It's funny-- after all the talk of improved conditioning heading into Monday night's exhibition versus the Bucks, the Knicks just looked exhausted, like Jackaroe and others said. The guys seemed over-conditioned, as if they'd left their legs back in the Greenburgh gym after five days of practice. Carmelo Anthony in particular lacked the lift to get rolls at the rim and engage his second jump. Stable first-half offense deteriorated as a result, and a defense that's been streaky at best never showed up at all.
New York's Triangle started looking sharp enough, then seemed to fall apart when Derek Fisher and company tried to match Milwaukee. At times, the issue was just New York getting caught up in all the pace. For some stretches, though, Fisher met the Bucks' smaller lineups with his own-- something he's expressly said he wouldn't do. Had playing small been the plan along, I think we would have enjoyed some small Knicks lineups. But in more of an adaptive situation, you could tell those groups didn't know who was supposed to do what. Particularly among bench-ier groups, passes strayed, off-ball men froze, and sets broke down into isolated chuckery way sooner than they had to.
Meanwhile, every aspect of defense was wrong. Nobody picked up the ball, the rim, or any Buck who mattered in transition. Guys couldn't make up their minds in pick-and-roll coverages, and when confusion let a penetrator through, rotations arrived late. Guards helped off the corners to permit open threes. All sorts of reaching and flailing gave the Bucks 37 free throws. Inattention and poor positioning led to 19 Bucks offensive rebounds. I can barely think of a positive moment of Knicks defense, let alone anything resembling a trend.
Of course, the Bucks hit their shots no matter what-- like, New York's defense was horrid but not 60% from the field and 12-24 from three horrid. In that way, this game evoked eerie 2013-ish vibes, and I'm happy to be done with it. Just a few more notes:
- Very nice to see Amar'e Stoudemire canning jumpers early, and very nice as well to see him setting up down low and spinning quickly off the block to finish. He looked graceful and powerful, as if he'd soaked his body in fermented grape juice or something.
- Quincy Acy had himself a bounce:
I'm still not convinced this guy is a good defender, though. I'm not really convinced Acy's proficient at much of anything. He goes after every carom, though, and he's got the size to succeed in his pursuits. That alone gives him value, but I'm not sure it's be-the-frontcourt-complement-Amar'e-Stoudemire-needs value.
- I like Tim Hardaway Jr. hitting quick threes off kick-outs and long rebounds and whatnot. I like him using hand-offs intelligently in the two-man game. I LOVE him catching at the perimeter in transition and using a simple hesitation to jar the defense and get a lane to the rim and contact. He was second on the team in free throw attempts. He should be.
- Jose Calderon strained his calf just kinda jogging up the floor, which seemed to me like another sign the Knicks were still sore from practicing. It sounds like he's okay. If he's not okay, the Knicks are pretty soundly boned!
- On that note, Pablo Prigioni got a chance to spin in Calderon's stead and hit 2 of 5 threes interspersed between some nice swing passes and a bit more driving and kicking than would typically befit the system. Shane Larkin looked better without the ball than he did with it.
- Jason Smith doesn't help very much when he's not hitting jumpers!
- I thought Iman Shumpert took fine enough shots, they just wouldn't drop. He pulled down 4 offensive rebounds and 8 overall, which is good. He did a bit too much of that thing where he gets annoyed with the Knicks defense and just chases the ball.
- Kenny Albert said Wally Szczerbiak's name would be good for a lot of Scrabble points, which is true, but with only one "Z" available, I'm not thaaaat excited about the prospect. Maybe if he was Wally Szxquerbiak.
- You can just tell Nate Wolters collects his boogers. He probably keeps the choicest boogs in those plastic binder pages with storage sleeves. It's amazing how evident this is from just looking at him.
- 26 assists on 35 shots is a nice number. They're trying to do it right. They really are.
- The rotation was supposed to come into focus by the last 3 games, but I don't feel like I've got any more grasp of how things work than I did a week ago. Andrea Bargnani and Travis Outlaw sitting out contributes to the uncertainty, as did Jose Calderon going down in this one. I don't know what to make of Travis Wear's consistent minutes or Pablo's inconsistent minutes, or Cole Aldrich's dwindling minutes, or the fact that Fisher tried to match small with small. They've got two more games to figure this all out, which I think means the figuring out stuff is gonna spill over into the regular season. That was probably to be expected.
One day soon, we'll look again at some Triangle wrinkles the Knicks have been showing. Perhaps after the next game. That next game, by the way, is the second-to-last of the preseason and takes place Wednesday against the Wizards. See you then. Well, see you sooner than then, but also then.