Bulls 108, Knicks 101
|Kurt Thomas, PF 9 MIN | 3-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 6 PTS | -10
Kurt Thomas was leading the Knicks in scoring well into the second quarter, right around the time an alligator sorcerer was giving birth to a twin chainsaws on my spice rack. At least he made the most of his limited action, though you could argue that the liability he poses on the defensive end make whatever he gives at the other end tainted found money.
|Carmelo Anthony, SF 45 MIN | 14-32 FG | 7-9 FT | 8 REB | 5 AST | 39 PTS | -2
I probably would’ve rolled out wearing a string necklace packed so tight with Honey Nut Cheerios that little crumbs would flicker off like a comet tail and I’d look like a goddam superhero. I understand how this product marketing stuff works.
Anyway, there was some penance to be paid for leaving the boys high and dry in last night’s Indy swamp slog, but apparently Melo’s got some kind of Money Mutual deal going on, because his was night largely rife with rust and shit. Pressing would be an understatement; every shot looked belabored, every rebound a halfhearted affair (though he grabbed a good many of them). The naked attempt to make up for missing Thursday’s loss backfired terribly, as the Bulls’ stringent D kept the Knick offense operating mostly on the perimeter and allowed mostly late shot clock prayers. That late flurry was a beautiful exercise in stat-padding and face-saving, but you had to wonder where that fire and strength was at the onset. I get he was probably still reeling from Monday night and trying to get back to a psychological even-keel of sorts, but a dash of intelligently-tempered anger — at KG, at the league, at General Mills, what the hell ever — would’ve been nice.
|Tyson Chandler, C 38 MIN | 3-8 FG | 3-6 FT | 18 REB | 2 AST | 9 PTS | -5
It’s way too easy to fall into the trap of nailing Chandler for mere guilt by association during these sorts of things, if only because he’s the last guy you see when the opponent just pirouettes unmolested for a layup in the lane. Which is why it’s always helpful and instructive to check the box score at half time, if only to realize that Tyson is actually the only guy consistently giving a shit. Without a floor general capable of getting far enough in the paint to force help from the opposition, Chandler has lately been compelled to make his living off the much more difficult prospects of deeper lobs and off-ball rolls.
Tyson was much better at keeping Noah from wreaking havoc, particularly on the boards, and only really got burned on a pair outside jumpers that anyone in the universe would’ve given him anyway. This much-needed stretch centered around the team’s London sojourn should do as much good for Tyson as anybody – his gait still looks garish, and the look on his face is one of a man two more losses away from this.
|Jason Kidd, PG 20 MIN | 0-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -21
You know it would start to happen sooner or later: Minus their best penetrator and… *gulp*… creator, Kidd isn’t getting nearly the kind of clean looks that marked the season’s early going, and tonight was no exception. The match-up with Kirk Heinrich was mostly a wash – save for a couple of early drives on the begoggled Kansan’s part, not much damage done on this front – and Kidd’s spare 20 minutes was probably a wise move given how the game unfolded, i.e. like a blanket made of burnt hair and rancid meat.
|Ronnie Brewer, SF DNP COACH’S DECISION MIN | FG | FT | REB | AST | PTS |
Thought it’d be funny to crap in coach’s Quaker Oats. It wasn’t.
|James White, SG 17 MIN | 4-7 FG | 1-2 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 11 PTS | -4
“James, come over here for a second, will ya?… How we doin’ today, Flight? Did anyone ever tell you you look like Screamin’ Jay Hawkins? He was a little before your time, but… Well, anyway, Flight… *Flight leaves the conversation, dunks from three point line* JAMES! GET YOUR ASS OVER HERE!…. Now James, you’re starting to tonight over Ronnie. It’s a long story. OK it’s really not he just thought it’d be funny to shit in my oatmeal. I’m just lucky I saw it in time. I eat oatmeal out of an industrial mixing, you see. At the end of the day, it’s got to be your most important meal. Anyway, your job is to grab on to Rip Hamilton’s drawstring and chase him around the court while Noah and Boozer put their forearms and shoulders into your face. Then just camp out in the corner on offense and try to not fall asleep. Now I saw you were a little long with your jumper in shoot-around – take a bit off of it, will ya? Alright, do me proud. And don’t mention the oatmeal thing to Sheed. I don’t want him getting any ideas.”
|Amar’e Stoudemire, PF 19 MIN | 2-4 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 5 PTS | -11
Another game, another 20 or so minutes of waiting in vain for some signs that Stat’s brain hasn’t joined his legs in rapid atrophy. There’s a big difference between getting lost on screens and switches – which he does all the time, obviously – and not even trying to contest shots in the paint when the guy you’re guarding has the ball for more than a full second. The former is an intelligence and awareness issue; the latter is one of pride. We can survive and mask one. The other could well be the death of us – and a career.
