The Knicks had a couple things going for them tonight, but couldn't quite hang with a Spurs team that got it done when it mattered most. Among the advantages were a packed Madison Square Garden, a San Antonio team that was short of sleep and playing for the second time in 24 hours, and a considerable edge at the free throw line. The Knick defense was actually pretty solid for the most part, but poor offensive execution was too much to overcome.
Jump the jump for some quick notes...
- First of all, these drunk driving commercials that have been running for years always puzzled me. I get the symbolism, but I mostly wonder whether or not state laws actually include "driving while submerged in alcohol (DWSIA)" as a criminal offense. Then again, it's possible that stewing in liquor like that would actually be intoxicating, because the alcohol would seep into your pores or something. I'm in need of some clarification.
- The defense was, in general, not half bad. Many of the Spurs' shots were contested, and David Lee and friends did a decent job bothering Tim Duncan, be it straight up or with a double team. New York forced San Antonio into a lot of long jumpers, which, unfortunately, they went ahead and hit. The Spurs attempted most of their field goals from 16-23 feet out, and connected on 17 of 33 attempts. Antonio McDyess, George Hill, Roger Mason, and Manu Ginobili were all accurate from just inside the arc, and that's pretty much how the Spurs scored points. Again, credit the Knicks into forcing long jumpers, and credit the Spurs with rising to the challenge.
- On the other end, the Spurs stifled the Knicks' bread and butter, defending both Chris Duhon and David Lee perfectly on the pick-and-roll. Fortunately, Du and Dave adjusted appropriately (english muffins and margarine?), with Lee popping out to can mid-range jumpers. Duhon finished with 13 assists, while Lee scored 28 points on superb 11-13 shooting, including 5-6 on jumpers.
- By the way, if you haven't been checking out Hoopdata's new advanced box scores, you're really missing out. It's like porn for basketball nerds. Nothing gets me going like daily TS% for every NBA player. Mmm.
- I'll reiterate that Lee was superb. Besides scoring, Dave pulled down a typical 10 boards, which is no small feat against Tim Duncan and DeJuan Blair. He also put in serious defensive time against Tim Duncan, who wasn't really effective until the end of the game. I've said this before, but perhaps my complaints from earlier in the season should be refined. David Lee is not a horrible defender; he's a horrible help defender. Lee's one-on-one defense is usually passable, especially considering that he's always at a height disadvantage.
- Danilo Gallinari did a swell job at attacking and getting to the line. Gallo's a big target for fouls, and when he gets rolling, he's got the right combination of strength and awkwardness to get calls. He connected on only 8 of his career-high 12 attempts at the stripe, but it was plenty refreshing just to see him make it there. Given that Danilo continues to fade away and misfire on his three-point attempts (1-5 tonight), the aggressive drives are crucial. Meanwhile, I was disappointed, though not entirely surprised, to see Gallinari sit for much of the fourth quarter.
- Jared Jeffries was as pesky as you'd like him to be on defense (2 blocks, a steal, and plenty of good doubles on Duncan), but he was way too involved in the Knick offense. Jeffries was 2-10 from the field, which I think Jared would agree is far too many shots. He was cutting and catching pretty well, but just couldn't elevate or go up strong at the rim, and was only 2-7 on point blank attempts. Why not run Chandler or Gallinari off those screens instead? Is Jeffries really that much better at getting open?
- DeJuan Blair's superb play was a delight to watch, but it really just made me miss Jackie Butler.
- For the time being, I'd have no problem with Jonathan Bender just chilling around the arc for catch-and-shoot threes. He's been accurate from downtown, and doesn't seem comfortable enough yet to do much else, despite his quick flurry of excellence in the Clipper game. D'Antoni clearly fancies him as a sort Jeffries-type player with more offense, but Legs isn't quite there yet. Bender still seems to take every lateral step with the fear of his knees turning to powder, so he probably shouldn't be creating offense or defending point guards at the moment. I'm still of the (perhaps minority) opinion that he deserves minutes, though.
- Speaking of which, the Spurs reserves blew out the Knicks bench, outscoring them 42-21, with 19 of those 21 points coming from Al Harrington. I'm through getting worked up over D'Antoni's short rotation, but there were definitely times tonight when Toney Douglas, Nate Robinson, and Jordan Hill could've been useful.
- Is it just me, or does Ahmad Rashad sound a little like Dave Chappelle? Also, does Roger Mason look a little like Wale? Am I deaf, blind, or both?
- Al Harrington has an odd tendency to point at the wrong basket when balls are tipped out of bounds. This leads me to believe that his internal sense of direction is completely out of whack, which, come to think of it, would explain a lot. Jokes aside, Harrington was a decent 7-13 from the field, but one never really got the feeling that he was working within the flow of the offense.
- The Knick advantage at the line (18-25, as opposed to 9-12 for the Spurs) was partially a function of friendly refs, but also had a lot to do with their insistence on attacking the rim, particularly early on. During stretches when the Knicks got jumper-happy, things went awry. The best example would be a stretch in the early third quarter when New York stopped attacking the rim and the Spurs quickly went up by 10. All it took was some drives, free throws, and tighter defense to regain the lead over the next 6 minutes. Attacking the basket works.
- San Antonio's transition defense, as always, was truly excellent. I swear there were times they had more than five guys on the floor.
- Chris Duhon is easy to lose with a pump fake. I bet he likes magic tricks.
- Alan Hahn points out that this is the 7th straight game in which the Knicks have failed to hit the century mark. They're 3-4 in that stretch.
- Last thought: I'm in Colorado right now, and went out for dinner after the game ended. The restaurant I was at had the Denver-Dallas game playing, and within the half hour or so I was watching, I saw three different local commercials featuring Nuggets personnel. There was a car commercial with George Karl, what looked to be a mattress commercial with Chris Andersen, and a little pizza place promo with Chauncey Billups. All of this made me realize that the Knicks are never in cheesy commercials for local businesses. This is very disappointing. I'd be much more likely to buy a Hyundai Elantra or a Tempur-Pedic mattress if they were promoted by Jared Jeffries dancing or Darko Milicic in a funny hat or something. Even the Nets aren't in commercials around my area. What gives? I don't know if I want to live in an area that's too classy for low-budget commercials buoyed by half-assed appearances from local pro athletes.
Overall, the Knicks did a decent job keeping up with a superior team. Unfortunately, New York couldn't exploit certain advantages, and the Spurs' top guns were just too much down the stretch. I said before tip-off that the Knicks would have to be at the top of their game to take one from the Spurs, and, at least offensively, they were not. Pretty simple. New York plays again on Tuesday in Detroit. Hopefully, the Knicks match up well with the Pistons, because they face them three times in the next 3 weeks. Over and out.