“If the Nets are injured and not playing well, whoever faces them is definitely going to have a good chance of beating them… But they’re going to play hard. They’re defending Eastern Conference champs for the last two years. So they’re not just going to give up.”
Penny Hardaway was right with one part of his quote. The Nets played hard last night and didn’t just give up, trouncing the Knicks 108-83. For the most part the Nets dominated the entire game. The closest the Knicks got after the beginning was a 6 point deficit in the third. It was the type of game where points came fast and furious in spurts. As soon as the Knicks were that close, they were back down by 13 only a few moments later.
New Jersey exposed New York’s weakness, interior defense. I tried to keep a play-by-play account using Dean Oliver’s method from his book, Basketball on Paper. I got through a little more than a page, before deciding to give it a rest. The Nets first play of the game was to post up Rodney Rogers. The play didn’t net any points, but I’m sure that was coach Frank’s game plan. According to my score sheet, they went into the post 4 times in the first 6 minutes.
Not that you needed a score sheet to know that. You probably wouldn’t have to watch the whole game, since I’m sure the dunk Jefferson had with 6:00 gone in the first quarter on Kurt Thomas will be shown coast to coast. That dunk gave the Nets a 18-9 lead, and forced Lenny Wilkens to call a time out.
Right after the timeout, my score sheet shows Tim Thomas missing a shot near the foul line. What would happen next would prompt me to drop my pen and forgo keeping track of the game. Jefferson got the ball to Collins in the post. The Nets center missed the easy shot, but quickly got his rebound. He did this two more times, until the Knicks were able to get the ball away from him. He didn’t end up with any points on the scoreboard, but he had made another point: the Nets owned the paint. I dropped my pen part in anger because Collins was able to get his missed shots back so easily & part because it happened so fast it was hard to keep up with.
The Knicks’ aren’t going to be able to compete if they don’t protect the basket. If Dekembe Mutombo were healthy, I’m sure he would have seen action early in this one. None of the Knick’s other big men are great defenders, not Nazr, not Baker, not Sweetney, not Harrington, and not Thomas. Kurt Thomas is a good man-to-man defender, but as Jefferson found out tonight, he’s not a great help-defender. The Knicks will have to address this flaw in the offseason.
If you’re the optimistic type, you’ll be happy to know there was plenty of garbage time. Coach Wilkens gave playing time to Sweetney, DerMarr Johnson, and even Frank Williams. Frank Williams is back on the active roster because Allan Houston went on the IL. Unfortunately non of the Knicks’ young players did anything special. Hopefully we’ll see more of Williams, and I’m not hoping for more garbage time either. He can’t be any worse than Moochie Norris.