The Knicks play awful defense. They've defended poorly all season, and they defended poorly through much of their eight-game win streak. But all along that win streak, and during the first half against the Cavaliers, they scored so often that it didn't matter. Before the break Sunday, the Knicks let Dion Waiters and friends knife them apart, but got a hot pot of soup from Carmelo Anthony and some lovely pick-and-roll decisions from J.R. Smith. They hit over half their shots, including an absurd eight threes in twelve tries, and built a lead as large as 17 points. And again, this is despite truly horrid defense.
[30 for 30 voice] What if I told you ... the Knicks stopped hitting shots in the second half AND allowed one of the league's worst offenses missing several players including its star to put up borderline historic scoring numbers? A flagging offense and an impossibly worse defense? That wouldn't surprise you, would it? How about Jarrett Jack going off in the second half and deciding the game with a couple frustratingly simple pick-and-roll plays and the icing jumper in the final minute? No? No. As Michael T. Brown pointed out, Jack realized as so many guards (including Jack) have that aggressive play would expose major Knick flaws, and he exploited them nearly to the point of a career-high. Jarrett Jack. Not Kyrie Irving. Jarrett Jack. You hear those sounds of howling and flatulence in the distance? That's FARTDOG riding again.
This was a thoroughly Knicks-y loss, a reminder that the same stinking Knicks lurked beneath those sunny mid-March vibes. Faced with a genuine challenge, the Knicks tucked their tails between their legs and cowered. All the cunning use of picks and smart ball movement faded. The Knicks became feeble, stagnant, and familiarly over-reliant on an increasingly ineffective Melo.
That kind of loss feeds my lingering sentiment of not really wanting to watch these Knicks in the playoffs. I've rarely seen them fight. Most of the time, they either coast or perish. Since eighth seeds don't typically coast through playoff games, I suspect they'd just become a practice dummy for some championship contender.
If you'd rather see these Knicks fall than grab hold of a playoff seed at the last second, you'll be happy to learn that this result dropped the Knicks half a game closer to the tenth seed (Cleveland. Hi!) than to the eighth seed, even though the Hawks lost Sunday. This is not a playoff team in appearance, and with Sunday night's collapse, they lost some hope of becoming a playoff team in practice.
I've got some notes here, but...forget most of them. Just a few things:
- No Iman Shumpert surely mattered here. His absence as a defensive causer-of-problems may have been the difference between an ugly loss and an ugly win.
- I so cherished J.R. Smith's first-half pick-and-roll activities. I especially like the flare-screen hand-off things in which he receives the ball curling past a big man like Tyson Chandler, then probes a bit while Chandler or whoever rolls to the rim. It's a great way to pinch the defense, and he's both liable to make a smart decision in that setting and liable to make a tough shot if it comes down to that. And his extra passing out of more traditional point-guard-y pick-and-roll was solid as well.
- And I guess on that note, it's worth mentioning that Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni both hit their jumpers and moved the ball nicely out of the pick-and-roll and just got beaten senseless by the same things in the other direction.
- Thanks to BJabs for GIFing Amar'e Stoudemire's strangest and most majestic move of the night (and he had a few nice ones):
- Yes, that's Shannon Brown on the floor with him. Yes, Shannon Brown played 15 minutes in this game. Yes, Shannon Brown is a more active defender than the Knicks' other guards. No, Shannon Brown should not be playing real minutes.
- The Knicks could have thwarted Cleveland's run with a run of forced turnovers in the mid-fourth, but they did an impressive job of flubbing the subsequent possessions in unusual ways. Like, Melo just gave the ball away one time and Tim Hardaway Jr. made an uncharacteristic blunder at the rim.
- Clyde, commenting on an MSG trivia question about the longest streaks of consecutive games played, noted that A.C. Green didn't "believe in fornicating,", and with that I bid you good night. Thank you, Clyde.