You know those boxing matches where one fighter knocks the other one down a couple times in the opening rounds, then doesn't knock him down again 'cuz he doesn't need to? Presenting tonight's 107-93 Knick loss to the Cavaliers, wherein they fell miles and miles behind right from the get-go, never to reappear in Cleveland's rearview mirror.
Thank the Brooklyn Nets for waking the sleeping Cav giant, leaving Cleveland 48 hours to hear about how disappointing and dysfunctional they are. Kyrie Irving sat out to rest, but LeBron James and Kevin Love operating on all cylinders was more than enough to down the Gothamites. James was on a mission to push the pace all night, setting up J.R. Smith or Matthew Dellavedova corner threes or taking it to the rack himself. I tried to hate on him for staring down Sweet Lou, but this throwdown was even sweeter.
Steph Curry is the rightful sun at the center of the 2016 NBA solar system. I don't know what James is at this point. But he's still something. 8 points and 6 assists for LeBron in the opening frame (versus Carmelo Anthony's 2 points on 1-8 from the field and one assist, and there's your obligatory Melo vs. LBJ comp). James didn't do much on the stat sheet in the next quarter (0 points/2 assists), but he didn't need to. The game was over by the half, 56-32.
You knew the Knicks would make a bad-team run, and they did, getting the deficit down from as high as 25 to as low as 10 with five minutes left. Lipstick on a pig. You knew it wouldn't mean anything, and it didn't -- the backbreaker was a Kevin Love three-pointer when the Knicks had just missed a chance to cut the Cavs' lead to single-digits. And in that moment I became viscerally ill, sick -- so sick! -- not only of this Knick game, but this Knick century.
The Knicks start Jose Calderon and Sasha Vujacic. On a good team, those guys are 8th or 10th men. On the Knicks, they start. Dellavedova's isn't asked to do more than he can because he's on a legit team. Not a team that's one magical summer away from legitimacy, or whose legitimacy is a bright Latvian light in the distant-but-nearing horizon. Cleveland's an actual contender now, and so their ultimate success or failure has nothing to do with how one generic player performs. They can put a guy like Dellavedova in a position to succeed because they can ask them to do what they can and mostly nothing more than that. The Knicks start Jose Calderon and Sasha Vujacic because on March 26, 2016, they don't have better answers.
The Knicks are built around the past (Carmelo) and the future (Kristaps Porzingis). Average that out and you get the present, but of course, it doesn't work that way. The Knicks have been this way for 15 years. Allan Houston was the past when Stephon Marbury was the future; Marbury was the past when Eddy Curry was the future. Channing Frye was the future, too. To lesser extents, so were Landry Fields, Iman Shumpert, and Tim Hardaway Jr. All guards, all on a team that hasn't had a plus guard since time immemorial. Matthew Dellavedova is someone you forget is even out there unless he's playing dirty or hitting an open three. In New York's previous meetings with the Cleveland, they played them tough for 3+ quarters before succumbing in the fourth. No tears tonight. They just hit the mat early and never recovered.
- Slice the first half however you want: NY shot 29% from the field, 10% from three, and 64% from the line; Cleveland had eight threes, the Knicks 12 buckets total. The much-maligned Cavs bench shot 7-13 and had 18 points nd 11 rebounds for a combined plus/minus of +37. The Knicks bench? Try 2-8, 7 points, 3 rebounds, -49 combined. But narrative trumps numbers, so here's the best way to frame things: Mo Williams is a 33-year old backup guard for the Cavs. He had 8 points in 13 minutes tonight. Hasn't been a starter in the NBA since 2013. And Mo Williams is better than any one of the Knicks guards.
- Triple-double for James: 27, 11 and 10. He had a chip on his shoulder tonight and he dusted that chip all over the Knicks' faces.
- 28 and 12 for Kevin Love. What a strange but gifted player.
- There were at least three separate occasions, including an obvious "I'm calling you out" possession with two minutes left, when LeBron made it a point to go at Porzingis one-on-one. KP held his own each time. 19 and 6 for El Futuro.
- Carmelo couldn't hit anything early, missing 10 of his first 12, then hit seven of his last dozen. None of that means anything.
- It was ex-Knick night at Madison Square Garden. The good news? Timofey Mozgov, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Channing Frye didn't give you any reason to miss them. Thanks for not rubbing salt in the wound, chaps.
- Richard Jefferson played 11 minutes for a title contender in the year 2016. Someone's been time-traveling and screwing things up from the future, I see.
- The difference between 6'3" and 7'3" is sometimes more than a foot. LeBron had a fast break opportunity against Porzingis and KP went up Hibbert-style, forcing a miss. Seconds later LeBron had a fast break one-on-one against Calderon which ended in a basket and a foul. Mike Breen and Clyde Frazier chastised Calderon for the "ticky tack" foul (a.k.a. The Hubert Davis Special) that led to the and-one. In Jose's defense, I don't think he tried to foul James. Calderon simply existed in a physical space, as matter is wont to do, and the bigger, stronger, quicker, denser mass that is LeBron James kind of just went through him. Imagine a hypernova incinerating the Earth. You wouldn't call a foul just 'cuz Earth was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
- The pressing, pinching perimeter Cavalier D led to a missed steal and a 5-on-3 for the Knicks. They drove and passed and drove and passed, failing to get a shot off until Calderon launched an out-of-rhythm baseline rainbow. I feel like the Knicks lead the league in failed 4-on-3/5-on-4 possessions. That could be because they're the only team I watch on a regular basis; I have no idea how the Orlando Magics or Sacramento Kings of the world do in those spots. Only that the Knicks are no good at taking advantage of advantages.
- Presented without comment.
Quoth BJabs: "Boooooooooooo." The Knicks go on a little road jaunt starting Monday in New Orleans. Maybe the Anthony Davis-less Pelicans are more in their weight class.