Playing Boston for the second time in a week, the Knicks fell once more to the Celtics in Hartford, CT. The exhibition game had a similar arc to Wednesday's, with New York scoring and defending solidly in the early going, then falling apart in the third quarter and never rebounding (double meaning, y'all). With Amar'e Stoudemire sitting, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, and Raymond Felton took over the scoring load. None of the above, though, could dig the Knicks out of their hole in the second half.
Take the jump for some brief notes on what went down.
- If there's any major team-wide theme to be examined, it's rebounding. The Knicks actually gained more possessions by forcing turnovers (24) than they did rebounding Boston's misses (21 defensive rebounds). It's almost like the Celtics were better off heaving the ball at the rim and adding to the shot clock than they were dribbling and passing. With Amar'e sitting, Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov, and Ronny Turiaf simply weren't getting it done. None of those three had more than 2 boards, largely because they were out of position and at a disadvantage when the ball came off the rim. In fact, the Knicks' most useful rebounders were Landry Fields and Anthony Randolph, both of whom got the job done by streaking in from outside to snatch the rock from above. The outside help probably kept the Knicks in the game, but having four guys attack the glass kills the transition game on both ends of the floor. So far, we've only seen the Knicks rebound against two special NBA teams (the Timberwolves, who have Kevin Love, and the Celtics, who have Rajon Rondo wriggling into the paint for boards), so perhaps we shouldn't panic just yet. Rebounding is not one of those things that'll just fix itself in the regular season, though. The strategy and commitment near the glass needs to change or the Knicks will never possess the ball.
- Take all of the above as evidence that Fields could be very useful (at small forward, I think) in certain lineups. Fields gets UP for rebounds, and can also handle the ball decently once he secures the board.
- In the first quarter, Raymond Felton finally showed up in earnest. Perhaps in part because Stoudemire wasn't around, Felton looked much more relaxed and confident with the ball in his hands. He used every inch of space the defense granted him and repeatedly connected at the rim, from outside and on pull-up mid-range Js. That whole repertoire of scoring opened up passing lanes for Felton, and he made a couple of terrific pinpoint dimes while on the run. To my eye, Raymond operates better on the move than he does standing at the top of the offense (he's a mobile QB, not a pocket passer, if you will). It seems as if his most effective vantage point is in the paint with the defense collapsing around him, probably because he's quick and strong, but not especially tall. This is all good, and I hope that the taste of success carries over and Stoudemire's return to the floor doesn't put the brakes on Felton's attacking game. With shooters on the floor (more on that in a moment) and Amar'e's ability to step out and shoot, I see no reason why Felton can't operate from the paint.
- Speaking of shooters, the Knicks need someone to step up. Poor shooting in exhibitions is sometimes confined to the preseason, when uneven rotations and kooky lineups forbid any semblance of rhythm. We better hope that's the case with some of New York's hired guns. Danilo Gallinari (2-4, although I could've sworn he was like 2-7) and Wilson Chandler (3-4. Wilson is quietly on fire this preseason.) shot well from outside, but specialists like Roger Mason (1-3) and Andy Rautins (0-3) have been ineffective all preseason long. Rautins at least handles the ball and defends a little, but it is imperative that Mason hit threes, because he doesn't bring much else to the floor.
- Alan Hahn pointed out that Anthony Randolph sends a lot of worried looks toward the bench, and I think that explains a lot. Randolph, who showed some nice finishes and solid defense laced with ghastly turnovers and forced shots, looked to be over-thinking with the ball in his hands.
- I'm happy to announce that Timofey Mozgov's 6 fouls weren't in vain. Sure, he fouled out in 20 minutes, and sure he could've gone straight up instead of whacking folks on a few plays, but Timo's fouls were mostly legit and came within the context of stuff like this. I suppose Mozgov will need to pick his spots to stay on the floor, but I'm thoroughly satisfied with a little goonsmanship from the rookie. No layups.
- Ronny Turiaf got a little frustrated at times running the pick-and-roll with Toney Douglas. Douglas, as he's prone to do, could not thread passes into the rolling Turiaf. The issues is that when Toney did connect with Ronny, the big fella could do pretty much nothing outside of six inches from the rim. Unless Turiaf starts hitting the mid-range jumper with some regularity, he's a massive offensive liability if there isn't a big scorer on the floor. Said differently, Turiaf looks great alongside Stoudemire and looks pretty poor without him.
- I don't know if anybody's seen these commercials for the "Tower 200" workout apparatus, but the guy doing the voice-over sounds exactly like James Gandolfini. Whether or not it's actually him (it's not), the commercial got me wondering whether or not Gandolfini is a good workout motivator. On one hand, he's not exactly a role model when it comes to personal fitness. On the other hand, there's reason to believe he might have people shoot you in your face if you don't lift weights. Anyway, I bought like six of those things just to be safe.
- Celtics fans: Kevin Garnett looks gooooooood.
That's all I've got for now, children. The Knicks are back in action at 6 PM tonight. Check in then for a game thread and such. <3.