Statistical Analysis. Humor. Knicks.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Bulls 118, Knicks 111

First: take a deep breath.

Tonight, the Knickerbockers lost what felt like a Capital “I” Important game 118-111 to a depleted Chicago Bulls squad.  The result completes a Chicago sweep of the teams’ season series, the only such sweep the Knicks will suffer at the hands of an Eastern Conference foe this year.  So that’s a mite frustrating.  Add the fact that it’s the Bulls, weavers of many a recurring nightmare for our 21-and-over crowd, and it gets a little worse.  Toss in a catalytic 35-point-outburst from former Knick and Once and Future miniature-cocktail-hot-dog-with-extra-relish Nate Robinson and the wound starts to feel decidedly salty.  And then top it all off with a surprisingly chippy, postseasonal atmosphere (no doubt exacerbated by Joey Crawford’s special brand of “keep the game in such tight control that I infuriate the players to the point where I totally lose control of it” officiating) and this loss felt like it meant something.

Fortunately, it probably didn’t.

For starters: the starters.  Field Captain Circle von Beardsman opened the game with a Felton-Prigs-Shump-Melo-Copeland look that, despite the lack of an interior presence or any discernible positional structure, improbably leapt out to a 23-6 lead behind torrid three-point shooting.  Problem was, the guy on the opposing sidelines plays with live ammo and quickly implemented a series of defensive adjustments that allowed the Bulls to close out on the three-point line and dare the Knicks to beat them on the interior.  Which, mostly, the Knicks didn’t; the lead slowly slipped away as the previously wildfire-hot trio of Melo, JR, and Copeland struggled to a combined 28/75 from the field.

There was some good here, Felton (19-6-5 on 17 FGA’s) put together a sublime first half before fading in the second, Melo (36 and 19…on an off night) and JR (27 and 14) hit the glass hard and, when they picked their spots to take it to the rim, finished and drew contact with aplomb.  But too frequent were the contested mid-rangers, the off-balance step-backs, the rushed headlong drives into traffic.  The Knicks played like a team that had grown accustomed to all its shots dropping, and not without reason.  But they didn’t drop tonight and the fact that they were STILL just a clean Melo 18-footer away from a win is a testament to their ball protection (7 team turnovers in 53 minutes!) and an inspired defensive effort by their undermanned, undersized group down the stretch (believe it or not, the Bulls missed their last 8 field goal attempts of regulation, including a potential game-winning runner by Luol Deng off a right-handed drive that an in-prime Bruce Bowen couldn’t have defended any better than Melo did).

Want to be upset?  There’s plenty here for you too: Kidd (0 points, 6 rebounds, 5 fouls) looked utterly lost, not a criticism that can often be hung around his neck.  Prigs (7 points on 4 shots, 2 assists) looked sharp in his 24 minutes but was chained to the bench down the stretch, even as Felton’s game waffled and knee spontaneously combusted (note: the medical term is “hyperextended”) as he closed in on 50 minutes played for the evening.   And then, of course, we have Nate – the pocket-sized whirling dervish who polarized* Bocker-backers throughout his Knick tenure and has set his mind to antagonizing them in days since.  I loved Nate during his New York days and still root for him to succeed against 28 NBA teams but, boy, a night like tonight can really make a normally candy-assed pacifist such as myself long for the good old days when Anthony Mason would’ve put an elbow through his eye socket.  Robinson (35 points, the most by a Chicago reserve since Ben Gordon 5 seasons ago) packed the full experience into one night – from 28-footers that splashed to runners that missed nearly everything, from primal yells to annoyingly choreographed celebrations to technicals and facepalms – and, along with Bulls wingman/toy-at-my-friend’s-house-that-I-now-want-for-myself Jimmy Butler (22-14-2-3-3), managed to do just enough to prove the decisive factor in a Bulls win rather than the decisive factor in a Bulls loss.  All of which to say: Nate gonna Nate.

*The word “polarized” must, of course, be understood in the context of simpler times before the advent of the emergent Melo-might-not-be-as-good-as-Durant-OMGFOHHATER debate.

So, yes, this one sucked.  I come not to bury that sentiment, but to reinforce it.  It made me question our depth, our coach, and – most of all – what in God’s name constitutes a technical foul.  But that’s what a loss is.  It’s an opportunity to ask questions about the things that went wrong, identify solutions, implement changes.  Tonight, the Knicks lost for the first time in 14 games.  They lost on a night when their two best bigs were on the bench in street clothes, a night when their two best scorers missed 61% of their shots, a night when a 6’8″ rookie was their primary center, a night when the Lex Luthor of NBA officiating had his claws in them, a night when the Bulls cashed a winning 5’7″ lottery ticket.   And, if an open 18-footer by the hottest player in the league had dropped at the end of regulation, they wouldn’t have lost at all.

