Much of the first half of Saturday's Knicks-Wizards tilt was pretty much the platonic ideal of how Kurt Rambis wants his team to play basketball. On offense the Knicks used their size to shoot over smaller defenders and dominate the glass. On defense they made it hard for the Wizards to score in the paint and forced them to take shots from outside ... usually open shots. Washington struggled, finishing the half 4-14 from beyond the arc. Everything was coming up Rambis, even if the process was generally flawed and unsustainable.
The Wizards never really got it going from 3 -- they finished a ghastly 8-29 from distance -- yet they still turned a 10-point halftime deficit into a comfortable 99-89 victory thanks to one of the most brutal third quarters of the season. And that's saying something! The team came out of the break like they had been downing horse tranquilizers for 30 minutes straight. Or, as LazaroSmithington put it, they got their powers sapped by the Monstars.
This type of performance has become a theme of the Rambis Era. Hopefully we will only have to witness it for 12 more games.
- The Knicks' offense essentially lived and died with Carmelo Anthony. Melo started out looking to burn Washington to the ground, War of 1812-style, but after starting the game 5-8 from the field he completely lost his shooting touch, going 2-13 the rest of the way. Many of those shots were forced attempts to try and get the Knicks back on track. Oh, and he was playing through a migraine:
The Knicks say Carmelo Anthony was diagnosed with a migraine in the first quarter tonight. He was evaluated by doctors after the game.— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) March 20, 2016
He played 40 minutes. What a waste.
- Nice bounce-back game from Kristaps Porzingis, who dropped 20 points on 7-14 from the field after his brutal 1-11 showing at Golden State. He got cooking early, then was ignored for most of the second and third quarters, then drained back-to-back threes in the fourth to kick-start their trademarked fake comeback. All three of his three-point attempts came in the final frame, which I hope was a semi-conscious bit of "Screw you, Rambis; you can't stop me from shining."
- Robin Lopez had an inconsistent game, with 7 of his 9 points and 4 of his 5 offensive rebounds coming in the first half. It seems like they often forget about him on offense after halftime. Is he getting fatigued, or are his coaches and teammates incompetent? Probably a bit of both.
- I prefer Arron Afflalo coming off the bench, even if it means starting Sasha Vujacic. The Machine may suck, but at least he's not a black hole of eternal suffering on offense. Afflalo shot 1-7 from inside the arc and committed 3 turnovers, mostly on stilted, interminable back-down plays which ended in either a tough turnaround jumper or picked pocket. Watch him back dudes down for 10 seconds and remind yourself, "That is how Rambis wants Kristaps to play on offense." Sends a chill up your spine, doesn't it?
- Three fucking minutes. That's the amount of playing time Jerian Grant -- their first-round pick, their (hopefully) point guard of the future -- received in this game. He started the fourth quarter, made one bad turnover, two great passes that Derrick Williams couldn't convert, and got beat off the dribble by Ramon Sessions. Then he was yanked.
- Langston Galloway is doing a fine job etching his name into the pantheon of young Knicks who can't make a freaking layup. To his credit, he was the only Knick who even attempted to beat the Wizards back on offense in the third quarter. The result was one missed layup and one blocked layup. I imagine Afflalo pulling him aside afterward: "Look, kid, you tried to hustle out on the break and you failed miserably. The lesson is never try."
- I was annoyed with how many fouls were called on the Knicks in the second half ... not because I thought they were bad calls, but because they caused me to miss more and more of the Spurs-Warriors game.
The Knicks head back to MSG Sunday to take on the Sacramento Kings. New York beat writers will spend the next 24-48 hours talking of nothing but Rajon Rondo. It's going to be horrible.