Greetings from America, you capitalist pigs!
Game 3 was the first Knicks' game I've watched at night in well over a year. Watching games on a laptop at 7 am for six years might seem like First World Knicks Fan Purgatory, but the truth of the matter is that it had certain fringe benefits - nobody is awake to hear my crazy mutterings, and I'm still too groggy to fully register the pain of a loss.
Tonight? Not so much. Tonight, for the first time this season, I experienced the Knicks in crystal-clear HD - Roy Hibbert's "I can't believe this is coming so easy" smile after each made bucket came through clear as a bell. The sheer novetly of this HD ass-whuppin' left me with two thoughts.
- I'm terrified of advancements in 3-D TV technology. The mere thought of Tyler Hansbrough's eyes popping out at me is enough to induce a seizure.
- If I lived on the West Coast, I'd be swimming back to China right now.
Usually, when I want to convey that the Knicks played like shit, I will describe a sizeable amount of shit from a large animal, like an elephant. But considering just how small the Knicks played in this game, a large animal shit metaphor just wouldn't do them justice. The Knicks played like rabbit shit - little, stinking pellets rolling clumsily across the court like marbles. Lil' rabbit shit marbles, the Knicks were. Yeah, that sounds about right.
This loss was infinitely more discouraging than Game 1, not only because it came later in the series (seriously, though, it's later in the series now, guys), but because what we saw in this game was pretty much the antithesis of everything "Knicks." I've hit upon a theme in these playoffs - The Knicks Way, or the formula this team uses to win basketball games. The Knicks Way Checklist:
- Shoot the Three
- DOMINATE the Turnover Margin
- Protect the Offensive Glass
How did they do? Oh sweet Jesus, I wish I didn't have to tell you...
Shoot the Three (3-for-11, .273 3P%)
It's been said many times this season, but the Knicks' reliance on the three-point shot is unprecedented in NBA history. So when the entire team's three-point shooting line resembles an off night for Monta Ellis, you can be pretty well sure they aren't winning that game. They set their season low for made three-point field goals last night, with three - their previous low had been four, in regular-season losses to the 76ers and (theme alert!) the Pacers. Including the playoffs, this is the tenth time this year the Knicks have made fewer than seven three-pointers in a game. Their record in those ten games: 1-9.
Honestly, I don't even think "3-for-11" does this performance justice. Two of those threes shouldn't even count. One came on a buzzer-beater from Amar'e Stoudemire, and I doubt we can rely on the Amar'e three-ball going forward. Another three came in garbage time from Chris Copeland, who, as we all know, is no longer a member of the New York Knicks.
Ironically, the one positive coming from the Knicks offense in this game is usually their biggest weakest - they got to the free-throw line 25 times in Game 3, which was more free throws than the Pacers took. Fat lot of good it did them. Look, free throws are awesome, but getting to the free throw line just isn't the Knicks' game. They managed a 25.0 FTA/G average throughout February - by far their highest single-month average of the season, and they stumbled to a 6-5 record. The Knicks shoot the three; it's who they are. This sounds strange coming from somebody who lived through the Mike D'Antoni years, but the Knicks absolutely must take more threes.
How can they can more three-point looks? I have two ideas, both of which might get me castrated by Mike Woodson's Sean John Bowie knife.
- Utilize Carmelo Anthony as a spot-up shooter from time-to-time. Look, Mr. W, I know the Melo isolations have been effective, fun to watch, and appreciated by his teammates...oh wait, none of those things. I don't believe Melo is as selfish as he appears in these iso-heavy moments. This has been the Knicks' playoff strategy, and Melo is following it. I just happen to think the strategy is stupid. He was 1-for-1 from beyond the arc in this game, following his 2-for-2 performance in the fourth quarter of Game 2. They should get their best shooters more looks from downtown, Melo included. How about this fact: thus far in the playoffs, the Knicks are 4-0 when Melo makes more than one three-pointer, 1-3 when he makes one or fewer.
- A 42.1% three-point shooter named Cope. We've all noticed Chris Copeland's eerie resemblance to the Predator. In the movies, the Predator employs some kind of body-cloaking technology to remain hidden from his prey. Is Chris Copeland using the same device to hide from Mike Woodson, or is Woody just being incredibly stubborn here. You be the judge.
DOMINATE the Turnover Margin (Knicks - 14 TO, Pacers - 17 TO)
There's a reason I keep writing DOMINATE in all caps, other than regular old internet douchebaggery. The way the Knicks play D - always looking for the strip, at the expense of giving up open looks - means that they should absolutely spank the opposing team in turnover margin. They did a good job of forcing turnovers - 17 is above their season average, but didn't do a good job hanging onto the ball - 14 is two above their season average, and the second-most turnovers they've had against Indiana this season. Forcing turnovers is basically the only weakness in the Pacers' defense (26th in Opp TOV%), so the Knicks have to improve here. The only thing that kept this game for being a blowout was the Pacers' poor shooting.
Protect the Defensive Glass (umm...nope)
Believe it or not, the Knicks averaged fewer opponent offensive rebounds per game than any team in the league (10.01 Opp ORB/G). They gave up 18 o-boards last night, which, my abacus tells me, is way the hell more than 10. Y'all know who's to blame for this. I didn't think Tyson Chandler did a terrible job guarding Roy Hibbert in this game - the dude broke out such an astonishing assortment of Dream Shakes and lefty baby-hooks that I'm still 95% sure that wasn't really Roy Hibbert playing. Chandler's performance on the glass, however, was simply inexcusable. Before this series, I said the Knicks needed their guards to rebound to help neutralize Indiana's advantage up front. Since we all know Tyson reads everything I write, I'm worried he took my advice a bit too literally. Tyson, bro, let me clarify - I don't want Iman Shumpert to double you up on the glass (10 TRB for Shump, 5 for Chandler), and I sure as hell don't want you to get out-rebounded by a guard in his forties (6 TRB for Jason Kidd).
Only twice this season did the Knicks give up more offensive rebounds than they did last night - strangely enough, they won both of those games. The Knicks can win despite a huge rebounding margin. They can even win if they don't quite dominate the turnover margin like they usually do. But they can not win with such a pathetic performance from behind the arc, and they sure as hell can't win if they stop doing everything that made them a quality team this year. Time is growing short, Knicks. You got failing grades across the board for your performance on Saturday night. You already know what you need to do to win; so get it done on Tuesday or get ready for a long vacation.