Well, we should've seen that coming. The Knicks may have come into the game with the worse record, but Sam Hinkie and Brett Brown understand and embrace tanking on a level New York could never hope to comprehend. I mean, just look at the news that came out about an hour and a half before tip-off:
No Nerlens Noel, Tony Wroten or Luc mbah a moute for sixers.— Al Iannazzone (@Al_Iannazzone) January 21, 2015
The sensible response to such a blatant move by that sneaky weasel Hinkie would be to say "screw it" and force Carmelo Anthony to sit down as well. NOPE. Melo played a patently ridiculous 40 minutes. 40 minutes! On a knee that he's admitted will need surgery eventually! Unbelievable.
The game started about as well as one would expect, with the teams knotted at 18 after the first quarter. After that, the Knicks picked it up a bit while the Sixers continued to play like a team attempting to lose, and the Knicks took a 7-point lead into halftime (which, as I'll explain below, may have been the most eventful part of the game). The lead got as large as 14 at one point late in the third quarter, and it looked like New York would run away with it.
Then, a miracle. A lead of 12 when the fourth quarter began was cut to 3 in just under 5 minutes, as the Knicks realized they were cruising towards a win and promptly stopped scoring all together. It was a beautiful sequence punctuated by this masterpiece painted by Tim Hardaway, Jr. and Amar'e Stoudemire. When Michael Carter-Williams nonchalantly strolled past that train wreck and slammed the ball home, I was legitimately hopeful that the 'Bockers had planned this all along in an effort to show Philadelphia who the real tank masters are.
Sadly, it wasn't meant to be. After Lou Amundson tipped in a failed Jose Calderon-Carmelo Anthony alley-oop to stretch the lead back to 8 with 3:30 remaining, it was pretty clear who would emerge victorious. And by victorious, I mean not victorious, because the goal for both teams should have been to lose the game. From that point on, the lead vacillated between 4 and 9, but the Sixers never truly gained momentum. Finally, with fewer than 20 seconds remaining, Langston Galloway corralled a blocked Jason Smith attempt and nailed a ridiculous 3 pointer from the left corner to officially put the game away.
This was a game the Knicks really needed to lose, and thus I'm not happy about the result. As such, I feel the need to assign blame, so my individual notes will be made in an effort to assess which players were down with the tank and which ones deserve admonishment for contributing positively to this win. Let's dive in:
- Early on, it looked like allowing Carmelo Anthony to play was a masterstroke by Derek Fisher. Through the first 20 or so minutes of the game, Melo shot 1/7. He didn't seem to have his legs under him at all, a fact illustrated best by a second quarter sequence where Melo missed back-to-back-to-back layups in one possession. Normally, that type of play ends with Anthony eventually hitting the shot, but not this time. However, he finished the half 3/3 and came out of the break newly energized. He was only 4/14 from the field in the second half, but got to the line a bunch by bulldozing his way to the rim and pulled down 11 rebounds to go with 4 assists. He actually seemed engaged (for the most part) on defense as well, though he put together a beautifully awful pair of possessions late in the fourth where he allowed a wide open 3 and gave a terribly dumb foul on Robert Covington one play later. Still though, it was clear to me that Melo wanted to win this game. VERDICT: DESERVES ADMONISHMENT
- Given the stakes, this seemed like the perfect time for Jason Smith to shine like the awful, awful player he is. Fisher gave him every opportunity to do so, as Jah racked up 32 minutes of floor time. The peak moment of terribleness was, unsurprisingly, a toss-up: on his first touch of the game, Smith immediately allowed the Sixers to steal the ball; then, in the middle of the third quarter, he almost tripped over the ball while attempting to dribble through traffic. Being the tanking geniuses that they are, the Sixers fouled Smith before he could completely lose control. Jason actually did a few okay things also and, at one point, it seemed like he would be the one to seal the win for the Knicks, but he promptly chucked a layup attempt into Jerami Grant's outstretched hand. As you know, that block by Grant (his 8th of the game!) found it's way into Langston Galloway's hands for the dagger. VERDICT: DOWN WITH THE TANK
- The best part of the game for Jason Smith, though, was the weird scuffle he got into with Michael Carter-Williams in the second quarter. It was broken up by Henry Sims, which was for the best; losing Jah would've made the Knicks better, and nobody wants that. Side note: if you want to see someone who knows what he's doing when it comes to tanking, look no further than MCW, who was 6/19 at one point in the third quarter.
- As for the ostensible hero Galloway, he had a solid game. 5/11 from the field for 11 points along with 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and the good defense we've come to expect. He's legitimately impressive. In what may have been an effort to repent for the sin of playing well, Langston followed up his circus shot by fouling Hollis Thompson behind the arc. It didn't end up mattering, though. VERDICT: DESERVES ADMONISHMENT
- By the way, it was a bit of a homecoming for Langston, as he played his college ball at St. Joseph's, which is located not too far from the Wells Fargo Center. (The St. Joe's women's basketball team showed up to support their former classmate, which I'm sure he appreciated.) Breen and Clyde spent a lot of time on Galloway as a result. This included the Cadillac Trivia Question, which asked viewers to name the only other active NBA player who attended St. Joe's. The exchange that followed was great:
Breen: I thought this was too easy but they said it's harder than it seems. Do you know the answer, Clyde?
