[This entry is brought to you by Knickerblogger.net?s Lead Field Reporter, Dave Crockett. The good doctor has been shipped out to the West Coast on his own dime, so he could get a better view of the Knicks game from his hotel room. As always, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org]
Last night’s Knicks-Suns game was one I see this team winning by the spring. Their defensive effort, save some lapses, was solid considering the opponent. Phoenix shot 46.4% eFG% while the Knicks shot 45.5%. Of course the most obvious bugaboo continues to be turnovers. Some of them are pure carelessness with the ball. The Knicks seem like they are good for 5-6 “I just wasn’t paying attention” turnovers every night. Some turnovers are a function of their limited familiarity with each other. Those two categories of turnovers should decline as players get more used to their roles (so they’re not trying to think and play at the same time) and gain more familiarity.
Still, one frustrating aspect of last night’s game that has repeated itself throughout the season is the generally poor decision making on the part of so many players. The turnovers and poor shot attempts that result from bad decision making I fear will plague this team all year. Following the recent online discussion at KB.Net about Marbury’s play, his decision making has been my big disappointment. When he is asked to step outside his comfort zone of screen-roll or penetrate-and-kick his decision making suffers. (Much like a quarterback forced to go through his progressions to the 2nd and 3rd receiver.) The criticism Marbury often receives in the press is far too simplistic. As the guest columnist pointed out aptly, ball-hogging really is not Marbury’s problem. As i suggested in the discussion, Marbury’s real issue is that he’s a two trick pony. Where he struggles is when he is asked to facilitate post-up play.
Last night was a case in point. He had a very solid game offensively. It was certainly not a game where i’d accuse him of being selfish. He was aggressive early, looked to set up teammates throughout the 2nd half, and took good shots at the end. (that last shot that backrimmed was a good shot; just didn’t fall.) Still, the game illustrated his offensive weakness. Far too many times last night the Knicks allowed a smaller, physically outclassed Phoenix frontline to defend their larger front line. The problem was less the big men as it was the guards’ misunderstanding of how to beat a smaller, quicker team with ball and player movement. Consistently, each of the guards (Marbury, Robinson, and Crawford) demonstrated how NOT to do it, by picking up their dribble and waiting for an angle to enter the ball to the big man. It just made me cringe. They’d enter the ball after the player had been bodied off the spot and stand around. It was ugly.
What didn’t happen, and I’d expect Marbury to do this naturally at this point in his career, is for the guard to swing the ball weakside allowing the post player to pin the defender on his back. Another approach is to keep the dribble, penetrate, force the defense to collapse freeing up space for the post and/or putting him in superb offensive rebounding position. Marbury never seemed to recognize this, at least not nearly quickly enough. As a consequence the Knick offense was stagnant. The guards recognized the mismatch but not how to exploit it with ball and player movement. They continued to pick up the dribble, wasting time. This happened throughout the 3rd and 4th quarter. It was maddening.
I’d love to see us try to swing a minor deal for a point guard like Darrell Armstrong – not to start necessarily but to allow Marbury to stick to the two things he does best and let somebody else feed the post.