Tonight was annoying.  Tonight was frustrating.  Tonight was disappointing.

Take a deep breath.  Tonight was meaningless.

18 comments on “Bulls 118, Knicks 111

  1. ephus

    Notwithstanding everything, this is a great time to be a Knick fan.

    The two giveaways that Butler finished were just AFTER the turning point, to my mind. For the two minutes before those plays, the Bulls were hustling with an energy level that the Knicks were not matching. All of a sudden, the Bulls were getting open shots in the secondary break. That was a tired team, and the Bulls are never going to give a game away. Knicks simply did not have 48 minutes of effort in them tonight.

    I was impressed with the Knicks ability to climb back into the game in the last three minutes. ‘Melo had a good look at a game winner at the end of regulation. There was nothing left in the tank for OT. Oh, well.

    JR Smith was really upset about a bad whistle, and I think he had a legitimate beef. But, I was even more impressed that he channeled his anger for a GREAT follow slam in the last 2 minutes that helped to get the Knicks back to tie the game and take the crowd out of it. Best part was that (unlike his killer slam against Miami in the playoffs last year) he just put his head down and kept working after melting the rim. My feelings towards JR Smith make me understand why the really cute girls in high school went for the bad boys who rode motorcycles, instead of the nerds (like me) who were going to treat them much better.

    In a game with no Noah, no Chandler, no K-Mart and no Camby, we should not be shocked that both teams could get to the rim. Don’t think that the playoffs are going to look similar. So toast the streak (Viva las trece!) and get ready for the playoffs. This team is dangerous.

  2. hegotgame

    Damn. Went to sleep early last night knowing we shud probably let this one go considering how different each teams energy level would be. Annoying to wake up and see that we came so close but went to overtime and lost. A forehand and then a backhand, swiftly stroked across a face that only expected one slap.

    I’ll take it though, seeing as I expected it considering how depleted we are. I just hope the strain hasnt created more cracks in our fragile core… This is a meaningless game and the playoffs are looming. We don’t really need any hero ball. Lets handle cleveland and atl. Take indiana if we can but not at any extra expense energy wise. Sounds silly to not go hard against rival teams but i think at this stage of the season its a great mind fuck when a team doesnt show up for the season game but then turns it up to 11 first game of the playoffs. Ah well. This isnt nba2k13 i guess.

    Bring on the playoffs!!

  3. Hubert Davis

    I promised myself I wouldn’t overreact to this infuriating game and I won’t. But hell, if you don’t think Pierce-Garnett-Green-Bradley-Bass are capable of doing what Deng-Boozer-Butler-Heinrich-Nate did last night, you are kidding yourself.
    .

  4. ephus

    If Felton dialed it back in the second half because he felt a twinge in his knee, that is smart basketball. Boy, I hope he is ok. Prigs/Kidd cannot get the team into the offense nearly as well, because they are not threats to take the ball all the way to the rim.

    WAAY after game ended Raymond Felton told me on @msgnetworks he has a mild knee sprain & he’s PLAYING tomorrow. He was SCARED tho. #knicks— Tina Cervasio (@TinaCervasio) April 12, 2013

  5. Hubert Davis

    Wait, so an irreplaceable component of our strongest lineup has a mild knee sprain, played 49 minutes last night, and isn’t getting the night off tonight?

    And you all wonder why I don’t trust Woodson and have feared this upcoming week for the last month.

  6. Nick C.

    Sometimes it seems as though Woodson coaches in the moment and only in the moment. Don’t get me wrong the team has done great since he became coach and a lot of that is because of him (or who he replaced not being there). But I would like to see a little bit of long range planning and foresight, even if long range is only playoff health and seeing what some of the bench can could do a bit sooner than he did (Prigs, Cope).

  7. RicanKnick

    GREAT RECAP!!!! I wanted them to win this game really bad! Just for the matter of not getting our streak ended by them, like it happened to the heat. Also for the matter of not getting swept in the season series. But I’m really proud of my team and so proud of MELO. It drives me crazy when they start getting technichals for stupid things. I think that made the difference. Anyway Go Knicks!

  8. Hubert Davis

    Woodson is going to get worked in the playoffs.

    The real coaches know the playoffs already started and you use these games to prepare for them. You try new wrinkles, you give guys rest, etc.

    We’re playing the meaningless 78th game of the regular season like it’s game 7 of the playoffs. And it was truly meaningless. That game meant nothing. It had no meaning. How many ways can I say this?

    37 minutes for Kidd, too? He should be forced to wear a version of this shirt with the word IDIOT instead of coach.

    http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nba-ball-dont-lie/york-knicks-coach-mike-woodson-t-shirt-own-182037751–nba.html

  9. Hubert Davis

    Btw, if there was a Manifesto of Bad Coach Job Security lessons, rule #1 would be this:

    1. Overuse your best guys. You’ll gain a short term advantage that makes you look good, and when you fail down the road people will blame bad luck (if they’re injured) or the players (if they’re ineffective because you burned them out).

