In the last few weeks, I've weaned myself off my long-time tradition of taking a post-game shower. The shower thing started years ago when I'd get really worked up and feverish during every game and needed to settle my nerves. Perhaps because they've been winning a bunch, most of my nights have ended as stinkily as they began (in a good way). Not tonight, though. A combination of poor Knick defense, an obscene number of whistles, the goofy Utah broadcast, and my own flaky internet connection had me in a dither by the final buzzer.
Anyway, I'm clean and settled now, and the game wasn't so terrible. The Knicks really did defend like hare vomit but credit must be given to the Jazz for moving brilliantly without the ball, passing well, and draining their open shots. It was near-perfect execution, not unlike the Knicks' performance against the Spurs last week. The foul thing was pretty rough as well. It was a tightly called game, and a shallow team that's missing 1.75 rotation players (Danilo Gallinari and Toney Douglas, who was dressed only in case of "emergency"...and ended up playing) tends to struggle in games like that. The comment from heino vanderjuice that's quoted in the headline is only a slight exaggeration. Five Knicks finished with four or more fouls, and foul trouble sidelined Amar'e Stoudemire and Raymond Felton for crucial stretches of the game.
Take the jump for some more detailed notes.
- First of all, tonight was one of the few times I've ever watched a Knicks game on a non-MSG broadcast. Since I've spent my entire life living and learning within reasonable distance of the Garden, Clyde and Breen (or Marv Albert, of course) have almost always been available to me. Anyway, I'm in Colorado right now, so I watched the game on "FSN Rocky Mountain". It was a mostly tolerable but pretty corny broadcast. Craig Bolerjack (that is apparently a real human last name) and Matt Harpring weren't too bad, although I will say that the Bolerjack fellow is a bit liberal with his use of the term "circus shot". Just because YOU can't hit a basic reverse layup doesn't mean it's some sort of wondrous gymnastic feat. Anyway, they were a bit more dopey and homerish than our own guys, but I've heard a lot worse.
- Oh, and the studio guy was named Alema "You CANNOT Call Me Al" Harrington. Bummer, bro. Thurl Bailey was their token former player (roughly equivalent to Kelly Tripucka) at the desk.
His voice could put New York City to sleep. His voice could put Money to sleep. His voice could put Rust to sleep. Thurl Bailey has a very monotonous voice.
- Oh, and also, they were promoting some sort of travel package called the "Jazz Beach Bash" in which you enjoy a discount trip to Cancun and get to meet Jeff Hornacek and Frank Layden. Layden can stay home, but I desperately want to sip fruity drinks and lounge on the beach with Jeff Hornacek. I feel like me and the Horndog could set a kadima record of some sort.
- My mom: "I have a feeling there's no place in the state of Utah where I would be entirely comfortable."
- There was also a game of basketball played, and fouling was really the theme of the evening. 56 fouls were called between the two teams and, like I said in the intro, that seriously hampered the already short-handed 'bockers. Amar'e Stoudemire played just 28 minutes because he picked up his fourth early in the second half while Raymond Felton played a solid 40, but missed a crucial stretch of the fourth quarter after shoving Deron Williams for his fifth personal at the end of the third. If all the ordinal numbers made you dizzy, try this: Amar'e missed almost half the game because of fouls, while Felton missed the game's most important stretch because of fouls. And I didn't even mention that Ronny Turiaf and Bill Walker each committed five and Shawne Williams fouled out. Mr. Vanderjuice wasn't kidding, y'all.
- Theme number two was the Knicks' piss-poor defense. It was worse than that, really. It was 2 Piss 2 Poor. The Jazz had a lot of things going for them, though. First of all, Deron Williams was cookin' soup (Is that a saying?). Williams didn't shoot all that well (5-13), but he was super aggressive in backing down Felton or penetrating for easy finishes, kick-outs to the perimeter, and contact from each of the five guys mentioned in the previous bullet point. D-Wil was 13-15 from the line and had 12 assists to go with his 24 points. When he felt like cookin' soup (Now it's a saying.), nobody could contain him. The rest of the Jazzmen executed like pros. To my eye, they ran a lot of set plays, slamming the Knicks into plenty of off-ball screens for easy looks and mismatches. Since New York switches so much, a team that choreographs their screens and knows when guys will break free can poke holes in the Knick defense. Utah cashed in on open looks from outside (10-22) and got solid contributions from all five starters, plus a big boost from C.J. Miles, who was cookin' soup with 14 points in the fourth quarter.
