Josh Sage gives his second, more in-depth, view of the New York Knicks’ loss to the Boston Celtics:
The Knicks lost to the Celtics, 118-116, on a typical late game, mid-range, shot from Paul “The Drama Queen” Pierce, who proceeded to dance around the court like that corpse from Weekend at Bernie’s 2. I know, it wasn’t even funny in the original version!
Aside from a very ugly job with the opening tip, which led to an easy lay up for Pierce, the Knicks started out the game the right way, getting STAT involved early. He had 15 points, on 6/7 shooting, 3/4 from the line, in his first 8:31 of the night for New York. The Knicks outscored Boston 32-24 in that opening quarter.
In the second quarter, Boston’s offensive production rose a notch as they seemed never more then 2 points away from the Knicks. Gallinari continued his stellar brick making from the first quarter and managed to reach even lower when he was fouled from beyond the arc at the 8:38 mark, to the amusement of every Knick fan in attendance, only to miss every single one of his free throw attempts. Naturally his futility at the line was accompanied by commentary that Kobe had missed three in a row at the stripe days before. All in good humor, I’m sure. I mean it was only 3 missed free throws in the second quarter. Three missed free throws from a player hitting them at a 90% clip this season. Three missed free throws from a guy who rarely ever misses, surely they weren’t going to effect the outcome of the game, right?
The second quarter ended with Raymond Felton embarrassing Nate Robinson with a 3-pointer to end the half, as KryptoNate attempted to keep Felton away from the 3-point line with the final seconds of the half ticking away. New York led Boston 58-51. Amar’e Stoudemire had 23 points in that first half for NYK, with Chandler chipping in 14 and Felton 11. Boston’s leading scorers at the half were Pierce with 13, Ray Allen with 9 and Rajon Rondo with 8.
Danilo Gallinari was 0-everything in the first half, but finally found his stroke in the second, a half in which he showed off some shots we’ve never seen him take before. Reverse dunks, running hooks, awkward lay-ups while falling away from the rim, shots no one ever dreamed of Gallo making unless they customized his attributes in NBA 2K11.
Gallinari’s second half surge started only after he got fouled attacking the rim. After another successful drive led to a reverse dunk, Gallo was hitting every shot he attempted. The Rooster is a strange, but talented, player that seems to have a mental block heading into every game. He only seems to get a feel for his offense after driving to the rim and getting fouled or dunking on someone. It’s as if getting to the line or pulling off a highlight play gets him fired up, after which he drains every three pointer he attempts. If he can just figure out a way to motivate himself BEFORE games, this will be a very nice 20 ppg player, efficient, and deadly from deep. Until then, he’ll continue to be the trade bait, with flashes of brilliance, that he currently is. He better start snapping into a slim jim or something to get himself motivated for games, and he better do it right now! If he doesn’t, his name will be the first one on a list of names heading to Denver.
New York was doing everything right by the end of the third quarter, having hit all the keys to the game I wrote about the night of the big match against Boston. They were hitting more 3-pointers, attempting more free throws, they were forcing them to play at a much faster tempo, Felton had a great night (another double-double) and while they didn’t limit Rondo, a nagging injury late the the third quarter did. Everything was in place for New York to pull out the victory, they just needed to play defense for 12 minutes. Apparently that’s too much to ask of a Mike D’Less team.
In the deciding quarter, the Boston Celtics scored 35 points, getting to the free throw line at will and draining not just a late game three pointer but a game deciding mid-range jump shot to steal a victory from a Knicks team that had a 7 point lead to start that final quarter. Boston ended up with as many free throws made (21) and only 2 less 3-point makes then New York, which had 6 more attempts. Pierce finished with 32 points, Ray Allen had 26 and KG had a 20 point, 13 rebound night.
Amar’e Stoudemire once again amazed the NBA with another 30+ game, his 9th in a row, finishing with 39 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks. Chandler was great, finishing with 18 points, 12 rebounds and 2 blocks, while Felton played like an All-Star, finishing his night with 26 points, 14 assists and some warrior points for fighting through a back injury to finish the game.
The Knicks stellar offensive performance underscores the fact that Mike D’Antoni is not the right coach for New York, if it ever wants to contend for a title, something that warrants an ability to defeat the teams ahead of them in the standings. NYK ranks dead last in defense, a gruesome 30 out of 30 teams, according to SI.com. That’s right people, the Knicks under Mike rank worse on defense then the Phoenix Suns, Golden State Warriors, Toronto Raptors and Memphis Grizzlies, teams notorious for bad team defense. The Knicks defense is worse then the Nets, the 6-19 Nets! [Editor's Note: While it's clear the Knicks are no defensive juggernaut, to hear they come in dead last in some rating surprised me. On Basketball-reference.com they're listed as 22nd out of 30 teams, while on ESPN John Hollinger's defensive rating puts them at 20th. We do give up the third most points, but that doesn't mean much since we play at the second fastest pace, giving both teams far more shot attempts. Anyway, Josh, I looked for the SI.com rankings but couldn't find 'em, so could you put the link in the comments below so we can all check that out too. Thanks!]
What makes that ranking worse is the fact that New York actually has talented defenders in Raymond Felton, Tony Douglas, Landry Fields, Wilson Chandler, Ronny Turiaf and even Amar’e Stoudemire, who has upped his defensive game since coming to New York. Mike D’Antoni just can’t seem to grasp how to best use these individually talented defenders in a system.
The Knicks rank first in blocks per game with 6.8, and rank first in defensive plays made (steals+blocks+charges) with 16.4 a night. Yet they still allow 106.6 points a contest, on 47.2% shooting from the field. The Celtics and Heat, who New York have to beat in order to reach the finals, are allowing just 91 points, on 43.3% and 42.6% shooting from the field.
Mike Lupica wrote a great article about Donnie Walsh and the great job he’s done fixing Isiah Thomas’ horrific mess in just three years time. In the third page of that article he mentions a coaching mistake by Mike D’Anphony, where he didn’t run down the clock to nothing during their second to last position so Boston wouldn’t have had 12 seconds left on the clock in which to win the game. His feelings about Mike’s lack of defensive chops seems to mirror my own. Donnie Walsh is our MVP for all the moves he’s made, given the mess he inherited, Mike can’t coach a lick of D and STAT is truly standing tall and talented. Nice work, Mike Lupica.
If the Knicks ever want to win a title they’ll need to post a better defensive ranking then 30th. They’ll need to beat both Boston and Miami in the playoffs. They’ll need defense. They’ll need a new coach.