The Knicks' offense is going to take a long time to coalesce. Their defense will probably just suck. The Bulls will probably have one of the best defenses in the league. Their offense might have improved to that point as well. Pour those four ingredients into a 48-minute game and give 'em a shake and you've made yourself a strong mollywhopping. The Knicks got kicked in their asses on opening night. Like Section 336 said, we could see that coming, but it still hurt to watch
The defense started okay. Guards and bigs teamed up to ice Derrick Rose's pick-and-rolls, forcing the ball to the sidelines. The Knicks got beat backdoor a bit and gave up some put-backs, but they came up with a lot of strips and contested shots just fine. All that Chinua Achebe'd (yup, already) once the bench guys took the floor, and it never really recovered. Instead of getting punished by penetrating guards, the Knicks either sagged too low off the Bulls' shooting bigs or overreacted to them and gave up easy passes into the paint or open corner threes. That's gonna happen.
The offense took a trajectory I suspect we'll see often this year. We saw it a few times in preseason. The Knicks started running Triangle sets patiently and effectively, then, as lineups mixed, legs got tired, and shots rimmed out, they got antsy. And when they got antsy, they'd default to the Triangle's second option-- a pass to the weak-side guard-- then just disassemble and run sloppy high pick-and-roll. New York doesn't really have the personnel to run a great Triangle, especially without Jose Calderon, and they don't really have the guys to revert like that, either. It's hard to tell a team to put their damn heads down and just run the sets and not get hung up on the score when it's opening night at the Garden, but...
...well, that might be a central conflict this season. The Knicks are playing Triangle because they want it to work long-term. Derek Fisher noodled around with his rotation a bit because he wants to find something that will work long-term. All that made it harder to beat the Bulls, who are already a mighty opponent, in the short-term. That could keep happening, and it could be really frustrating. I might have to license official P&T fuzzy blankets for each of us to nuzzle when the Triangulatin' gets rough this season. Or we could try to get a mass prescription for benzos. There's also this to stare at after a game like this one.
Sorry, I'm getting way ahead of myself. The Knicks will probably go 81-1. Let's look at a few notes.
- Pretty much everything, especially if it's positive, is from the first half. The second half wasn't really basketball.
- Amar'e Stoudemire looked good. Even on the crowded strong side of the floor, he filled space brilliantly, dancing through the sideline triangle's crevasses to catch and finish at the rim. And his long mid-range jumpers out of the pinch post fell as well. I even liked the way Amar'e moved as the containing big in the Knicks' icy pick-and-roll coverage early on. Once guards started leaking through for real, he wasn't much help. Still a promising start.
- Carmelo Anthony managed to lead the Knicks in points and shots (14 on 13. Yuck.) without ever looking like he was in his office. It kinda felt like Samuel Dalembert was in Melo's office, actually. Just taking Melo's bail-out jumpers and putting his feet on the desk and all that. The Bulls have always been the best at stifling Melo, and they stacked up his side of the floor, blanketing him while affecting what are already difficult reads from the high post. A lot of his takes came from broken plays and second chances and semi-transition. Some clean iso looks and some promising back-and-forth with nearby teammates, too, but not as much as you want. The Bulls and the infancy of the system'll do that.
- Dalembert is seriously...a chucker? Is that weird to say? The dude just wants to GUN from 8 feet out. He also threw some beauuuutiful passes to Shane Larkin cutting backdoor or Amar'e brushing past him. And he filled space to find some nice looks under the rim, even if he doesn't really have the springs to finish quickly under there. He's gotta buffer for a bit before he can load up enough boost to dunk.
- It's no fair to judge Larkin after he got thrust into the starting lineup minutes before tip-off. Pretty much the same read from preseason, though: Better without the ball than with it, too reluctant (and/or short) to finish at full speed, not really equipped to guard anyone one-on-one.
- The Knicks sometimes like to build the triangle by setting up with two men on the ball side of the floor, then bringing the high-post big over from the weak side, sometimes with a screen. That's a good and fundamental alternative to stationing the big man at the outset, but the schemes are still gunked up enough that simply getting everyone in place rolls the shot clock down to like 8. That was a common symptom, really: just not even starting to play basketball until time was running out because the cuts and reads are still so deliberate that outlets get blockaded and passes get tipped and such. Growing pains.
- One thing that'll come with growth is the ability to beat a front. The whole team struggles to identify and pass over fronts, and it leads to bigs getting frustrated and just stromping out to the perimeter to get the ball. Time will help that. So will a healthy starting point guard who throws sweet-ass entry passes. Sweet ass-entry passes, too. Jose Calderon'll toss a basketball straight up your butt.
- Iman Shumpert did just fine guarding Derrick Rose. Iman Shumpert looked *exactly* like shaky, kneervous, unwilling-to-use-his-first-step-or-launch-in-traffic 2013-2014 Iman Shumpert on offense. 2-9 on bad shots.
- All the wings struggled, really. Tim Hardaway Jr. and J.R. Smith each had some promising drives, and J.R. in particular had a lovely stretch piloting the weak-side pick-and-roll...but both guys put up ugly shooting lines and helped minimally on defense.
- Jason Smith has to hit his open pick-and-pop jumpers. Or he's gotta not fold in half when guys try to go at him in the post. I'm more confident he'll be able to do the former at some point.
- Pretty much the same for Quincy Acy, but he at least pulled down some rebounds. And he'll let you get by him, but he'll choke you out in the process, which I guess is...something.
- Cole Aldrich kinda got to play real minutes and kinda got worked by Pau Gasol (like everyone did). I'm still riding with that dude against good post players over pretty much anyone else on the roster.
- Does Dalembert have trouble catching rebounds? I think he has trouble catching rebounds.
- Fisher tried a bit of everything, line-up wise. We saw two point guards for a few seconds. We saw a Smith-Acy frontcourt. We saw all-out garbage time for the entire fourth. Fisher went 11-deep in real minutes, which is probably too many people.
- This doesn't help with that, but I kinda liked Cleanthony Early's on-ball defense in garbage time? Probably not something to think too hard about, but he moved his feet well.
- This happened. I'd never really thought about it before, but I bet Pablo could throw hands if challenged. He also might be able to do some sneaky, wizardly-type shit in a fight, like move his hands rapidly around your face and pull out one of your molars without you even feeling anything. Or like tie your tongue in a knot or carefully slice your Achilles in one clean motion or remove both your nipples and switch them. Just straight up put your right nipple on the left side and your left nipple on the right side while you're trying to punch him like some simple idiot. I would not mess with Pablo Prigioni.
- Pablo's shot looked flat as hell, which I'll just attribute to the back injury and Aaron Brooks not shutting the fuck up when he was told to.
These are my notes from game 1. We have 81 more of these. Some are gonna look like this. That's okay. It'll be okay. Here, hug this blanket.