It really is maddening how a group of gentlemen that's stood up to the Spurs, Heat, and Celtics can so feebly bow at the feet of the league's lowliest. We saw it against the Kings and Suns, and now we've seen it against a short-handed Clippers team that had dropped four games straight, including one a thousand miles away just 24 hours prior. Like sadderbudweiser said (asked, really) in the game thread, the Knicks really do know how to make losers feel handsome. The Clippers are talented for sure (they, too, have felled some of the NBA's titans), but a team carrying a 3-18 road record and missing their leading scorer (his majesty Eric Gordon) should have been a breeze. The Knicks of the new year just can't take care of putties like they used to.
Knick scorers drove intermittently and with reasonable success, but more often than not, found the opportunity to hurl from outside too inviting. They were open looks, too. Guys like Gallo, Landry, Wil, and Extra E just misplaced their touch, wasting ball movement and spraying long rebounds all the while. Per usual, an abrupt surge of effort got the Knicks back into it, but not over the hump (though this time, they might have gotten away with if it weren't for that meddling Randy Foye).
While New York shanked even the openest of shots, no less than six Clippers were cookin' soup at one point or another. Baron Davis punctured the defense at will, sank a few momentum-bursting HORSE shots, and skipped to his lou a bit for the Garden crowd. Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and even that fidgety little horsefly Eric Bledsoe snaggled offensive caroms and got right to the rim. Ryan Gomes caught fire in the second quarter. Foye dominated the fourth.
There's not too much more to say, but take the jump for a handful of notes.
- The pre-game chatter was so shamelessly agog with dunks and dunking and getting dunked on and probably Dunkaroos at some point that I assumed we'd see a gentle, if not futile, offensive contest. It was probably around the time Al Trautwig uttered the phrase "loaded with testosterone and filled with dunks" that I got all cynical. Then, wouldn't you know it, the game's first quarter lived up to the hype. Griffin got a few slams in, but the period was mostly a steady commerce of point-blank positioning, flimsy defense, and two-hand tomahawks by Timofey Mozgov and DeAndre Jordan. Timo blasted the paint off the rim on one end (12 points on 5 dunks in the first), but got caught playing goalie on the other. His tendency to ball-watch let Jordan sneak inside for a number of putback stuffs and catch 'n' crams. Eight of the game's first thirteen shots were dunks. Clyde called it a "dunk-a-tharn". We got all huffy when Shawne Williams laid in an alley-oop. It was a little hectic.
- Things crashed violently back to earth in the second quarter, when a small lineup with Toney Douglas running point and Williams/Wilson Chandler manning the middle couldn't score to save their lives. The short bros defended better than you'd expect against Jordan and Ike Diogu (who, to be fair, made things easier with some seriously ghoulish attempts), but ended up more or less punting away every offensive possession. At some point, Baron Davis took over. He bowled over whatever poor mope stood in his way (usually Raymond Felton or Landry Fields) and strode right into the paint for finishes and kicks. Amar'e got in foul trouble, the Knicks bricked threes, and it was pretty much done. Los Angeles led by eleven at halftime and as much as nineteen in the third. There was a comeback, sure, but you know how those go: 1. Big charge, 2. Swell of crowd support, and 3. Kobe-like streak of invincibility by Randy Foye. Of course. Seriously, though, Foye must have happened across a star or something. I swear I heard the music.
- I know I've mentioned that I don't like the current Allstate commercials, but have we discussed how that creepy-ass "Mayhem" character is pretty much Tyler Durden?
- Amar'e Stoudemire played just 26 minutes because of foul trouble. Two of the calls came on attempts to displace Griffin whilst he received long passes, and the other two (if I remember correctly) were charges into Griffin. It sucked, too, because Amar'e stayed efficient after that near-perfect outing against the Sixers, shooting 10-13 for a quick 23 points. He traded hoops with Foye (ugh, that's never going to not sting) down the stretch, but just didn't spin enough to fully inflict his will.
- Stoudemire, by the way, turned his ankle defending one of those long passes. He was down for a bit, but eventually hopped up and continued to play as actively as four fouls would permit him.
