smaller than the Raptors' small. In part because the guards just keep switching at even the suggestion-- the mere rumor-- of a screen, but also just because they Knicks are short, DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay enjoyed many "contested" looks that were effectively open. Even when Raymond Felton or Jason Kidd closed out perfectly-- and they did with some regularity-- all those inches of height and arm length gave the Raptor swingmen all the room they needed to score. Try as he might, Felton can only do so much swingin' one of those flippers at a guy who towers over him. Switching provided for some of those "contested" makes, plus plenty of open looks to boot. There was an interesting moment early in the second quarter when Felton and J.R. Smith needlessly switched on a pick, Smith doubled down to help Felton on Rudy Gay, then Steve Novak rotated too slowly and surrendered a John Lucas (Felton's man) three. Woodson snarled at Novak, but why's Felton gotta switch there? Whywhywhywhywhywhy
- Related: Kyle Lowry hit four threes in the first quarter.
- The Knicks had more turnovers (six) than points (five) through the first six minutes of the third. Meanwhile, Rudy Gay refused to miss and it was really mean of him.
- The fourth quarter was interesting. After Tyson Chandler picked up a quick fourth and fifth foul and all seemed doomed, New York ripped off a big run by sending J.R. to bother Gay (which worked intermittently, at least in the fourth) and pushing the pace to run quick J.R.-Amar'e pick-and-rolls. Those two. combined for 11 straight points and some big defensive plays to actually put the Knicks ahead, then Chandler returned after Amar'e surrendered a basket and a couple free throws. The defense looked sharper in those last four minutes, but New York couldn't get anything at all going offensively. Melo, J.R., and Felton each forced some bad looks and Jason Kidd-- who, at long, last hit some threes in this one-- inexplicably demurred on consecutive open looks from behind the arc, either of which could have regained the lead with two minutes to go. Down the stretch, Gay and Melo exchanged makes in the paint, then Kyle Lowry drained an impressive floater over the beswitched Chandler to put Toronto up two. Chandler missed one of two free throws after Melo caught him rolling to the rim after a cross-screen, then Gay hit a couple free throws and Melo missed a horrendous three-point look in the final seconds.
- After the Knicks dragged the Raptors down to their own pace and lost last week, it was interesting to watch them speed things up a bit. They obviously still lost, but things looked pretty good when Raymond Felton-- who, save for a couple too many pull-up jumpers played an excellent offensive game-- pushed hard off misses to get to the rim or kick to the perimeter.
I'm already losing steam here, but a few more quick individual notes:
- Chandler really played marvelous interior defense. He trapped some picks aggressively, but spent most of his time lurking in the paint and-- at long last-- swatting folks who dared challenge him. Lowry stuck him with that tough floater down the stretch, but this was mostly a refreshing performance for a big man whose interior presence has been kinda flagging all season.
- J.R.'s game was quietly solid as well. He drove relentlessly over picks, looking to create for his bigs on the move, and hit three of six three-pointers, most of them off the catch. Played spots of good defense, too especially in the fourth.
- Again, it was pretty frustrating to watch a veteran like Kidd look agitated when he'd seemingly busted out of his slump with a couple three-point makes earlier in the game. Kidd's defensive hands were splendid as usual and he chipped in on the glass, but a couple of bad passes and that reluctance to shoot late hurt on offense.
- You might say Iman Shumpert's on a short leash. He's got one of those spiky collars, too. He played just 15 minutes in this one. Looked pretty helpless in offense, but played decent enough defense on the perimeter that I would've liked to see a few more minutes.
- Melo hit shots, but a lot of them were bad shots, almost none of them were threes despite a bunch of attempts (1-8), and too few of them came in important moments. Some really lame moments of help defense, too, but he certainly wasn't the only one. He was the lone Knick to get to the line with any consistency, though (9-11).
- Amar'e looked pretty stiff early, but that fourth quarter helped him round out a 6-10 performance from the field to go with six rebounds. His four turnovers...
- ...were part of a team-wide epidemic of unforced, dead-ball give-aways. Much of New York's offense is predicated on making threes, but taking care of the ball is just as important. There were so, so many travels and offensive fouls in this one. Some of them questionable, but still.
- Steve Novak's makes were one wide open look and one ugly, contested heave. His misses were one wide-open look and one ugly, contested heave. So...I don't know.
- I'm ready to see more Pablo Prigioni. He ran the "double dragon"* set with aplomb.
- *This, evidently, is what the Knicks call the play in which the point guard dribbles over a double-pick and the pickers split into a pop-out and a roll to the rim. Earl Monroe, filling in for Walt Frazier and doing a pretty decent job of it, overheard that play call and mentioned it on the broadcast.
That is all. The Knicks are now in third place in the Eastern Conference following their loss and Indiana's blowout win over the Pistons. The Nets and Bulls are creepin', and if the Knicks don't cut the shit, they're gonna find themselves in the bottom half of the conference. Back to the Garden for the Sixers on Sunday. Maybe that'll be the game.