Sorry I’m pulling a “better late than never” recap on you guys today. I won’t bore you with the details of why I couldn’t do this yesterday, but rest assured that family obligations can indeed set fire to an entire day’s worth of time. I barely even got to watch the game as it was played, and just finally got the chance to watch the replay.
The Knicks played sans Melo, so my optimism for kicking the Pacers out of the playoffs was already compromised at tip-off. But I’ve gotta say, I’m proud of how the team competed, particularly in coming back from a 9-point deficit to tie the game in the 4th quarter. They showed some late-season grit that they frankly have no incentive to have beyond competitive pride, and even in this dwindling season, it made the game a lot more entertaining to watch. It was the kind of game nobody could really blame you for bailing on at halftime; the Knicks had been out scored 36-18 in the 2nd quarter and were down 13 at the half. But fans who stuck around were rewarded with a close finish, albeit with the same result as many of the close games this season.
It occurred to me while watching this that the difference in making the playoffs and floundering not to another season with 50+ losses is this team’s late game execution. Having only one player who can consistently create his own shot is a serious detriment to any 4th quarter offense, but compounded with the lack of penetration from the guards, it resulted in some really glaring spacing issues that haunted the Knicks throughout the year. I’m physically assaulting a deceased horse here, but even a marginal improvement in guard play and the development of Kristaps coupled with the signing of a consistent scoring option would make a world of difference.
Since this is already late I’ll keep it briefer than I usually do, plus I’m writing on my phone and without a keyboard I am useless. Seriously, I want a slide-out keyboard again, the touchscreen is not a good gadget for long-form writing. We only have four games left, and Jerian Grant should get the chance to start them all and give us a look at what he’s got to offer the team going forward. He is perhaps the only player the Knicks have on a cheap rookie contract that has some upside. Cleanthony Early is an interesting prospect returning from his injury, and I’d like to see him get a good run to finish the year as well. I liked him a lot coming out of Wichita State, simply as a gamer who could put the ball in the bucket in big moments. The Knicks desperately need more of that, because relying on Carmelo has proven to be a pretty poor strategy for closing out games lately, at least when he isn’t spelled by another threat. Yes, Kristaps has done his part in some games, but he hasn’t really exhibited much in the way of the clutch gene in his rookie year. Granted, he wasn’t given a lot of opportunities to come up big in late game situations; he was often left on the bench by Fisher at the end of games, and he hasn’t quite been given the freedom to go one-on-one with just a few minutes left. We’re not likely to see Zingis Khan again this year, no matter what he says about wanting to play again before the season ends, but if he does, I would like to see him have the offense run through him at the end of a game.
Alright, I’m outta things to say. Take it easy today, everyone, and enjoy the best month in sports. We’ve already had a buzzer beater to win the NCAA championship and baseball’s opening day, The Master’s starts on Thursday and the NBA Playoffs, NHL Playoffs and the NFL Draft also happens before the month ends.
Man, I love this time of year.