It was one of those games as a fan, you love to watch. There was a little bit of everything for everyone. The Knicks are still fighting for a better playoff spot, so it was a meaningful game. Even though they clinched a playoff spot, a few wins might move them up to a higher seed. However since the playoffs are so close, the Knicks also want to give a rest to their starters. They don’t want their best players tired in their first round matchup. So the Knicks were trying to win an important game with playoff indications on the strength of their (mostly) young players. If that isn’t enough to get the fans’ blood pumping, the game was close throughout, and went into overtime.
With all the Knick’s youth on the floor, it was like a glimpse into the future. The only regulars were Tim Thomas (because of a lack of SF depth due to Penny’s stomach virus) and the prehistoric center Dikembe Mumtombo. For most of the crunch time, it was DerMarr Johnson, Frank Williams, and Michael Sweetney on the floor. Frank Williams, one of my favorite underused Knicks, didn’t play exceptionally well. He did hit a “clutch” layup, but only shot 2-3 with 3 TOs and 4 ASTs in 32 minutes. Of course he played better than Morris, who shot a horrible 1-8 and had only 1 assist with his 1 turnover.
One of DerMarr Johnson’s weaknesses over his career has been his average shooting. His career FG% is just 38%, and more importantly his career eFG is an unspectacular 45%. Yesterday he shot 54% with an eFG% of 62%! I couldn’t pinpoint anything different, except going to the hoop more often, including a two handed jam. His shots just seem to be going down.
DerMarr is an interesting player. He has Reggie Miller’s frame, but other than that has little resemblance to one of the most efficient scorers over the last decade. He’s an average scorer, at best, and lacks Miller’s incredible shooting eye. Like most players that come out of Cincy, the former Bearcat is an athletic defender. The 2002 Basketball Prospectus called him “one of the best defensive prospects in basketball.” From what I’ve seen the 23 year old is still a prospect. He was no match for Ron Artest at SF in Indy the other day. His skinny 6-9 body with long arms is more suitable for defending against SGs.
MSG’s player of the game was the Knicks’ first round pick Michael Sweetney, and rightfully so. Sweetney was, as Clyde Frazier likes to say, omnipresent under the boards. He picked up 5 offensive rebounds, and 7 on the defensive end. Combined with Mutombo, they did an excellent job countering the Wizards advantage on the glass. As for his offensive game, Sweetney shot 6-9 and I noticed he plays a little bit better when given ample playing time. In the 8 games he’s been given 20 minutes or more, he has shot 22-40 or 55%. Last night, he showed a nice array of post up moves. At one point he turned a near blocked shot into a left handed layup by adjusting mid flight. I’ve seen him make this type of adjustment at least twice on the season, and they are impressive to watch.
These last few games should be interesting to watch. The Knicks’ might be playing these guys more often. Sadly, it could the last time you see any of them in a Knicks’ uniform. Isaiah Thomas has a trigger finger when it comes to trades. Any or all of them could be gone if he feels he can net a better player in the process. In a way it’s a shame, since I’ve grown to like all three, and can see potential in all of them. There is something special in sports when you watch a young player develop into a good or great player. However sports is a business, and I would trade any of these guys if it meant getting a top notch player.