Right before the start of the game, I told my wife how this moment is the best part of the season. It’s the time where you can learn about the team and the team can surprise you in all sorts of ways good or bad. It’s nice to wonder how things will play out. Now that they have played out–for at least 1 of the 82 games–let’s take a look at what we learned about this team.
I was interested in everything but took special note of the rookies Mozgov and Fields. Mozgov didn’t surprise at me all picking up a foul within 32 seconds of court time (10 seconds into the first defensive possession). He picks up his second about 3 minutes later and didn’t play again until the second half. At the start of the second half, I made a Pop-Tart and I wondered if Mozgov would be done before the Pop-Tart. Mozgov won but not by much.
My initial impression of Fields was that he looked tentative in the early going. In time it became clear that Fields wasn’t tentative, he was simply picking the right spot to contribute. His line: 30 minutes, 11 points, 4 reb 4-8 Fg (3-6 3fg). He didn’t pick up any assists but he balanced that by not turning over the ball. He didn’t force anything on offense. He out played DeRozan and was only mildly abused my Kleiza. I’d say a very good introduction.
Stoudemire was a mixed bag 19 pts on 7-16 fg with 10 rebounds. When he got deep he was great. But when he had to catch the ball outside the paint and either dribble to the basket or take a shot beyond 15 feet, nothing good came of it. Stoudemire turned the ball over 9 times. I’m pretty sure only one of those was an offensive foul. Then there was one that Jack knocked off his foot late in the 4th. The rest, all bad ball handling. Here is a sample of my in game notes:
For all his talent, I’m starting to see some things I do not like in Stoudemire. He does not rebound well, he is a bit sloppy with the ball, and his face-up defense is not impressive. He also takes the ball outside the paint and tries to dribble into the paint. It really hurts the half-court offense.
Stoudemire still catching the ball too far out and then dribbling to the hoop, nearly turned it over. Another Stoudemire dribble drive turnover.
Hate to say it but the half court offense is far less sloppy with Stoudemire on the bench. 3:50 left to play Stoudemire catches in the paint, turns and scores. Felton got him the ball where he needs it to be effective and we got a good shot out of it. 1:45 to play, Stoudemire has to dribble into the paint and it leads to a turn over for Jack. When will they learn?
So with Stoudemire, they need to get him the ball deep in the paint so he doesn’t have to do so much to create his offense. I blame Felton for this. Felton needs to learn when to give Stoudemire the ball. You don’t just give it to Stoudemire then let the magic happen.
That aside, Felton played well I thought. 15 pts (6-14 fgs, 1-4 3fgs) 6 rebs, 6 asts, 1 stl, 3 turnovers. He looked great getting to the hole. The only real problem was giving the ball to Stoudemire out of position and taking more 3 pointers than I thought he should. But in this offense, there will be threes for all.
Gallinari’s game? Meh. 12 points (3-9, 2-5) 6 rebounds. I watched the way Bargnani played and I wished Gallinari would get to that level. I’m starting to think he won’t get there. An example of the different approach: when Toronto was making a run in the 2nd, Bargnani faked a three, lost his defender took two dribbles closer and nailed a long two. In the 3rd Gallinari faked a three, lost his defender, took a step to his left, made sure he was still behind the arc, then missed a three. ‘Nuff said.
The bench was fantastic led by a surprisingly effective Chandler (22 points, 8 rebs). Douglas played very well and Turiaf did help the defense with 4 blocks and 2 steals. My wife upon seeing Turiaf: “What is up with that Col. Sanders beard of his?” Walker was awful. Walker’s problem: he is only useful if he is shooting well, which he did not do (0-6 fg, 0-2 3fg) 2 rebounds, 1 turnover and zeros everywhere else ( I wanted to start him at the 2, what was I thinking?).
The Knicks did a great job with the give and go early on. They scored or drew a foul on 5 of 6 of those plays in the first half. They took advantage of the lack of shot blocking on Toronto, but in the second and third, they abandoned that play all together. I’m not sure why. When they got away from that play the ball movement really suffered. Only 12 assists for the game, 15-17 free throws and 7-24 3fgs. I don’t like seeing more threes taken than free throws taken but I better learn to adjust. The rebounding was not good. My game notes again:
Awful sequence with5 minutes to play in the first. Reggie Evans gets an offensive rebound with three Knicks around him. Stoudemire with a poor block out and a weak one-handed rebound attempt. Evans gets the ball and then Stoudemire just walks away to complain about a push in the back. Evans then finds himself alone under the basket and is so surprised he blows the easy lay in. This rebounding is really going to hurt this team.
Yes they out rebounded Toronto 49 to 45, but keep in mind that Toronto is really bad at rebounding outside of Reggie Evans. The Celtics will not repeat such mistakes.
Mistakes aside, the Knicks did manage to pull out a win on the road in a game where they blew a 16 point lead. When they needed to get a few good shots, Stoudemire got deep in the post and provided the offense needed. D’Antoni deserves some credit for moving Chandler to the bench. The play from the reserves was a key factor in the win. There are some things to build on here but I fear a much more sobering view of the team may be available to us after the Celtics game. We can talk about it then.