Friday night the Knicks played the Milwaukee Bucks, and their star center, Andrew Bogut (who also got passed over for an All-Star nod), came out on fire. In the first five minutes he went 3-for-3 for six points, had 3 rebounds and a block. Then it looked like he injured himself and he went to the locker room. Oddly, it was then reported that he’d then miss the rest of the game not because of an injury, but because of a migraine. With him gone, and injured former All-Star Michael Redd already out for the rest of the season, the game should’ve gotten remarkably more easy. Instead, we allowed their defensive stud, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (who by the way is a genuine prince in Camaroon), to be extremely efficient offensively, going 6-of-7 for 16 points. Since that alone wouldn’t have been enough to ensure us losing, we then decided to let second-year bench player Ersan Ilyasova (from Turkey, but not royalty) go for 25 points, nine rebounds, and two threes.
Danilo Gallinari again was a non-factor on offense, only attempting six shots and hitting two. More bizarre, despite being the NBA’s best outside shooter from three-point land, he only went 2-for-6 from the much-closer and not-at-all-defended free throw line. Al Harrington needed 20 shots for 22 points (it’s never good when your shot total is almost as high as your point total — as a counter example, David Lee scored 32 points on 18 shots). If the Knicks still have any delusions about making a push for the playoffs (and honestly, there still is enough time), then these are the games they need to come out fired-up and win.
The Saturday game against the Cleveland Cavaliers though… that was an odd one. I’d like to say it was a Tale Of Two Halves ‘cuz that rolls off the tongue trippingly, but really it was the Tale Of One Quarter and Three Other Quarters. In fact, to be fully honest, for some reason NBA.com wouldn’t show me the first 18+ minutes. And those 18+ minutes were when LeBron scored 24 points straight, and Cleveland built up a 23 point lead. During the time I watched however, NY outscored the Cavs 67-51. Now I’m not trying to imply that all of y’all are jinxes and that I am pure good luck for the Knicks… but those of you who DID watch the beginning, you guys suck and got some seriously bad voodoo going on.
In other words, I can’t really talk about what the Knicks did wrong in that game, ‘cuz in the parts I saw, they were pretty darn good. After the game D’Antoni said he really liked how the Knicks played in those final three periods so he was gonna just forget the first quarter so he’d be able to sleep that night. So maybe he got to NBA.com and I saw the D’Antoni Remix of last night’s game. Regardless, the second half we played great defense, holding the Cavs to 20 points, followed by 19, in the last two quarters. Our zone got the Cavs out of their game and they resorted to their lame O from a couple years ago where everyone basically stopped and watched LeBron. At one point their best three-point shooter, Daniel “Boobie” Gibson, had a wide open three, but he was too busy looking to find The King to notice he was alone.
Meanwhile, LeBron (who apparently was hitting threes from almost half-court during the expurgated part of my game), played into the Knicks’ plan perfectly. His total box score from the game is 47 points on 17-for-31 shooting, 6 for 12 from three-point range, a perfect 7 for 7 from the free throw line, 8 rebounds, 8 assists, and 5 steals. That’s an amazing line. But it’s all distorted due to that amazing stretch he had from the first quarter into the beginning of the second. And because he hit a couple of big shots towards the end, he comes out looking like the hero. But just like he shot the Cavs into the lead, he nearly shot them out of it. In the Re-Mix I saw, here were his stats: 5 turnovers, 3 assists, 5 for 14 shooting, had a shot of his blocked, and he stupidly fouled Nate Robinson out past the three-point line with four seconds left in the quarter, giving up three easy ones there.
Actually, I was amazed ‘cuz offensively the Cavs looked their best when they ran things through Shaq. Shaq was looking surprisingly good (although he should when he’s matched up against David Lee who’s half a foot shorter and who weighs less than O’Neal’s average mid-afternoon snack). Also, perhaps even more surprisingly, I think it was Shaq who really helped turn the tide late in the game through his defense. Yup, I didn’t misspell offense there, I actually typed defense. In one possession, Nate Robinson drove to the basket, and not only did Shaq thoroughly block the shot, he sent Nate flying backwards on his butt. Nate, to his credit, landed on his butt, caught the rejected shot, and passed it out without moving a cheek. So then Duhon drove, and once again Shaq blocked the shot and sent Duhon sprawling. It was just one possession, and the Knicks would actually end up drawing even closer afterwards, but one thing changed. Duhon, who was having a rare game where he was playing with confidence, suddenly went back into scared mode. He had a few times after that where he beat his man on a pick-and-roll involving Shaq (which Shaq has struggled his whole career to defend) and Duhon drove to the basket and had a wide open layup… but he was nervous Shaq’d block it (or just he didn’t have the confidence in himself to make it). These were easy opportunities that he let slip away. And once he even forced a kick-out pass, but the Cavs intercepted it. Man, how can we get Duhon’s confidence back? Maybe D’Antoni needs to hire some smoking hot superstar females to hit on Du’, y’know, make him believe he’s the man again.
In Friday’s game against the Bucks, the Garden showed its’ class by cheering when former Knick Kurt Thomas checked in for Milwaukee.
Bucks’ rookie point guard, Brandon Jennings, came into the game a little bitter because the Knicks past over him in the draft. He’s played so well this season, and our point guard situation has been so iffy, that everyone in the Garden was also bitter we didn’t pick him.
In the Cavs’ game, right after Shaq blocked l’il man Nate, Shaq got the ball down in the low post, went up to shoot it, and he was blocked from behind by… you guessed it, Mr. Robinson.
Jordan Hill got back into the rotation and he played well, converting some baskets around the rim to get me to shut up. Thank you, Mr. Hill.
Larry Hughes, who had made it back into the rotation, had an injured toe and was unable to play on Saturday.
D’Antoni decided to stick with the same 5 guys for the final 15 minutes: Nate, Duhon, Jordan Hill, Al Harrington, and Jared Jeffries. Yup, that’s right, no David Lee. Or Wilson Chandler for that matter. I don’t mind sticking with a group that’s hot, but I think it was a little too long. One of the things that got the Knicks back into the game was their hustle. So while it wasn’t like any of the Knicks looked tired, their offense did seem to slow down a bit towards the end. Plus, players are less likely to hit jump shots with tired legs (even if the legs are only slightly tired).