Knicks Wake Up And Make The Wizards Powerless

Last night the Knicks came out of the gates stepping gingerly, slightly interested in winning their game.  They’d been destroyed on the boards in their last game against Washington just a few days ago.  On Washington’s first two possessions, their center Brendan Haywood got offensive rebounds off their misses for easy put back scores.  At least David Lee’s jumper realigned itself and he was once again on fire, but it seemed like it’d be a long night again.  That said, the Knicks did tighten up their rebounding almost right away.  Those two offensive rebounds in the opening would be half of the Wiz’s total offensive boards for the game.  In fact, after Haywood got his third offensive board later in the quarter (which, when he then shot it, was blocked by Jared Jeffries), the Knicks would allow Washington to get only one more board the entire rest of the game.  That’s some nice work.  And necessary work as I mentioned in an earlier blog.

Um, Jared, for a bounce pass you're supposed to bounce the ball on the ground, not your butt...

However, the Knicks seemed fairly disinterested for much of the first half.  Kinda like they’ve looked in general.  One amazing exception was Larry Hughes, who got an early call off the bench and decided to play with energy this time instead of sulking.  He played well enough to get minutes in the second half too, and afterward D’Antoni said that if Hughes keeps playing like that then he’ll keep getting minutes.  Of course the bigger more important question is whether this means Hughes will shave his beard.  Early word says he’s not ready to commit to that just yet.  We’ll keep you on top of this vital news as soon as more information breaks.

Hughes: "One, two, step, kick and... jazz hands!"

Al Harrington came back and provided his usual offensive energy, although this time he didn’t seem to force things as much as he had his last several games.  He took his three-point attempts when he was open after someone kicked the ball out to him, rather than his usual habit of sometimes just jacking them up with a defender’s hand in his face.

However, the big ball of energy, as normal, was Nate Robinson.  Who, by the way, is extra-fun to watch when they play against the Wiz ‘cuz he has periods where he gets to match up against Washington’s 5’5″ Earl Boykins.  It’s the only time in the season when we get to see Nate with a serious height advantage over his man.

Nate: "What's that, Boykins? I can't hear you from ALL THE WAY UP HERE, you Shorty."

In the first half not only was Chris Duhon’s shot off like always, but now his shot selection has gone down the tubes too.  He took a quick shot early on when he was hardly open, almost to check like if he would be able to shoot that night.  Then later he passed up shots when he was completely open and should’ve shot it, yet still forcing other shots.  It’s just dang odd.  So the second half D’Antoni started Nate instead of Du.  And Nate played the whole half.  And it was good.  According to the NY Post, Nate’s even gonna be the starter for their next game.

A few other things:

–Neither Jordan Hill or Jonathan Bender got off the bench (or Toney Douglas for that matter).  Clearly, all those rookie mistakes Hill’s been making have gotten to Coach Mike D, and I understand.  Likewise, Bender’s been like a poor man’s Al Harrington out there.

–We shouldn’t feel too good about this win ‘cuz not only were the Wiz missing leader Gilbert Arenas (who’s been suspended for the season), but they also were missing one of their two remaining studs, Caron Butler.  However, we did keep their last remaining stud, Antawn Jamison, under control this time.

Jamison: "Wait, where's Arenas? ...Caron? ...Yikes, who do I pass this to?"

–Wilson Chandler’s still hesitating too much when he gets the ball.  He needs to either shoot or instantly drive.  Instead he sort of feints, then holds the ball for a second, allowing his defender to get firmly in position and ready.  It had seemed like he’d gotten more comfortable going left in December and early January, but now he’s back to seeming uncomfortable & unsure when teams force him that way.  He regularly rides a stationary bike whenever he comes off the court to keep warm, so I wonder if he’s more hurt than we realize.  He still shot a nice 7 of 12, but he doesn’t seem to be quite himself.

–I’ve wondered if the fact that lately Coach D always puts Jeffries on the opposing team’s PG is part of the reason why the Knicks have been struggling on the boards.  Not only does this then force the 6’11″ Jeffries out towards the perimeter, but it also usually leaves the 6’1″ Duhon closer to the basket covering a much taller player.  On the other hand, when Nate comes in, he’s not as good at covering taller players as Duhon is.  As a result, Nate then usually covers the PG, allowing Jeffries to cover a taller player and remain nearer the basket.  Perhaps this will be another incidental benefit of starting Nate instead of Duhon.  I mean it’s one thing to have Jeffries cover a PG if it’s a seriously dominant one who makes the whole opposing team’s offense go (like Chris Paul, Deron Williams or Steve Nash), but do we really need him to blanket Washington’s Randy Foye or Minnesota’s rookie Jonny Flynn?

–We need to wake up Gallinari.  He only took 8 shots the whole game in 38 minutes.  He did help a TON on the boards and ended up snagging nine of ‘em (& he’s been on a nice little rebounding run the last few games).  However, he’s out there ‘cuz he’s an offensive machine, not a defensive juggernaut.  Be more aggressive, Gallo!

–Lastly, Knicks’ Hall Of Famer Legend Dick McGuire died yesterday at age 84.  He was one of bball’s original passing geniuses who often gets eclipsed these days by Bob Cousy.  We’ll try and have a more in-depth tribute to him soon.

Before the game, Chris Duhon, Wilson Chandler, Larry Hughes, Nate Robinson and the Garden hold a moment of silence for Dick McGuire

Topics: Al Harrington, Antawn Jamison, Bob Cousy, Brendan Haywood, Caron Butler, Chris Duhon, Chris Paul, Danilo Gallinari, David Lee, Deron Williams, Dick McGuire, Earl Boykins, Gilbert Arenas, Jared Jeffries, Jonathan Bender, Jonny Flynn, Jordan Hill, Larry Hughes, Mike D'Antoni, Minnesota Timberwolves, Nate Robinson, Randy Foye, Steve Nash, Toney Douglas, Washington Wizards, Wilson Chandler

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