The Knicks had a busy 3-day weekend. While the rest of us were lying around, goofing off, they played Friday night, Saturday night, and then Sunday morning. Basically three games in a little more than 60 hours. That’s tough. Watching them play? That’s even tougher. You can’t blame the two losses on fatigue since they were the first two games of the weekend. Our boys in blue lost to the Toronto Raptors on Friday, then lost to the Pistons in Detroit, before finally winning back in NY against the Pistons again (although this time the Pistons lacked one of their best players, Rip Hamilton).
The nice thing is that the team is developing a consistency. We come out flat at the beginning of every game, let the opponent get a nice lead, and then make runs throughout where we turn it into a game. The final part is where our variance comes in: often after we turn it into a game we then like to lose, but as shown on Monday and last week in Philly, sometimes we actually win. The first part though, that’s apparently written in stone.
What’s the issue, you may ask? Or maybe you don’t, but I’m answering it either way. Coaches tend to always say focus on defense when things are awry, but I’mna buck that trend and go with offense (and hey, Mike D’s an offensive-minded coach, so it’s only appropriate). In three-out-of-four of our last games, we’ve kept the opponent under 94 points. That’s pretty solid in today’s high-scoring game. However, we come out shooting awfully. Duhon’s in the middle of a horrible shooting slump, and finally D’Antoni decided to limit Chris’ playing time Monday, giving him just 20 minutes and letting Nate Robinson run the point. Of course, afterward D’Antoni said something to the effect of how he’d have a heart attack if he keeps running Nate at point, due to Nate’s uh… questionable decision making.
That said, it hasn’t just been Duhon. For a few games Gallinari came out cold. The last two games he finally got hot, but it almost made me wonder if Gallo would do better coming off the bench. Maybe he’s the type who needs to get a sense of the game before he can get going. The other he needs to work on is knowing when to shoot the three and when to drive. There were a bunch of times he had an open three but he passed it up and drove because he’s obviously been told to do that once teams overplay him on the jump shot. Thing is, what usually happens is that rather than get to the rim, he only goes a foot or two closer and has to shoot while his defender is lunging at him. The idea is that by shooting closer, it becomes a higher-percentage shot. However, since it goes from being a three-pointer to a two-pointer, it also becomes a less valuable shot.
There was some recent study (which I’m too lazy to look up) which I believe showed that the best, most valuable shot was one right at the rim. Second to that though was not like five feet out, it was the three-pointer. Or maybe it was five feet out and then the three-pointer? Regardless, the three was definitely much more valuable than the ten-footer, and worlds better than the 15-22 footer inside the arc. The math to show it is pretty simple. If you shot 50% from within the two-point range (which usually only big men who operate by the basket can do), and you took 6 shots, you’d make 3, right? And with each one being 2 points, it’d be worth 6 points. On the other hand if you shot 6 three-pointers and hit only a third of them (aka 33%), you’d make only two shots. But since each was a three, that’d also be worth 6 points. Now let’s look at Gallo. He shoots much better than 33% from three-point land: he’s at 41.6%. However, from two-point land he’s much worse than 50%: he’s only 45.9%. In other words it’s clearly better for him to go for the big one.
Now I’m not advocating that Gallo only jack up threes and turn into an Italian version of Antoine Walker. He needs to keep driving when teams stick too close to him. But he needs to be more aware of when they are too close. Right now, he’s too into his head. You can see that sometimes after he hits a three, the next trip down he’s already decided to fake the shot and drive to “fool” the defender. But you can’t decide beforehand. You need to actually go for the shot, and then if you see the defender closing too fast, you instinctively put the ball on the floor instead. And then either go all the way to the hole or start to drive and kick it out to someone else. They say the mid-range game is a lost art, but the truth is that’s because it’s often a poor choice.
But the losses aren’t all on Gallo — I just went off on a tangent about him. Really Duhon is more the issue. It’s not simply that Duhon’s shot is off, it’s more that he’s lost his confidence so much that he passes up open shots, often resulting in him either turning it over or forcing a teammate to make a tougher shot. If say Wilson Chandler drives and kicks the ball out to Duhon, even if Duhon’s wide open he’ll pass it around the circle to the next guy (say Al Harrington) when Harrington’s defender is right by him. As a result, Wilson’s drive was for naught, and now Harrington needs to create something with even less time on the clock. Truth is it’s similar to how Gallo needs to learn to read the charging defender before deciding whether to shoot or drive. Particularly as a point guard Duhon should have enough court vision that when he gets it he should know whether he’s open or whether he should shoot it. If it’s his man who let’s say doubled Chandler, then he’s gotta put it up. Even worse is when Duhon drives and actually gets all the way to the basket, he’s too nervous to shoot, so he suddenly looks to pass it to someone. But that close to the basket he’s usually surrounded and a pass will result in a turn. One time he drove past Ben Wallace on a pick, had an easy open layup, but didn’t shoot it. Realizing he should’ve shot it, he then went in a little loop right underneath the basket (with Wallace following after him — it was actually kinda funny), and then threw up an awkward off-balance shot because he was worried Big Ben would block him (but Ben wasn’t anywhere close enough). It was a simple play that he mucked up ‘cuz he’s all in his head. And Duhon’s so in his head, that it isn’t even like this was because he was shooting 1 for 9 or something. In the second Detroit game he only took 3 shots.
It’s even more important that he shoots because the fifth man on the floor is usually Jared Jeffries, who isn’t much of an offensive threat. It’s like we’re already playing 4-on-5. If Du’ won’t shoot, that brings us down to 3-on-5. Plus, since Wilson Chandler now tries to get a higher percentage shot because he struggles at the three-point-line, it means we really only have one player out there who can stretch the other team’s D out to the arc (either Gallo or Al Harrington).
Oh, one nice thing that happened over those three games is that it seems that rookie Jordan Hill’s hard work at practices has finally gotten him some playing time. He seems to have taken Jonathan Bender’s place in the rotation (or maybe Bender’s hurt and I haven’t heard about it). Either way, it’s good. He needs minutes to develop. His outside jumper is pretty darn good for a big man. He still gets over-excited and makes those rookie mistakes (like falling for pump fakes, thus fouling his guy & bailing him out). But he could be good.
Okay, so I didn’t go too indepth on any of the three individual games, but this is all you’re gonna get from me.
Until I make another post.