Not to paraphrase Shakespeare (and we all know how badly the Laertes-Melancholy Danes game ended) but a WIN; a very palpable WIN! In the warm, fuzzy, you’re-so-cute/sexy-even-with-mussed-hair-and-morning-breath-I’m-gonna-make-you-freakin’-breakfast-and-not just-reheated-bagels-but-like-an-omelet-and-ish glow of victory. This is much better.
It’s certainly preferable to the four-day hangover, filled with odd flashbacks and Dolanings and Shump being sent off to the NBA hinterlands that followed Sunday’s Alamo-like thrashing by the fine gents from San Antone.
So, in that spirit/state of being, here are a few more tidbits from last night’s action.
We’ve talked at length about why Andrea Bargnani is (and probably will ever remain) such a polarizing player for ‘Bocker backers. Like the Carolina-‘splosion, he did a dandy job on the boards (some giddily awkward, makes-Jared-Jeffries-lool-downright-balletic replicas of Tyson tip-outs/saves) and even was solid guarding Al Horford one-on-one in the low block.
But when it went bad, when he had to say, choose between sticking to a ball handler that had beaten his man and was heading rimward (which [again] happened way, way, way, WAY too often], we got video-game glitch moments like this:
Okay, that’s just an adorbs puppy photo-bombing Mike Woodson, but you get my point. It’s pretty much a given that there will be one or two moments that send Twitter ablaze in mockery, pointing at Andrea and howling with such peals of sadistic laughter that it makes one’s collective tummy hurt.
I’m not posting these damning GIF’s to join in with the madding, ridiculing crowd, but to assert that were this team off to even a slightly better start – say, if Melo’d canned the game-winner v. The Second City’ers and they’d managed to eke out an ugly win in the 1st Charlotte tilt – and they were sitting in the proverbial catbird seat at 5-2 (cue Pacino’s Any Given Sunday “Life is a game of inches” spiel), all of Bargs’ foibles might be seen as charming, nay even lovable, instead of this sad clown painting on velvet/howling basketball-as-opera character called Bargniacci.
We’d publicly defend him and his goofiness to our dying breath, even if after sticking up for our poor, picked on social outcast we later took him aside and privately shoved a pile of advanced stats under his Roman nose. The same thing happened in ’11-’12 with the aforementioned Mr. Jeffries. He was a quietly essential cog during Linsanity’s heyday, but no matter how many times he stepped in for a charged or rotated with aplomb or set a beautiful (if spindly) off-ball screen, you’d still see instances where he looked like a 6-11 giraffe on roller skates. And that was okay. He was a klutz, but he was our endearingly klutzy kid brother (jabbing a stubby, menacing invisible finger into any and all imagined/imaginary bullies) and nobody picks on him but us, got it?
All of this is to say that I like Bargs, or at least that I’m really pulling for the guy. Barring an unforeseen late-career leap, there’s no way to avoid the fact that Mills/Dolan/Grunwald/George Constanza royally overpaid to acquire him, but a 48/38 slashline (even with a defensive rating of 110) is pretty decent. And winning (or losing) can seriously impact our perceptions. Still, TEAM BARGS! Who’s with me?
And now for something completely different… I’m not going to talk about existentialist tropes, or what it all means, man. I’d like to take a further look at the stretch in which the Knicks took control of the game.
In the first half, it was all 2012-13 redux, threes bombing from every direction off of solid, ‘round the horn passery and secondary fast break pull ups, whilst the ball stayed firmly glued to the New Yorkers’ mitts. Then, in an absolutely atrocious 3rd stanza, the Hawks realized they could get a wide-open attempt at the rim pretty much any time they wanted via the pick and roll or if they pushed the tempo off of a missed shot. And there were certainly plenty to be found, what with Melo’s worst isolationist, – like Charles Lindberg, he was, I tells ya – ball-stopping tendencies coming to full, odiferous flower.
After a mini-push at the beginning of the 4th cut the lead to 73-72, the Hawks seemed poised to take control after a Kyle Korver runner off a simple side that Kenyon Martin was late to contest and a durned pretty spot up three in transition off of a missed Felton layup in a packed lane to push the bulge back to six.
But then, oddly enough, all that stopped and the Knicks went on an 18-3 run that for all intents and purposes finished off the game. Reviewing the game tape on Synergy, it’s easy to see that this was partly due to the fact that they…well…starting hitting their shots, thus greatly reducing the issues the Knicks had getting back on defense, but for reasons unknown, the Hawks couldn’t or wouldn’t get to the rim, hitting only 2-6 in the painted area, whereas for the other 40 minutes, they nailed an eye twitch-inducing 21-25, leading to 56 interior points for the Sherman’s Marchers.
So let’s take a look at the Angry Birds’ plays down the stretch:
7:47 – Al Horford ISO’s against Bargs after the Knicks do a good job collapsing on the original PnR action between Al and Korver. Misses jumper, Hubie berates him for not taking it to the hole.
7:26 – Another Al/Teague pick and roll. Melo rotates to help, leaving Mike Scott (no, not the Astros scuffballer) a wide open trey. He misses, because it’s Mike Scott.
6:49 – Teague tries a backdoor cut, but Felt manages to stick a flipper in and poke the ball away. Teague still shuffles the ball to a wide-open Cartier Martin in the corner, but he too bricks from long range.
6:08 – Yet another Al/Jeff PnR, but Bargs does a much better job of hedging and Teague gorts a floater off the front rim.
5:45 – After Felton again denies a backdoor cut by Teague off a post entry pass from Millsap (who strangely sat for the first six minutes of the 4th. And don’t ask me why Pero Antic got a weird 15 second spin that resulted in a turnover), the Knicks fail to corral the defensive rebound, Millsap drives around Melo and finds Horford for a layup.
4:33 – Cartier Martin’s the primary ballhandler, shadowed by JR Smith. He tries to locate Millsap, but the Knicks does. good job of surrounding him, and when he kicks to Korver on the wing, Shump rotates like a champ, blocking the three point attempt. Just a dandy sequence.
4:01 – Play it again, Sam. Al/Teague high pick and roll. Bargs again does a solid job contesting, though he’s called for a foul. Roy Hibbert would’ve gotten a no-call, but whatevs.
3:22 – A Melo/Tyson style PnR, with Millsap and Horford. Another solid job by Bargs, who switches and forces the turnover.
At which point, we got Bargs’ deposit at La Banca Nazionale di Roma, and that just about stuck a big ol’ fork in this’n.
But looking at the above sequence, it’s not so much that the Hawks stopped running the sets that had been so devastatingly effective (as I’d thought while watching the game live), but rather that the ‘Bockers – specifically Bargs down low and Felton on the ball – at least contested shots or forced subpar shooters to fling it from deep.
On offense, they ran a TON of high screens and even double screens, as opposed to the Heroball we were undoubtedly expecting, but we’ll end our tape-study sesh here.
Houston’s in town tonight, which means Jeremy Lin and all the narrative-encapsulating fun (and by “fun,” I mean in-fighting, despair, nostalgia and maybe even some rancid homophobia/racism) that entails.