I assume/hope/hope more that the Knicks we see right now are not the same Knicks we'll see come playoff time and for the foreseeable future, but it's still amazing how they've already established a mini-identity. The comment from robk quoted above sums up how this game will be remembered, but how about this comment from stingy d:
3:20 PM! That was just minutes into the game and he pretty much nailed it! It's entirely possible that stingy's just a soothsayer, but it's still kind of crazy that the Knicks are that predictable one month into this new era. Again, I both expect and desperately, frantically hope that New York will begin their turnaround soon, but for now, there's trouble afoot. One loss after another feels eerily familiar.
Today's defeat was sort of a caricature of the way the Knicks have been losing. New York didn't just come out flat against a bad team; they farted out one of the most uniformly awful first quarters we've ever seen. After that, they didn't just make a run; they cut the deficit to just one and made it a close game for the entire second half. (Is that how you use semicolons? I have no idea how to use semicolons). It was another one of those outings in which twelve minutes of horrid basketball eclipsed over thirty minutes of semi-decent play. Like robk said, we'd probably all benefit from never speaking of that first quarter again. Take the jump for a few notes, and then...yeah, I'm probably gonna neuralize myself.
- My first quarter notes are about 50% comprised of the words "jumper" and "terrible". The former refers to the Knicks' sole mode of attack in the early going. The latter refers to their defense, though it also aptly describes the former. New York made the Bucks' lives as easy as they possibly could in that first period. Their offensive possessions were short and fruitless and their defense was provided little resistance. As soon as one Buck got by his man, it was over. Guys didn't rotate quickly or decisively enough to cover for one another, and by the time the ball entered the paint, Amar'e Stoudemire had already spaced out. Seriously, the number of times a scoring play occurred behind Amar'e's back was staggering. He hasn't been lazy so much as like...kinda ignorant. Or something. Anyway, the first quarter sucked, perhaps more so than any other first quarter in recent memory.
- Not only is Andrew Bogut "Bogurt", he's from "Australi-er". I take comfort in the fact that Walt Frazier's verbal stylings can sustain me through even the bleakest of losses.
- To me, the most frustrating thing about this loss and a number of recent losses is this: It requires only a lukewarm effort for the Knicks to compete with these below-.500 teams. Today, it didn't seem to take very much to undo the first quarter's misdeeds. They erased the deficit with decent shooting, a small boost from the second unit, some forced turnovers, and a bit more commitment to chasing the Milwaukee wings (sounds like a chain restaurant). Shit, they played outright poorly in the fourth and lost that frame by just two points. This all lends context to the unspeakable poverty of decent basketball that plagued New York in that first quarter. They managed just 9 points (here's where we remind ourselves that "they" includes two of the league's top five scorers) while allowing the league's least efficient offense to drop 32. Now If you'll look directly at the end of this device...
- Neither Chauncey Billups nor Toney Douglas could really keep track of Brandon Jennings, who didn't shoot very well (5-13), but repeatedly shook loose to penetrate and create at will (an error that, again, got compounded by Amar'e Stoudemire's interior snoozing). On the other end, Chauncey at least sank a bunch of meaningful jumpers and got to the line. For Toney, a personal mini-run in the third quarter comprised pretty much the entire numerator of his 3 of 13 outing (7 points).
- One of my favorite Billups faces, by the way, is that supercilious-ass grin he sports after drawing a shooting foul with a pump fake. In the real world, that's sleazy as hell. In the NBA, it's veteran savvy! Chauncey still looks a trifle gimpy, but it was good to see him get to the line some, even if his free throw stroke was awry (7-10).
- It wasn't quite as pleasant to see Luc Richard Mbah a Moute to have the same success drawing contact (13-13 from the stripe), often on and-one putbacks. It feels so, so debilitating to give up three points on a play like that (Well, I assume it feels debilitating to the Knicks. I know for sure that it vicariously makes my tummy hurt). How deeply I wish that Jared Jeffries (or Ronny Turiaf or Shelden Williams*. Those three combined for zero points in 39 minutes.) could have provided even a fraction of that offense.
- *Or Derrick Brown, who didn't have-- and hasn't had-- the opportunity to spin when it counts. If Mike D'Antoni was desperate enough to start Shelden Williams in this one, (oh yeah, D'Antoni started Shelden Williams. It was weird and didn't help.) then I figure he might as well experiment with Brown at some point.
- Landry Fields was one of those that had trouble sticking his man (John Salmons) at times, but he did hit three of six three-pointers.
- Carmelo Anthony (who also struggled to tail Carlos Delfino) never really got rolling, but scored 23 points on just 14 shots. Amar'e had 25 on 28, including a bunch of pretty spazzy forces on the move. He did have 11 rebounds, though, and managed to record just one turnover despite getting stripped quite frequently (He's got an uncanny knack for recovering possession, or at least losing the ball in the direction of a teammate.).
- Is it just me, or does Melo tend to hit the shot immediately following a charge? That always rubs it in.
- "Squad Six's" fake, premature countdown at the end of the quarters, which fooled Raymond Felton earlier this season, got Toney Douglas to fire a hasty three-pointer at the end of the first quarter. They also chanted "Sprewell's better" (Latrell, who lives in Milwaukee, sat courtside) at Carmelo Anthony. [These brackets mark the spot of about a dozen different bitter jabs at "Squad Six" that I decided to delete.]
- The feeling of watching your team get torched by such an evil man-serpent as Carlos Delfino is its own brand of disgust.
- This seems as good a time as any to reflect on the fact that there exists an NBA reporter (whose name I do not know) who is convinced that I'm the world's biggest Keyon Dooling fan because of a single offhand remark I made during Summer League this past year. Let it be known that I am not the world's biggest Keyon Dooling fan. Probably not even top five.
That's pretty much it. What's wild is that after a few weeks of running headlong into trap games, I think most of us still expect New York to compete tomorrow night against the Celtics. That's just who they are. And yeah, though I half expect and half pray that we're proven wrong, we feel ready to attribute an identity to these Knicks: the team that fails to take less talented teams seriously and only perks up for elite competition. That theory could unravel (either for better or worse) in the coming week, as they follow games against the Celtics and Magic with a Milwaukee re-match and a trip to Charlotte. There's still time to make this work! [Sucks thumb].