- Danilo Gallinari was his usual foul-drawing self, earning 14 free throws (and 14 makes) in a team-leading 40 minutes. The area behind the arc wasn't nearly as welcoming, as Gallo's 1-8 shooting from downtown comprised quite a bit of New York's 6-26 evening. Is it just me, or does Danilo's aggression correlate with how recently he was coached? It seems like he's much more likely to demand the ball and create for himself at the beginning of a quarter or immediately after a timeout than he is later in a series. That surely has something to do with Raymond Felton as well.
- Felton, meanwhile, did that thing where he puts up a solid line despite some occasionally shaky play. 7-15 shooting, 17 points, and 13 points looks pretty okay, and it's really nothing to sneeze at. What the box score fails to capture is a handful of questionable shots, a few seriously shaky passes and, most gravely, more than a few instances of getting took by Baron Davis. I don't know, maybe I'm being too hard on Felton.
- Landry Fields scored on a few big boy drives, but his outside touch from the fourth quarter of the Philadelphia game didn't carry over. He was 0-3 from downtown, and I'm pretty sure they were all empty gym looks.
- That's the thing, really. I'm torn about the shitty three-point shooting. The Clippers gave up some WIDE-ass-open shots. I think I called them "downtown lay-ups" at the time. Like, there comes a point at which you just put the ball on the floor no matter what, but it's easy to delay that three-point embargo when sinkable looks keep emerging.
- Wilson Chandler (5-13, 11 points) eventually sank a few jumpers, but he's unquestionably missing some spring. A sleeve of some sort hugged his calf this evening. Wil moved as if it weighed 20 pounds.
- Mozgov's offensive excellence (which was almost entirely in the first half, by the way) wasn't the only positive to take from the loss. Toney Douglas also played pretty nicely. He chased down a ton of loose balls, drained some big shots in the fourth quarter, grabbed boards, and didn't turn the ball over in 19 minutes off the bench. Aside from one crippling decision to help on an isolated Griffin and leave Foye open for a straightaway three, it was mostly a night of D'ing WTDD.
- I like Shawne Williams's towel-whipping celebration from the bench. I've determined that it's sort of an abbreviated underhand flick, and now I wish he'd incorporate the Singleton special, the snake killer, or the Tasmanian cutback into his repertoire.
- This certainly won't be the best recap you read of the Knicks-Clippers game, but it's surely the only one to include a half hour's worth of video research on bullwhip cracking after 4 AM. At least I hope so. Long live Adam Winrich.
- Ryan Gomes: Triceratops?
- Clyde: When Griffin played at Oklahoma, "their football team scored more than their basketball team". He then chuckled for a full 8 seconds.
- The age-old litmus test of effort, loose balls, really told the tale tonight. The Knicks got a few deflections and the Clips fumbled plenty of basketballs, but L.A. just kept winning those "50-50" decisions and scored on quite a few broken plays. 'Twas telling, I thought.
- They always do these movie preview/All-Star weekend advertisement mash-up things, but a "Battle: Los Angeles"-themed All-Star promo with the Staples Center getting fire-bombed is something else entirely. Jeez.
- Speaking of which, I previously knew nothing about this. Now I do. Posting and Toasting and, um...Learning shit!
- There were "We want Melo" chants, by the way, which is probably to be expected.
- When the guy who isn't Martin Lawrence in the "Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son" preview asks "how you gonna hide a swag as big as this!?", he simultaneously makes the single most effeminate gesture I've ever seen. Also, I've got an answer for you, deputy momma: a fat suit, fake boobs, make-up, and a lady wig. That's how. Enjoy your swag-ectomy, guy.
Speaking of swag-ectomy, the Knicks are now just one game above .500 with the Lakers up next on the schedule. It would be very Knicksy of them to win that game after tonight's meltdown, but it'd also be very Knicksy of them to just lose it so, uh...there's that. The "making other teams look better" thing can get reversed against the league's best. Or it could get doubly enforced; you never know. Every day is an adventure. I should go to bed now.