- Unable to stop anything inside or out, the Knicks went to a zone in the second half. It did not work. At all.
- That perfect storm of foul-ridden captains, weak D, and Jazzy excellence could have rendered this one a blowout, but two of our most beloved bench bros made a game out of it. Bill Walker had 20 points in the first half by alternately attacking the rim and shooting the lights out. With Amar'e benched and Wilson Chandler struggling, Walker became the go-to scorer and loved every minute of it. After cookin' soup early, he had only 3 points in the second half, giving way to...
- SHAWNE WILLIAMS! Good LORD, was there a lot of poop after the break. Extra E set up shop behind the three-point arc (mostly the left corner) and hit all seven of his three-pointers in the second half. Williams almost single-handedly brought the Knicks back into contention by building a mountain of poop and leading them toward the summit, but, as is often the case with poop mountains, the climb was too treacherous. Williams ended up with a career-high 25 points on 7-8 shooting from downtown. It was a shame to see that much poop go to waste.
- A number of E's threes were the result of Felton's breaking down the D and kicking out to the perimeter. When Raymond stiff-armed Williams for his fifth foul, everything went downhill. In general, New York looked completely hapless in the 8 minutes Felton wasn't on the floor. During Ray's absence, D'Antoni sprung Roger Mason Jr. from the bench and let him and Landry Fields bring the ball up. The Jazz recognized this as a weakness and pressured relentlessly. Mason and Fields are both competent enough dribblers, but not when they're flustered. We saw quite a few turnovers, and even more halfcourt possessions in which the Knicks weren't set up until the shot clock was under 15 seconds or so. It got so bad that when Felton earned that fifth personal, Mike D'Antoni cracked the glass, pulled the lever, and tossed Toney Douglas into the action. Toney, who didn't expect to play and had been nursing a sore shoulder (and possibly playing "A Bug's Life" on Game Boy Color) on the bench up to that point, wasn't much help. I'm not a fan of plus-minus, but Felton was +10 in 40 minutes. The Knicks lost by 6. Unless I'm gravely inept, that means the Jazz outscored the Knicks by 16 in the 8 minutes he was on the bench, does it not? This seems important.
- You've got to feel for Mason, who seems like a cool guy, but...yikes. 14 minutes later, Roger has still yet to register a single positive contribution in a Knick uniform.
- Mehmet Okur, who'd missed the previous few games, came off the bench and had a pretty meaningful impact (12 points) in his 12 minutes. Why the Utah announcers call him "Money" is over my head, though. On the other hand, referring to every Raja Bell make as "ringing the bell" is not over my head. It's under my head.
- They don't call Kyrylo Fesenko "The Yeti" yet, do they? That's really a shame.
- I can't say I blame him, but Matt Harpring is a little too friendly with the Telestrator. During that "Beach Bash" promo, he took it upon himself to circle which folding chair was his. When the broadcast showed a guy in the crowd covered head-to-toe in fluorescent yellow spandex, Harpring drew a little face on him.
- What? Oh, yeah. There was a guy in the crowd who was completely encased in spandex. Somehow, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia made it okay for people to go out in public dressed like gimps.
- Very early on, Stoudemire appeared to tweak that nerve in his shoulder that's bothered him before, but he shook it off and kept playing (you know, until he got all those fouls).
- Oddly enough, the Knicks won or tied three of the game's four quarters. That second period, when Stoudemire was resting and Mason was trying to run the offense, ended up being the difference.
That's that. It was a stinky night and a major defensive letdown after a sharp outing in Portland, but it's not the end of the world. The Knicks went 2-2 on a tough road trip and have a day to rest before home games against the Kings and Suns. Gallo and Douglas should be fully healthy and ready to play normal minutes soon enough. All is well. Back to New York we go.