Patience is still very much the order, however. It’s January, and even our last two Finals teams endured 5-8 stretches around this same time before putting it together and bludgeoning their way back to contention. But the sheer gravity of what Amare’s piss-poor performances means – for the here and now, for the Playoffs, and for the next two fucking years oh my God I’m going to choke myself out – is pretty hard to ignore. Amar’e was right when he said “the Knicks are back.” We just didn’t think he’d be leaving so soon. Also, one rebound in 19 minutes? That’s Rik Smits territory.
|Chris Copeland, SF 6 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | +1
Yeesh. Talk about a short leash. Sure he missed a few early shots and got lost a bit in Chicago’s ball movement blizzard, but it just seems like Woodson is looking for a reason to yank Cope. Which is strange, considering he’s legitimately our third best scoring option, at this point – and by a pretty huge margin, too. Maybe I’m looking too far into this, but I’d be curious to hear Woody’s thoughts on why we’re still betting on extended minutes of Kurt Thomas and Amar’e paying offensive dividends, when the evidence screams otherwise.
Oh, I have a perfect anagram for this: COACH NERDS LIP
|Steve Novak, SF 17 MIN | 2-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 6 PTS | +19
If one of those toddlers you sometimes see riding Big Wheels at halftime tried to roll past Novak in the paint, I bet he’d turn half-sideways and try to shield himself from harm as if he were the last thing standing between Vince Wilfork and a pick six. Thanks for the threes though, really. Did you know Steve Novak’s $24,000 per three? It’s true.
|Pablo Prigioni, PG 30 MIN | 5-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 8 AST | 12 PTS | +5
Pretty huge give and take for Prigs, who coupled a relatively effective offensive showing – a pair of threes, and some purposeful, fearless drives – with a peck of ill-timed turnovers. Like the Pacers, the Bulls are not Javentut or Picadero. They get in your face and into your shorts and molest you into bad decisions, and Prigs still hasn’t quite gotten used to that style of play. With Felton still weeks away from full mending, We’re going to need more outings like this from Pabs – minus the turnovers, of course. Fantastic!
|J.R. Smith, SG 39 MIN | 4-17 FG | 4-4 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 13 PTS | -7
Sources tell me J.R. actually got a hold of Mark Paul Gossler and had him freeze time during the game so he could go clubbing – an NBA first, a J.R. first, a first for humankind, really. The only way to describe this one is Starksian; you admire the pride and the determined belief that the next one will fall true, but Earl was off by miles for most of the night. Combined with a few episodes of lazy D in the early going, it just wasn’t fixing to be the bounce-back performance we were hoping for or banking on. He did splice in a few nice takes, and the tenacity seldom waned. Just one of those nights, I guess.
|Rasheed Wallace, PF DNP SORE LEFT FOOT MIN | FG | FT | REB | AST | PTS |
I don’t care if you have a giant Duplo instead of a foot, you’re still better than Kurt. Please get well.
Five Things We Saw
- Another Friday, another sweet serenade from Robert Randolph and the Soul Crushers, another basketball snuff film of a first quarter. Sooner or later Woodson has to realize the ostensible defensive give of having Thomas – or even Camby, for that matter – isn’t near enough to erase the fact that that lineup is complete garbage on offense. For a while we could suspend our disbelief and allow for some fox-smart strategy, but really, who are we kidding at this point?
- The Bockers once again held their own on the glass in out-rebounding their second top tear team in as many days. Which is good, because if they hadn’t, this game might’ve ended up at 120-57 or something. As far as silver linings go, it doesn’t get much slighter than this, but it’s January and the Knicks are struggling and I’d probably cling on to rope that was on fire at this point.
- Derrick Rose may still be weeks or even months away from a full return, but if and when he does, this team could be an absolute postseason nightmare for just about anyone in the East. The reason being that, in D-Rose’s absence, Thibs has done a masterful job of instilling in his squad an almost preternatural desire to share the ball. The way the thing whips around the court – into the post, out again, skip to the weak side, hitting the flasher, finding the baseline cutter – is really a sight to behold, and one of the main reasons the Knicks have struggled to stop them. They’re patient, and they don’t give two shits in the world about bringing the shot clock down to one or two seconds, so long as they get a clean look – a scenario that unfolded to a perfect T on a number of occasions in this one.
- The Bulls were hitting their shots, yes – 57% on the night – but a lot of those came on looks from mid-range and deep that were only cursorily contested. Melo in particular looked like he was falling into the classic trap of daring his man – Deng, in many a case – to shoot, banking on someone who’s been a pretty average shooter falling down to earth. Which didn’t happen.
- So that makes three in a row, and six of their last nine. As many have already pointed out, the ‘Bockers incendiary start owed to a series of long bets that the house is finally starting to call in – the ridiculous three point shooting, engaged defense, and contributions from the roster’s nether corners. That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for some kind of even-ing out. After all, this roster is far from healthy, and if you subscribe in even a marginal way to the credo that good defense can spark your offense, just the return of Shumpert – now seemingly imminent – could do for us what Avery Bradley’s return has managed to do for those #$@%s up north. But even that re-emphasis on defense is its own gambit, of sorts. The craft might be 70 or 80 or even 90% desire and effort over skill, but that skill isn’t for total naught. Which is really going far too long to say that this team has flaws, and for the most part we know what they are: Inconsistent defense, and an offense careening back to the mean like a crap comet.
Beyond his work for KnickerBlogger, Jim is a contributor to the New York Times Off the Dribble NBA blog, ESPN.com, and The Classical. He is currently working on a biography of Robert Silverman, titled "Clownin' and Astoundin.'" Follow him on Twitter @JPCavan.