Anatomy of a Comeback (sort of)
Not all comebacks are created equal. Though the Knicks two blowouts-turned-comebacks-turned-heartbreakers this weekend have been discussed in tandem, the dynamics of the two comebacks were markedly different. The stand the Knicks made at home against the Sixers was, if ill-fated, certainly something to build off of, featuring big shots from Danilo Gallinari, spirited (if occasionally reckless) defense, and an Al Harrington at his fiery, attacking best (that is, until he committed his unfathomable sixth foul).
The Charlotte game, however, was an entirely different animal. The Knicks played 38 minutes of absolutely terrible basketball and were only able to find their way to overtime because, for the next 10 minutes, the Bobcats were even worse. I submit the following play-by-play summary of the Knicks 400-second long comeback from a 75-58 deficit:
(9:56) Gallinari pumps, beats his man, draws Nate’s defender, kicks to Nate in the right corner, Nate hits a 3. 75-61.
(9:37) Augustin dumps to Henderson who comes off a screen and gets a clean look over a late-helping Robinson, but misses a 20 footer from the elbow. Gallo rebounds.
(9:31) Duhon lobs an errant 30 foot alley oop attempt to Nate. It bounces off his hands and out of bounds.
(9:17) Henderson attacks and draws an extra defender, tries a lead pass for Tyson Chandler who doesn’t cut and the pass goes out of bounds untouched.
(9:08) Knicks run pick and roll, Duhon drives to the rim and Tyson Chandler mystifyingly follows him, despite the fact that Henderson had easily followed Duhon around the screen. Lee, who hadn’t attacked with any particular gusto, follows the play and draws a hack on Chandler. Lee splits the free throws. 75-62.
(8:49) Radmanovic and Diaw take turns dribbling the shot clock out, almost no movement occurs off the ball, and Diaw flips up a half-hearted 12 foot hook shot. It hits the front rim and Tyson Chandler fouls out trying to go through Gallinari for the rebound.
(8:33) Gallinari beats purported defensive stud Gerald Wallace with a pump for the second time in 2 minutes. He drives and finishes with a pretty scoop shot. 75-64.
(8:09) Bobcats ball movement remains non-existent. Felton flips up a 20 foot jumper that rims out. Nate rebounds.
(7:58) Nate goes coast to coast and misses a layup.
(7:41) Bobcats play pick and roll and force the Knicks to switch Nate onto Radmanovic, giving up a foot of height. Radmanovic cuts, has the defense beat…and can’t handle a nice bounce pass from Diaw. It caroms out of bounds.
(7:22) Duhon rushes a floater. Diaw rebounds but does not protect the ball, allowing Lee to poke it out of his hands. Wallace sloppily tries to fire the ball off of Lee but ends up giving it away, resulting in an easy dunk for Jeffries. 75-66.
(6:58) Knicks successfully switch on a pick and roll and look to have a Diaw drive well-covered, but Chandler needlessly drifts off of Felton to help, anyway. Diaw kicks to Felton who misses an open 3. Gallinari rebounds
(6:45) Duhon goes coast to coast. Lee casually set him a screen about 25 feet from the rim, no Bobcat defenders help and Duhon finishes an easy layup. 75-68.
(6:20) Knicks do a nice job collapsing on a pass into the post and manage to force a loose ball. The Bobcats retain possession and reset. Augustin then beats Jeffries off the dribble for a layup. 77-68.
(6:04) Jeffries clears Gallinari with a screen and Duhon finds the Italian for a 3 from the right wing. 77-71. This is the first offensive possession of what was then a 13-2 Knicks run where more than 2 players played a role in creating points.
(5:20) The Knicks switching leaves Duhon on Diaw, who posts him up. When Jeffries arrives to help, Diaw passes out to a totally undefended Radmanovic, who front rims a wide open three. However, a loose ball foul on Gallinari (his 5th) keeps the ball with the Bobcats. Out of the inbound, Felton drives into traffic and Jeffries needlessly comes over to help, leaving Wallace wide open from the left wing. Felton finds him and Wallace fires a shot off of the front rim. This possession was representative of the game as a whole – really sloppy on both sides.
(5:12) Really pretty pick and roll in transition – Duhon leaves it for Lee who misses an open layup but tips his miss home. 77-73.
(5:00) A pick and roll leaves Lee on Felton, who promptly beats him off the dribble and pulls Jeffries over to help. Jeffries’ help frees Wallace, who Felton sees in the corner. Wallace swings it out to the wing, where Radmanovic has been left wide open by a wandering Al Harrington. VladRad attacks the rim and draws a Lee foul. He splits the free throws. 78-73.
(4:33) Harrington finds a wide open Jeffries on the wing. And when I say wide open, I mean WIDE OPEN – watch the play and you’ll notice it had been a full 7 seconds since the last time anyone was close enough to claim to be guarding him. You could call this bad Bobcats defense except for that fact that it’s, you know, Jared Jeffries and he’s standing 25 feet from the hoop. Whatever the diagnosis, Jeffries rattles home the three. 78-76.
(4:13) Seeing no movement off the ball by his teammates, Felton recklessly attacks the basket and misses a contested layup. Chandler comes down with the ball but allows Felton to poke it loose. Bodies fly to the floor and Jeffries is first to secure the ball. D’Antoni astutely signals a timeout.
(3:52) Raymond Felton is whistled for a defensive three in the key. Yes, 6’1” point guard Raymond Felton. It didn’t make sense at the time, either. Duhon hits the technical free throw. 78-77.
(3:45) A bad pass from Duhon leads to a Harrington/Radmanovic jumpball, controlled by Charlotte.
(3:29) Jeffries gets called for a fairly soft foul on Wallace, who makes both free throws. 80-77.
(3:17) Duhon attacks the rim. Gerald Wallace – either because he believed a fourth defender was necessary to prevent Duhon from scoring or because he has himself on his own fantasy team – collapses on the lane, leaving Jeffries wide open in the corner. And, as so many teams in Jared Jeffries’ high school basketball conference likely used to know, if you leave Jared Jeffries wide open, he will occasionally make you regret it. 80-80.
So that’s 12 Knicks possessions in just under 7 minutes. In those 12 possessions, the Knicks scored 22 points on 8/10 FG, 2/3 FT, and 4/4 on 3’s. The Bobcats defense was very, very bad throughout this stretch but, still, the Knicks took what they were given and made their shots.
Runs, however, don’t only happen on one side of the court. Getting stops is as important is scoring points and the Knicks can take very little credit for the offensive funk that the Bobcats were in during the 6:39 that it took the Knicks to make up a 17-point deficit. During the stretch, the Bobcats had 11 offensive possessions and came away with points on only three of them. Of the eight “stops” the Knicks got, they allowed wide open shots on three of them, were beaten on cuts and saved by unforced Bobcats turnovers on two of them, and got away with doing almost nothing because of a complete lack of Bobcats motion on the other three. Outside of Jeffries’ diving recovery of the loose ball, there wasn’t a single defensive play during the run that would even qualify as “impressive,” either on an individual or a team level.
The Bobcats blew a 17 point lead in seven minutes for the same reason the Knicks allowed them to build a 17 point lead in the first place – because both teams were very, very bad on Friday night.