If you entered a coma in 2011 and woke today, and after visiting hours were finally over - after the adrenaline from the flood of stimuli, doctors and family sublimated to exhaustion - you were laying in your hospital bed, flipping through the TV, and you came across an NBA game whose leading scorers were Deron Williams and Andrea Bargnani, you'd likely breathe a bit easier, grateful at the least for this one spacetime harmony.
The Knicks, as was the case in their last home game against Boston, played hard, and for long stretches tonight played well. But they lost the first and third quarters each by nine points and couldn't quite overcome. Both teams shot well in the first half (54% NYK, 52% BKN), in New York's case in spite of not generating assists while turning the ball over too often. Ironically, they moved the ball better and turned it over less in the third quarter, yet shot worse; a five-point deficit became 14.
The fourth quarter was exquisite, all ecstatic highs and agonizing lows. The Knicks kept getting closer, cutting the Net lead to one on Cleanthony Early's contender for clunkiest converted alley-oop ever. Brook Lopez hit from Brooklyn, the Knicks' next two possessions ended with one shot-clock violation and another only averted when Early turned it over. The offense toggled between Triangle and pick-and-roll. Both stalled. Galloway missed a three the hackiest of screenwriters knew should've gone in; Early airballed a three he was fouled on (no call); Lance Thomas airballed a shot he was Lance Thomas'd on.
Early hit a three out of of a timeout to tie it at 98. And he hit that shot. Most shots drop in vertically. Early's was good the moment it left his hand; that three was horizontal. The Knicks had a chance to take the lead: Early drove to the hoop and was fouled (twice!) by Thaddeus Young - again, no call. On Brooklyn's last possession, Wiliams missed a running floater. Brook Lopez was somehow allowed to airball the follow, catch it, and put it in. Early then missed a three at the buzzer, a shot Clyde called a "straight-on UFO."
- Early's line: 14 points (6-11 FGs), 6 rebounds, couple threes, couple blocks. Tonight Cle looked like someone, and by someone, I mean Someone.
- Two early fouls by Galloway meant early action for Ricky Ledo. On consecutive possessions, Ledo made a nice pump-fake on a corner three, dribbled in a few feet, faked a jumper and fed Shane Larkin for a bunny, then went right past Jarrett Jack on a drive for an and-one. 13 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists for Ledo. 11 points and four assists in the first half. Maybe he was winded?
- Seriously: before his Knick stint, in 26 career games, Ledo played 137 minutes. In six games the past two weeks: 119.
- The third quarter ended with Ledo being blocked on consecutive shot attempts, including right under the basket as the buzzer sounded. If you didn't think of Charles Smith, you're a millennial, a sociopath, or both.
- 17 first-half points for Bargnani. 22 for the night - in only 27 minutes. Tonight in L'uovo o la gallina?: did Bargnani not play more because he wasn't scoring, or did he not score more because he wasn't playing?
- 26/7/7 for Deron Williams. If it's possible to dribble like a dick, he did.
- Going up for an alley-oop in the game's opening minutes, Markel Brown's legs tangled with Langston Galloway's arm. Brown fell on his right shoulder. Hard. Stayed in the game, though. When MSG went to commercial Brown was prostrate and hurting. When the game came back on, Brown was at the line and the crowd was applauding something. I couldn't tell if it was for Brown's resilience. Be pretty species-affirming if they were. He bounced back nicely: 14 points, 4 rebounds, 3 steals.
- 95% of NBA players are big. One percent look big. Brook Lopez looks big.
- Defensively, this was the kind of game that forces me out of my "I'm fine with any of the top four prospects in the draft!" comfort zone and into the "Rim protector. GIVE!" straight dope. A ton of early Brooklyn lay-ups were a bad omen. 52-36 points in the paint - advantage, Nets.
- Early on, Galloway drove to the hoop and finished a lovely off-hand layup. Positively Shved-like. Getting the feeling Langston might be one of those "learners" Phil Jackson says he's into.
- MSG showed the Knicks were 20 of their last 42 on three-pointers since Alexey Shved went down. If it bleeds, we can kill it. Tonight they blew up: 11 of 23 from distance. Only problem? The Nets went 9 of 16.
- The case for Shane Larkin: seven rebounds. Five assists. Two steals.
- The case against: On the last possession of the first quarter, Larkin went the length of the court, busted out a pro-level up-and-under fake on Thaddeus Young, flipped up a confident finger roll...and missed the shot. It was soooo Shane.
- Say Brooklyn makes the playoffs and gets dusted in the first round. Who'll have had the more productive season: the Knicks or the Nets?
- "Hats are back!" a frisky Mike Breen announced. I told you wearing that Clyde-jacket the other night would mutate Breen's neo-haberdasher's brain.
"Meh that was cool" said lavor postell. This loss did have that wry teenage sarcasm feel to it. Part of you feels Whatever! The lottery's in like six weeks! Then I'm out of this house! for-EVER! But after you slam your bedroom door and blast your stereo...desktop...whatever the devil kids listen to nowadays...it was a game the Knicks were literally inches from winning, against maybe their only rival who still elicits a pulse in the fan base every time they meet. It would have been nice. I rrrreally see this as a 16-66 team. Not many chances left for wins. Next game is Friday in Washington. That'd be nice, too.