I don’t need any advanced stats to tell you why the Knicks lost against the Pistons. No PER. No eFG. No PSA. They just blew it. Poor execution down the stretch. It was a heart breaking loss, easily their worst psychological loss of the year. They had the defending champs on the ropes the whole game, only to slip at the end and knock themselves out.
My biggest complaint is not Jamal Crawford’s attempt with 5 seconds left, although it was awful. It’s not about Marbury’s foul on Billups, because what else could he do in that situation? Steph forgetting how to dribble in their final attempt wasn’t the worst of the night, although it could have been. What really got my goat was Lenny Wilkens’ substitution pattern.
Here are the minutes for the Knicks’ 5 starters:
K. Thomas.. 42
T. Thomas.. 30
N. Mohammed 46
J. Crawford 44
S. Marbury. 40
Was this the 7th game of the NBA Finals that 4 of their starters played 40 minutes? Next was Houston with 21 minutes, Williams with 9, and Moochie with 8. Nobody else played for the Knicks. Most notably Sweetney & Ariza had DNPs.
By the time the Knicks half time lead of 16 dwindled to 2 at the start of the fourth, I had to wonder: were the Knicks too tired to pull it out in the end? The Knicks played well with Jerome Williams in the game. The Junk Yard Dog pulled down 3 offensive boards in his 9 minutes, constantly harassing the Pistons on every loose ball and rebound. Couldn’t the Knicks have used Ariza’s high energy play the same way?
When Moochie Norris entered the game, the Knicks shifted their offensive strategy. Norris dumped the ball into paint to Nazr. Mohammed has a limited post up game, and the Pistons’ big men are good defenders. Wouldn’t it have been better to bring in player with a larger assortment of offensive moves down low, like Sweetney?
I’m not sure what Wilkens was thinking here. Did he not want risk the confidence of the younger guys against the reigning champs? Did he just want to run with the hot hand? Maybe Lenny thought the veterans would fare well? Did Ariza & Sweetney have the flu? Maybe the two youngsters went out on the town after beating the Nets & showed up late for the morning shoot around. For a moment I though they were absent due to another Isiah trade, but they were on the bench. Well rested I’m sure.
The Knicks lost a game they had in their hands. Beating the Pistons at home would have been a big boost to the team, especially because they outplayed them for most of the game. It might have been due to a few mental mistakes down the stretch. What percentage of that is due to physical fatigue I can’t say for sure. What I am certain is that Wilkens should have found some more rest for his starters, so they could have finished what they started.