A drastic change of personnel comes with some experimentation, and some experiments just don't go so well. The Knicks ran into a tough defensive team with an excellent big man tonight, as Andrew Bogut and the Bucks bullied New York on both ends.
While double teams worked on occasion, the Knicks simply weren't going to stop Bogut with David Lee being the only player even close to qualifying as a "big man" on defense. Lee's arch-nemesis finished with 24 points, 20 rebounds, and 5 blocks, dominating the puny Knicks the way you or I would against a gaggle of second-graders. Consider Experiment 1: "Playing a lineup without any post defenders against one of the league's best 7-footers" a failure. The new-look Knicks fared pretty well on Saturday against the smaller Thunder, but were exposed all at once at the hands of Andrew Bogut.
Experiment #2, "Turn Sergio Rodriguez from Chris Duhon's backup into a 30-minute starter in the span of 48 hours" didn't go so well either. Mike D'Antoni has always favored the upheaval over the gradual change, and the move tonight was for Sergio to assume every single one of Duhon's minutes. The result was just about what you'd expect from a guard who thrives on recklessness and improvisation starting for the first time alongside teammates with whom he's hardly practiced. Rodriguez's preferred speed and timing simply didn't match the other Knicks' expectations and positioning, and there were plenty of miscues as a result. With luck, Sergio will mesh better as he learns his teammates' habits, but it looked like outright chaos tonight. It's a shame, because the little dude did a pretty nice job against Brandon Jennings and managed a ridiculous 8 steals, very few of which resulted in fast break buckets. Perhaps accustomed to Du's casual pace, Sergio's teammates simply did not know or care enough to run with him. Starting Rodriguez and demoting Duhon is certainly the way to go, but it doesn't look like such a precipitous transition was a wise move.
That's pretty much how I saw it. The Knicks got big-boyed by the Bucks and outrun by their own point guard. Throw it all together and you get one of the sorrier performances of a pretty sorry season. More notes, after the jump:
- Tracy McGrady dominated the ball for the second game in a row, only he looked a little sore this time and wasn't nearly as effective from the field. McGrady shot 5-14 for 15 points. He, too, has a ways to go in terms of jiving with his teammates. On nights like this, we can just load up this page and suck our thumbs.
- Meanwhile, Eddie House (4-16) led the team in attempts, and it wasn't nearly as cute as it was on Saturday night. "Cute" is exactly the word my housemate, who is a Celtics fan, uses to describe House. He warned me that there would be nights like tonight. There will be nights like Saturday, too. It's a give and a take. We came to the conclusion that House is kind of like J.R. Smith with less talent and less of a conscience.
- I really got the feeling that guys like Lee, Chandler, and Gallo spent possessions watching McGrady and Rodriguez handle the ball. A good lineup has a sort of collective proprioception by which players can cut and position themselves to receive passes without staring down the point guard. It's all about familiarity. At least I hope so. If the Knicks' offensive spacing looks like that for the rest of the season, I might have bitten off all my fingers by April.
- Wes Anderson should make a movie in which Royal Ivey is the patriarch of a zany family.
- Toney Douglas got off the bench in the second quarter...and registered a 3 trillion. D'Antoni opted to field lineups with House or McGrady at the point instead of letting Toney DWTDD. Again, we're still in the experimentation process, but I hope that's not a trend.
- Tonight's Walt Frazier Wildly Mispronounced Name of the Night goes to Luc-Richard "Mama Mootee".
- It was Legends Night. I, the punk kid, often feel a little beat over the head with the fact that the Knicks once won a couple championships, but I acknowledge my own ignorance. It was a tastefully executed presentation, and the live interviews with Bill Bradley, Willis Reed, and Bob Wolff were very nice.
- Speaking of which, Mike Breen prefaced the series of interviews and anecdotes with "we would like to apologize for the game sometimes taking a back seat tonight". Word has it that's exactly what Al Harrington (3-9) said in the locker room. Yikes.
- Question of the night: Would you rather be yourself or John Salmons?
It's time for me to study now, so I'll leave you to ponder that question. The Knicks have the Celtics tomorrow night. We'll be looking to see how much McGrady has to offer, how Rodriguez adapts to his teammates and vice versa, if Gallo and Wil can get involved, and how the Knicks cope with Kendrick Perkins. More on that game tomorrow.