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Knicks vs. Bulls Leftovers

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Last night wasn't particularly fun. I cut my recap a bit short, but want to mention a few things before we move on to tonight's MONUMENTALLY IMPORTANT game against the Bucks.

- New York's offense was languid and uninspiring for most of the night, but there was that stretch following their first timeout (about four minutes into the first quarter) during which they were suddenly offensive wizards (not Wizards) for a few minutes. As Dalen Cuff pointed out at TKB, that was mostly because they were forcing turnovers and getting out in transition to either score immediately or get good open looks off the secondary break. That's been a good look for them all season, and it was really the only extended period during which they looked like a competitive basketball team last night. Baron Davis made a few nifty plays off the dribble, Landry Fields caught and finished cutting to the basket, and Carmelo Anthony was cookin' soup off the catch early in shot clocks.

- Other than that, didn't it seem like the Knicks were just passing up good looks in the first quarter? There were several instances in which Tyson Chandler received an entry pass or a guard got into the paint, but the ball went back out to the perimeter for no real reason. I'm gonna go ahead and blame the wide-ass open layup that Baron Davis missed on the first possession for this trend.

- In total, New York started the game by going 0-6, then 10-11, then 2-13 (through the second quarter) from the field. I believe that's what Mike Breen said. That's weird.

- Chandler, in general, looked weirdly tentative last night. He obviously put in some great defensive possessions, but, even without foul trouble, was a little slow to catch and get a shot up near the rim, and, though he piled on rebounds in the second half, still neglected to box out pretty frequently (Melo was guilty of this, too, of course). It was just one of those nights.

- I don't usually think much about "rhythm" on defense, but there have been a few games this season in which I thought I saw Iman Shumpert get thrown off by a few miscues early, then sort of struggle all game on that end. Shump picked up two stupid fouls early on-- one where he went too aggressively after an unlikely offensive rebound, and another where he committed a foul off the ball during an inbound play. He also got lost over a screen guarding C.J. Watson and, to my eye, just looked to be taking the wrong steps and striking at the wrong times last night. I've called this an inability to "finish" defensive plays before. It just seems sometimes like he's playing good defense-- on or off the ball-- but because he's so aggressive, a single mistake or a momentary lapse in concentration can cost him a backdoor cut or an open look over a screen. Another thing, of course, is that he wasn't guarding Derrick Rose last night, so he didn't get to play nearly as much on-ball defense. His D away from the action still needs a lot of work (perhaps the over-aggression is the problem), and it seemed like the Bulls inadvertently exposed him a bit by losing Rose (and it also seemed like Woodson tried to counteract this by sticking him primarily on Watson later in the game after he'd been guarding Hamilton earlier). Anyway, Shump ended up picking up five fouls, none of them useful, and he gave up a mouthful of open looks as well.

- Oddly enough, there were a few minutes at the beginning of that second quarter in which J.R. Smith really should have been gunning, but he just wasn't getting looks. Guys like Toney Douglas and Jared Jeffries were trying to create their own shots. I'd take Earl heaving 28-footers over that offense eleven times out of ten.

- I don't want to talk about Steve Novak. Nothing happened. There is no cause for alarm.

- The Knicks only drew three fouls in the entire first half. They shot 38 percent from the field in that half.

- I (accidentally? Not sure.) wrote "Boobzer" in my notes and just laughed about it for like nine minutes.

- That was not Jared Jeffries's night. He did a pretty good job on the glass, but threw a couple truly scary passes and baaaadly missed both his shots. One of them was a 19-footer attempted from about two feet away.

- Josh Harrellson has a buzzcut to go with his Jortstache now, because why not?

- Clyde called the backdoor cut the "oldest play in basketball" last night, but doesn't he also say that about the pick-and-roll? Were they invented by the same guy on the same day in 88 B.C.? And if we're really getting into specifics, did he invent them simultaneously? Was it like "oh, why don't we have a guy come screen the guy defending the ballhandler BUT OH WAIT WHAT IF THAT GUY INSTEAD CUTS BEHIND HIS DEFENDER but actually he should just go set that screen, then sorta turn and run to the basket BUT NO HE COULD SNEAK ALONG THE BASELINE AND GET A WIDE OPEN LOOK AT THE RIM but actually he could get a pretty good look and possibly open up opportunities for the ball-handler by just setting that screen". I think that's how it went. The backdoor cut and pick-and-roll are tied for oldest play in basketball.

- Rip Hamilton?

- (Actually I do want to say that, though Hamilton would go on to tear him and Steve Novak and everybody who guarded him up in that third quarter, I saw Baron Davis spend a few possessions playing terrific off-ball defense on Mr. Ham. I guess he got tired after that?)

Last night's game really wasn't all that different from the previous win. A few things, to my eye, changed: 1. New York's surge of offensive brilliance was briefer and less pronounced. 2. Carmelo Anthony wasn't quite as brilliant. 3. The Bulls didn't fall victim to Iman Shumpert's defense because they didn't let him guard a ballhandler as often. 4. The Knicks committed almost double the turnovers in five fewer minutes.

For the most part, everything else stayed the same. New York got very little from the point guard spot and ran pretty ragged offense, Chicago dominated the glass, and uh...some other thing to tie the sentence together. Last night sucked. Doesn't matter now. All that matters is beating Milwaukee and breathing and drinking water and things like that.