Knicks 109 Lakers 120
Pace Eff eFG FT/FG OREB% TOr NYK 93.8 118.8 49.4% 22.2 29.8 12.0 LAL 125.1 57.7% 27.4 32.6 13.6
The first quarter was pretty much all David Lee. He didn’t enter the game until 6:48, but by the end of the quarter he had 9 points. The only shot he missed was blocked by Turiaf, but Lee recoverd and made the second. He made a nice one-handed pass to Zach Randolph who blew the shot. Randolph would later miss a dunk off a nice Lee pass in traffic, costing him two assists. Curry was in foul trouble all night, which gave Lee lots of burn. His second quarter wasn’t as good, on one possession Lee badly missed a jumper. But he still went into the locker room at halftime as the Knicks leading scorer with 15 points. Throughout the night, Lee played the pick & roll exceptionally well. In previous years the Knicks pick & roll consisted of Marbury passing to a jump shooting forward like Keith Van Horn or Kurt Thomas. But Lee ran the high pick & roll with Nate & Crawford and instead of staying on the perimeter, Lee cut to the hoop. Both guards were able to find him the ball of the screen & Lee’s excellent finishing skills led to easy buckets. Of Lee’s 8 baskets on the night, 6 were assisted.
Nate Robinson showed his best & worst during this game. Robinson was torching the Lakers; it seems his outside shooting touch is back. Robinson was 7-15, including 4-7 from downtown. He pushed the ball up court frequently, found his teammates with crisp passes, and even grabbed a few important rebounds. On one possession, Odom and Balkman were fighting for a rebound, until Nate came over and knocked the ball to a teammate. On another Knick miss, Robinson stole a rebound from the Lakers. But Nate let his emotions get to him in the fourth quarter. On a fast break, Robinson was the recipient of a hard foul by Vujacic. (Vujacic was retaliating from a Balkman elbow to the head.) Robinson forced up a bad shot a few possessions later, and was less effective running the offense. Up until this point, Robinson was playing a fantastic game.
The goat of the game was clearly Eddy Curry. Just about every time Curry stepped on the court the Knicks played worse. Curry was -16 in only 16 minutes. Isiah’s biggest mistake was substituting Curry for Lee in the final 4:31. New York was only down by 4 points at the time, and Curry was largely ineffective up to that point. Earlier in the game Curry left his man wide open for an easy dunk. On another defensive play he offered no resistance to a driving Kobe Bryant, but ended up getting called for a careless foul on the play anyway. On offense Curry couldn’t take advantage of a Bynum-less Lakers. So with Curry in for the last minutes of the game, the Lakers go on a 12-5 run, and the game is over.
Although you could blame Isiah Thomas for the move. Thomas seems to fall prey to something that hurts coaches in all sports: playing it safe. The conventional wisdom is to finish the game with your starters, so to Thomas it made sense to bring the “Low Post Charger” back in the game. But this was the wrong player at the wrong time. The Knicks carved out a lead during the middle of the game with defense and efficient play on offense, but in the end Thomas abandoned those things. Looking at the +/- the Knicks were the best with Lee (-1), Jeffries (-2), Collins (-4), and Balkman (-4) on the floor. (No Knick finished with a positive +/-). In other words New York played their best basketball when they had one or two guys that played defense and didn’t hurt the team offensively by giving possessions away. It’s disheartening that Thomas doesn’t understand that his team is best with a mix of players of differing styles. I’m not saying that the Knicks should have gone with that lineup, but having one or two of those players on the floor would have given the Knicks a better chance at winning.