Clyde: Uhhhh... Jameer?
Breen: [laughs] You're just supposed to say yes!
- Tim Hardaway, Jr. made a concerted effort to get to the rim throughout the game. When Clyde pointed this out late in the first quarter, I was pissed, as Timmy shoots 62.1% within 3 feet but an abysmal 32.7% from everywhere else this season. My fears were mostly unfounded. THJ finished 5/13 for 13 points and played the expected subpar defense. VERDICT: DOWN WITH THE TANK
- Lou Amundson started again, and basically just floated around in the background, doing a workmanlike job of screwing up. New York stole the ball from the Sixers on the first possession of the game, but Amundson blew a layup on the other end. Later in the first quarter, he was called for offensive interference on a Jason Smith layup attempt. From then on, he didn't do much of note until he tipped in that Jose-Melo alley-oop I mentioned above. That was pretty much his only "positive" contribution. You see, I put positive in quotes because I don't like it when the Knicks do things well. VERDICT: DOWN WITH THE TANK
- In the post-game locker room, Amundson mentioned to a reporter that he was ecstatic to be a Knick. No offense, Lou, but you're the only one.
- Jose Calderon had a pretty good game, which, why?! You've spent pretty much the whole season playing badly and you chose this game to do good stuff? I guess that's as much a testament to the Sixers as anything else. Calderon started the game hot, hitting 3 of his first 4 shots. Here's my note about that, verbatim: "Calderon starts 3/4 WTF: scored knicks first 7 pts." He would go on to miss 4/5 in the second half, but continued to play well otherwise. VERDICT: DESERVES ADMONISHMENT
- Aside from the incident with Hardaway, Amar'e Stoudemire had an acceptable game, no matter what result you were rooting for. If, for some reason, you wanted the Knicks to win, STAT was pretty good on offense: 3/5 for 9 points with 7 rebounds in 16 minutes off the bench. On the other hand, if you're down with the tank, there was a great moment early in the fourth quarter where Amar'e went up for a layup among 3 Sixers multiple times before he gave up on trying to score and traveled. Also, he was his usual self on the defensive end, as evidenced by this tweet from Dan Devine of Yahoo!:
Amare fell down while trying to snag a bad entry pass + then took a full 10 seconds to make it back on defense. You have to respect that.— Dan Devine (@YourManDevine) January 22, 2015
VERDICT: STAT CAN BE WHATEVER YOU WANT HIM TO BE
- Shane Larkin logged 11 minutes, but I can only recall one play of his. In the fourth quarter, Larkin had a 3 pointer blocked by (who else?) Jerami Grant. VERDICT: DOWN WITH THE TANK
- Travis Wear played 8 minutes. He airballed a jumper from the right baseline early in the fourth. A "Wearball," if you will. VERDICT: INCONCLUSIVE
- Lance Thomas was on the court for 24 minutes. Whatever. VERDICT: INCONCLUSIVE
- For the second game in a row, none of Cole Aldrich, Quincy Acy, or Pablo Prigioni got any spin. VERDICT: FISHER IS OBVIOUSLY DOWN WITH THE TANK BECAUSE OTHERWISE HE'D BE PLAYING PABLO AND COLE
- Here are some things the Sixers did that were especially tank-y: by my rough count, they missed 7 of their 9 uncontested 3 point attempts in the first half; they book-ended the first and second quarters with bad turnovers; Malcolm Thomas goaltended a shot by Timmy that I'm pretty sure wasn't going in; early in the third quarter, they missed 6 shots on one possession, including 5 in a row from point blank range.
- You know those weird clown-type hats that have rainbow dreads protruding out of them? I think JaKarr Sampson may have dyed one of those black and glued it to his head.
- Alan Hahn wouldn't shut up about how the Knicks shouldn't be tanking because it doesn't guarantee a top pick at the beginning of the post-game show. Well, duh, but there's literally no benefit in this cadre of losers attempting to win games.
- Oh! The halftime stuff! So, first of all, with 2:19 left in the second quarter, MSG viewers were briefly treated to the sight of Stingy's nemesis Bill Pidto gracing the screen and telling us the Knicks led by 4 at the half before the feed cut back to the game. Do they film those things in advance? If so, what possible reason could there be for that?
- The halftime entertainment in Philly was called the Avalon String Band. It was, I shit you not, a bunch of people dressed like aliens who played instruments. Supposedly they're mummers (from that parade that's held in the city every year on Jan. 1).
- Finally, and most amazing, was the post-halftime interview. Rasheed Hazzard was talking about offensive rebounding or something (to be honest, I wasn't listening because I was scanning the game thread for possible recap quotes). Then, all of a sudden, Tina Cervasio got hit in the head by a rogue basketball. She literally didn't flinch at all. Just continued on with the question. Put her in, Fish.
As our friend Walt Clyde Phraser so eloquently put it in the game thread, this was "a thoroughly unenjoyable and ill-advised victory." It stinks that the Knicks are now 2-0 against their chief tanking rival, but the good news is that the Knicks are still behind Philadelphia in the standings.
The Knicks are back home to face the Magic on Friday. Don't make it 3 in a row, please. 2's more than enough.