First, before we get to bball, let’s take a moment to talk about things that really matter. Sadly, David Lee’s grandfather, who I reported was ill, passed away yesterday. He was 92 years old. Lee still played last night, which must’ve been both tough and perhaps a relief to have something else to focus on for a few hours. I believe the funeral is today. On the other side of the court, Philadelphia’s center Samuel Dalembert is Haitian and was reeling from their devastating earthquake. Dalembert had spent much of the day struggling to find out whether various friends and family members are even alive. He’s already started a relief fund. Dalembert’s always been one who has used his time and money to help those in need, even when it doesn’t hit so close to home.
However, back to bball. In times like this, we need sports more than ever. Sports provide an outlet, an escape, a place where we can have a battle between good and evil without devastating consequences (despite how some fans feel after their team loses). Players go to war, giving it their all, and we scream and cheer them on, able to let ourselves go in a way we never would at work. At least I hope you don’t roar, “Let’s-Go-Account-ant!” Sorry, I’m babbling — back to the game.
The Knicks came out on fire, hitting like 15 of 17 shots or something insane. Surprisingly, one of the more successful scorers was Jared Jeffries. He hit a jump shot, a three, drove to the basket, everything. It was like no one told him he had no offensive skills and is just in there for his defense. The last couple of games he’s seemed to be a bit more aggressive on offense. My guess is that D’Antoni rightly told him that if he’s open he has to take those shots. Otherwise the opposing team can just play four-on-five. And the more Jared feels like the coaches want him to take those shots, the more confidence he’ll have in putting them up. This, after all, is what they did with David Lee, and we’re seeing the great results now. So kudos to D’Antoni and staff. And to Jeffries, who hopefully has realized that if he works on his shot he can stay on the court even more. The most useful top defenders in the league (Bruce Bowen, Shane Battier, Raja Bell) are the ones who can hit that open three so that they won’t be a liability on offense.
It was good that Jeffries was feeling it, ‘cuz Gallo, Duhon, Al Harrington & NateRobb all had subpar shooting nights, going a combined 12-for-36. Duhon only took 3 shots, but he hasn’t looked as confident in his shot lately, but hopefully he’ll regain his mojo now that the boys are back in town. That said, Little Du did set up a couple of nice shots for others. Guess he is a point guard, so that’s what he should be doing. On the flip side, Nate Robinson, who’s more of a shoot-first PG, seemed to be working too hard to get others shots. As a result, often he only shot it as a last ditch, off-balance attempt. Personally, I’d rather him come in and establish himself first as an offensive threat. If he comes in, starts hitting jump shots and making drives from the get-go, the other team will then pay more attention to him, thus enabling him to then get his teammates even more wide-open shots. I mean, Al Harrington comes in gunning, but once teams collapse on him (like the Sixers did), Al ain’t great at setting up others.
A few other thoughts: I liked the team’s determination. At points it seemed like Phillie was really clicking and the Knicks were in the Stank Zone, but they never gave up. What got the Knicks out of the Stank Zone was that they switched their man-to-man defense to yes, an actual zone. The Sixers are a notoriously bad three-point shooting team. Surprisingly, their one good shooter (&he’s a damn good one), Jason Kapono, stayed glued to the bench. Maybe he’s hurt? What saved the Sixers and almost enabled them to win the game is that seldom-used Rodney Carney not only hit some threes, but he also broke through the zone once for a layup dunk. Also, Maarreessee (okay there are two many double letters in there, but he uses way too many as it is in his oddly spelled name) Speights, who didn’t play a single minute during the first three quarters, came in halfway through the fourth. Even though the dude had been sitting so long that after the game he had to be treated for saddle sores, somehow he came out on fire. He should’ve been stiff and colder than Iceman, but again, it seems no one told him that. Don’t these players know when they’re supposed to be bad? Kids today.
Oh, another thing that kept the Sixers in the game while the Knicks were playing man was good ol’ Allen Iverson. And he was good. And old. There was no sense of danger when he had it; no longer to other teams focus solely on him when he has the ball. However, this has enabled him to still be darn productive. In the past, if he ran a pick and roll, both defenders would jump out at Iverson. Now when he ran it, his man would go under the screen and the other defender would stick to the big, leaving AI open for the jump shot. Or if they did switch defenders (which the Knicks love doing), leaving say David Lee on Iverson instead of Duhon, there was no teamwide panic of everyone rushing to help Lee. Instead the team was fine with Lee (or whoever) just playing him one-on-one. And as usual in situations like that, the Big steps back to prevent the little guy from getting an easy layup. And that enabled Iverson to get a bunch of wide-open jump shots from the 18-20 foot range. The thing is, even though he shot well and had a couple of nice passes, it didn’t look like Iverson had the same passion, that same “grrr” he used to have. It was kinda sad actually. I’m used to seeing him as that constantly moving warrior with boundless energy who bounces up no matter how many times you knock him down. Not that I’m promoting knocking little men down. ‘Cuz I’m a little man.
Anyway, the Knicks scraped out the win by David Lee hitting a shot with 13 seconds left. Oddly, the Knicks had a foul to give on the Sixers’ last play, but for some unknown reason, they didn’t take it, which would’ve helped burn time. Oh, and while the Sixers did lose, good guy Dalembert can take solace in the fact that he didn’t let his sadness get the best of him: he shot 75%, getting 12 points, and grabbed an unbelievable 21 rebounds. Here’s to you, Sammy.