  10. Juany8

    Hubert Davis:
    Btw, if there was a Manifesto of Bad Coach Job Security lessons, rule #1 would be this:

    1. Overuse your best guys.You’ll gain a short term advantage that makes you look good, and when you fail down the road people will blame bad luck (if they’re injured) or the players (if they’re ineffective because you burned them out).

    So I take it you feel Thibodeau is an awful coach? Woodson isn’t nearly as bad as him, Deng has been among the league leaders in minutes played the last 2 seasons, even though they had the best record in the league the previous 2 years and thus had plenty of chances to get rest. And who can forget D’Antoni’s “I’m going to ride him like Secretariat” comment about Lin, and the ridiculous minutes he gets played.

    When guys were taking it easy during the middle part of the season (Chandler and Kidd especially, and Melo and JR started playing lazier) everyone was freaking out about how we now sucked and wouldn’t get out of the first round. You can’t ask a coach to be smart and play for the playoffs then flip out when it turns out resting people means you lose a bunch of games. It’s not just the number of minutes either, teams like the Rockets, Nuggets, and Bulls are just constantly running around like madmen, I think we can all agree that the Knicks rely more on execution than energy.

    On another note, it’s pretty damn impressive that the Knicks are en elite offensive team despite an utter lack of fast break points. That’s the easiest way to get your rating up during the regular season, but it generally hasn’t carried over to the playoffs that well. Generally older teams tend to play better in the playoffs too, as we’ve seen with Boston time after time.

  11. DS

    Hubert Davis:
    Btw, if there was a Manifesto of Bad Coach Job Security lessons, rule #1 would be this:

    1. Overuse your best guys.You’ll gain a short term advantage that makes you look good, and when you fail down the road people will blame bad luck (if they’re injured) or the players (if they’re ineffective because you burned them out).

    I don’t think your sentiment is entirely off-base but I do think you’re being a little harsh. I guess he could’ve rested JR and ‘Melo and given minutes to White. But really who else was available last night? Pretty much no one.

    Side note; you have to imagine ‘Melo wants a scoring title right now. It’s what separates the Allen Iversons from the Jerry Stackhouses. The T-Macs from the Steve Francises.

  12. stratomatic

    DS
    Side note; you have to imagine ‘Melo wants a scoring title right now.It’s what separates the Allen Iversons from the Jerry Stackhouses.The T-Macs from the Steve Francises.

    Being interested in the scoring title is one reason those guys didn’t have much success in the playoffs.

  13. DS

    stratomatic: Being interested in the scoring title is one reason those guys didn’t have much success in the playoffs.

    Right. Another is not having teammates nearly as good as ‘Melo does.

  14. Zanzibar

    Juany8: On another note, it’s pretty damn impressive that the Knicks are en elite offensive team despite an utter lack of fast break points.

    Strange I was perusing some stats related to 3FGs and Pace when you posted this. We’ve made more 3s than any other team in league history while ranking 26th in Pace. Phoenix ranked 3rd overall in 3FGM in 2005/2006 and was 1st in Pace that season. This season’s Houston Rockets are 4th in league history in 3FGM and rank 1st in Pace. Orlando, #2 team in 3FGM, was 18th in Pace in 2009/10. Speaking of Orlando, Howard averaged 1.5 dimes/game in his Orlando years and only ranked 30th among centers on Hollinger’s dime ratio in that 2009/10 season. Magic played mostly PnR and inside out game and surely got a lot of their 3s off hockey dimes initiated by Howard. Cue the Melo debate again! Isn’t this current Knick team more like Orlando and might that way be more sustainable in the playoffs than one built around transition? Just my 10cents :)

    I apologize if anyone already posted this link to an April 10th article at NBA.com: Are the Knicks Playing like the 2011 Mavericks? http://stats.nba.com/featured/are_the_knicks_playing_like_th_2013_04_10.html

  15. Hubert Davis

    Juany8: So I take it you feel Thibodeau is an awful coach?

    I think Thibodeau is the defensive D’Antoni.

    He’s the perfect example of my rule #1, though, isn’t he?

    Burnt his team out for a #1 seed, lost his entire team to injury in the playoffs, everyone chalked it up to bad luck and not to the fact that maybe he should’ve been taking a different approach to the regular season.

  16. chrisk06811

    I would love to know exactly what the deal is with Marcus Camby. I know Plantar Fasciaitis hurts; I’ve had it. but…only 24 games played? I feel like the other bigs have played with a lot more pain. Is it the two year deal?

    The good news is sheed will start running soon.

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