If only every game could be like this past one, where the Knicks were clicking on both offense AND defense, and just dismantled the Washington Wizards, 102-82.
Outside of the sparkling play of David Lee (which we have come to expect), Renaldo Balkman was the clear story, scoring 18 points to go along with seven boards (FIVE of them offensive) and two blocks, in just 21 minutes of playing time. Lee’s 10 points and 15 bounds took place in 27 minutes of play. Talk about maximizing your minutes!
Meanwhile, the Knicks hounded Gilbert Arenas into a terrible shooting night.
Marbury had a decent game, and Q-Rich has officially, in my mind, gone into “I am not surprised that he had a good game” territory – which I never thought I’d say at the beginning of the season.
The Knicks won by twenty, and that was WITH a ridiculous third quarter where the Knicks fouled with reckless abandon! Without all the fouling, this game wouldn’t have been as close as it was!
Still, all in all, this was a solid win (and good to get one at home, eh?), and if Balkman can even remotely duplicate his performance tonight in future games – wow, that would dramatically change the Knicks’ fortunes, wouldn’t it?
I’m really proud of how the non-Frye sophomores have developed. The other night against Cleveland, Nate Robinson had maybe the best drive & dish I’ve seen in a Knick uniform all year. Damon Jones was taking away Nate’s right hand, so Nate went left and sped into the paint. The moment the rest of the Cavs defense collapsed in on him, Robinson stopped in the paint on a dime, and gave a crisp bounce pass to the cutting Knick forward for the easy 2. The Knick forward was, of course, Lee.
Last night the Wizards got almost no contribution from their bench, while the Knicks bench outplayed their starters (again). It was nice to see that 3 of the Knicks’ best 4 players were Lee, Balkman, & Nate. Lee & Balkman were all over the boards. Granted the pair will not dominate like that every night, because Washington is one of the poorer rebounding teams. New York had a 36% to 23% offensive rebounding advantage. Lee & Balkman combined for 10 of 16 of the Knick offensive rebounds.
David Lee played 28 minutes yesterday, which is respectable for a bench player, but at this point his production is just screaming for more than the 23.9 min/g he’s averaging. He’s by far New York’s best frontcourt player this year, and it’s in the Knicks’ best interest to have him on the court as much as possible. The same could be said of Nate Robinson. Although Nate is a bit on the wrong side of the assist/turnover ratio for a point guard, he is shooting lights out (57.5% eFG% & 61.2% TS%) and is a fine rebounder for a guard (4.1 REB/40 with 1.8 OREB/40). Statistically Robinson has been better than Marbury, Francis, or Crawford.
Although there is value on having strong bench players, there comes a time that having your better players on the bench cuts into their minutes. And ultimately it’s simple mathematics: the guys on the court more have more of an effect on the team’s performance. Maybe my last column calling for the benching of both Curry & Frye was a bit early because of the politics involved. Isiah is trying to be a players coach, and it’s hard to be an optimist when you’re benching guys early in the season. However if anyone will bust into the starting lineup (without a major injury) it’s sure to be David Lee. It’s just a matter of time.