New York Knicks basketball games have taken on a certain rhythm this season, particularly at MSG. They keep the game close through the first quarter-- despite shooting incredibly well from the field-- by giving up far too many free throws. Eventually the opponent pulls away, until New York mounts a valiant fourth-quarter charge. They trail by one/two points with about five minutes to go, Mike Breen says something to effect of, "They are really into it here at the Garden." There are one or two shot attempts to take the lead...all bricked. Then they fart around for a while, the game drags on into eternity, and they eventually go down in defeat.
Sunday night's 95-90 overtime loss to the Toronto Raptors was like that...and yet it wasn't. Yeah, the Knicks collapsed in the end, but there were some interesting wrinkles. They shot terribly from the field (37.2 percent as a team), but stayed in the game thanks to a season-high 28 free throw attempts. Perhaps most surprisingly, they virtually abandoned the Triangle down the stretch, repeatedly running what appeared to be a straight spread pick-and roll. Derek Fisher had some interesting comments on the offense after the game:
Asked Fish abt heavy use of pick-and-roll sets. Suggested it wasn't necessarily a departure from the triangle, but a progression in the O— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) December 15, 2014
Fish also suggested the spread pick & roll sets were part of why NYK looked bad in OT: "Once you open that box ... its hard to get back in."— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) December 15, 2014
In other words, sounded as if Fisher thought NYK got a bit carried away with P&R/went too far outside triangle concepts as game went on.— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) December 15, 2014
Indeed, the Knicks looked like absolute butt on offense in the overtime period -- dribbling aimlessly, coughing up the ball and bricking jumpers. I'm not sure how much of that was the players struggling to get back into Triangle sets and how much was simply a short-handed team playing dog-tired basketball against a superior opponent.
For what it's worth, both Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire wished for more Triangle:
Listening to Amare and Melo talk, sounds more as if the pick-and-roll actions just sort of happened tonight. Melo actually said that he...— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) December 15, 2014
... hoped Knicks wouldnt use too many pick & rolls going forward, bc he wants NYK to focus primarily on the system theyre building long-term— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) December 15, 2014
The Raptors -- particularly star point guard Kyle Lowry -- didn't exactly play up to their billing as the East's No. 1 team, but credit should also be given to the Knicks, who played a fairly solid game on both ends. Whether you prefer to heap more blame on the Raptors or praise onto the Knicks, Walt Clyde Phraser was at least somewhat correct: These Knicks possess the tools to tank, and very few teams in the NBA can stop them (from losing).
- During the second quarter Breen mentioned that Fisher would like to bring down Carmelo Anthony's minutes a bit. Naturally, Melo ended the night with 44 minutes played. He finished with 34 points on 11-24 shooting, nine rebounds and three assists, but was noticeably short on several jumpers, both early and late in the game. I wish he wouldn't play so much...or at all, really. Get the surgery, Melo.
- The Knicks ran an odd play at the end of the game: Melo got the ball on the right wing and didn't settle for a jumper. I've been told that the shot he attempted is something called a "lays-up" or a "lay-oop." I'm not quite sure. Anyway, the shot was released very close to the basket, and it went in the basket. Weird.
- Just another run-of-the-mill 10-point, eight-rebound, five-steal, two-block game from Amar'e Stoudemire.
Yes, Amar'e had five steals, including a huge diving swipe of a post entry pass late in the fourth quarter. Good for you, STAT!
- Really weird game for Tim Hardaway Jr. He shot 1-8 from three, yet wound up with 18 points thanks to a career-high nine free throws. Though he was less successful as the game went on, Hardaway repeatedly went strong to the rim...a rarity for a Knicks guard. He also finished with a career-high six rebounds and turned the ball over five times. Hey, at least the kid is learning to make himself useful when his shot isn't falling.
- J.R. Smith tested out his bum foot before the game, but wasn't physically ready to play. So I'm assuming he mind-melded with Pablo Prigioni and swapped consciousnesses with our favorite sneaky little devil. Pablo played perhaps the sloppiest game of his Knicks career, turning the ball over three times and tossing the ball all over creation. He did, however, hit a YOLO three off the dribble to tie the game late in the fourth. I demand someone remix "So Right" in Spanish for Pablo.
- Jason Smith and Samuel Dalembert played together for a few minutes in the third quarter. It went as badly as you could imagine.
- Quincy Acy botched a massive tomahawk dunk attempt and missed out on a critical fourth-quarter rebound...in other words, a typical Quincy Acy night. This pass at the end of the first half, however, was definitely not typical Quincy:
With the Pistons currently riding a two-game winning streak, the Knicks have taken over the second-worst record in the NBA.