Tell me if you heard this before. The Knick starters begin the game and the opponent takes the lead. The bench comes in and the game is close again by halftime. The third quarter begins with the starters on the floor again, and the opponent takes a huge lead. The reserves come in and again make the game close. With about 6 minutes left in the game, Isiah puts the starters back in and the Knicks lose the game.
Last night that looked to be the case. The Knicks began the game down by 6, until the reserves came in to give New York the lead. At halftime the Knicks were only down by 2. But the 3rd quarter was the Knicks worst, by the time Eddy Curry leaves the game for the last time, the Knicks are down by 13. Curry’s departure would lock in his +/- at a team low -12. He’s followed closely by his frontcourt starters Quentin Richardson (-10) and Zach Randolph (-6). None of the three would see any more time down the stretch.
As usual the reserves battle back. Last night it was a lineup of Crawford, Jones, Balkman, Lee, and Rose. New York was within 7 at the end of the fourth quarter, sparked by rebounding, good ball movement, and improved defense. At 8:36 jump shots from Jamal Crawford and David Lee on four straight possessions bring the Knicks within one point of the Bucks. But at 6:14, Michael Redd hit a three that give Milwaukee a 7 point lead.
The NBA coaching manual clearly states: “If you had a big third quarter deficit, and your bench has made the game close, about midway through the fourth you should bring in your starters to finish the game off. Especially when the other team makes a shot a the momentum seems to slip away.” And Isiah usually follows the coaching manual very closely, but last night he must have misplaced it. Without it Isiah panicked and left in his reserves. New York tied the game twice in the third minute, and made their last bucket with 1:53 left to give them a slender 3 point lead. Isiah stayed with the players that saved the team from a 13 point deficit, and the Knicks hold the other team to only one basket for the remaining time to take the victory.
Yesterday I asked publicly when people shut their tvs off during Knick games. I have to say, I nearly turned mine off when the Buck lead swelled to 17. But since I had it taped I decided to watch it anyway, and was pleasantly surprised when the Knicks won. There were so many things to like about the last quarter and a half of this game. Obviously one is the fine play of Lee and Balkman, which if the consensus here had their say both would be starting. But more importantly was that the Knicks won with their defense. That just felt weird to type, because I can’t remember the last time I typed that sentence. But it made me nostalgic of the Ewing era, when the Knicks frequently relied on stopping their opponent down the stretch to close out games.
One final tidbit I’d like to share. While watching the game there were a few moments of banter where Clyde Frazier stated many of the things KB readers frequently say here. I took the time to transcribe them word for word, for your enjoyment.
First quarter, with about 6:02 on the clock. Michael Redd blew past Fred Jones for a layup and not a single Knick came to Jones’ aid. Clyde said “This is really why Curry & Randolph can’t play together. It’s not their offense. It’s their lack of intensity on the defense. As you saw that time a guy just walking right to the basket uncontested.”
The Knicks ended the third quarter with a 10-0 run. At the start of the fourth Clyde stated “That run by the Knicks was very noteworthy with Curry on the bench and Randolph and Q-Rich — and the Knicks were able to cut the gap.”
Again in the fourth quarter with the lineup being Crawford, Jones, Balkman, Lee, and Rose, Al Trautwig asked “You wonder, Clyde, where the points are going to come from with this unit other than Crawford on a runner or somehow a motion creating layups for David Lee or Malik Rose.” Clyde responded with “Second opportunities Al. On rebounds, missed shots.” On queue Malik Rose gets offensive rebound, and passes to Fred Jones who nails an open 3. I found this one to be particularly interesting, because the night before Knicks announcer Kenny Smith stated that the Knicks can’t have Lee or Balkman on the floor for large stretches because the offense is playing “5 on 4″. And while Kenny Smith is saying those words, Lee and Balkman grab a few rebounds for easy scores.
Shortly after Al asked “What did the Knicks do to slow the Milwaukee momentum there?” Clyde replied “Well they started to score, then deny them uncontested shots.”