The Knicks opened up the 2005 season with a loss. They played on the road against the team with the best record in the West last year. To their credit they were in the game until late into the fourth quarter. In his first game as a Knick, Jamal Crawford filled in for Allan Houston and scored 22 points (10-23, 48% eFG%*, .96PSA**). Marbury led the Knicks in scoring (8-15, 63% eFG%, 1.8PSA) but was one point behind game leader Kevin Garnett (13-20, 65% eFG%, 1.4PSA).
The Knicks second round pick Trevor Ariza, the youngest Knick to play on opening day, played 23 minutes. He showed some of his high energy ability from preseason, with 5REB, 3AST, & 2STL. Trevor had a “replay-worthy” put-back dunk, and later broke up a Minnesota fast break with a steal. Ariza had a good shooting percentage, and didn’t get to the line once, which was a strength of his in October. In the future, I expect Ariza to have some poor shooting nights, but I also expect him to score from the foul line.
Sweetney came into the game as a defensive substitution at 6:17 in the 2nd, and made his presence felt immediately when he was fouled on the Knicks next possession on a drive 20 seconds later. He looked so impressive, at one point unleashing a series of post moves before hitting his shot in the paint and drawing the foul. To my recollection, Kurt Thomas tried to score from the paint only once, and was stripped. Thomas played well, but he left the Knicks without an inside presence. To illustrate my point, Thomas had only 2 free throw attempts to Sweetney’s 9. If the Knicks are going to get their perimeter guys open shots, then they need someone who will force double teams down low.
It was ironic that Sweetney got in the game later, and played less minutes than Ariza. Tim Thomas’ poor shooting (3-13, 27% eFG%, .5PSA) contributed to Ariza’s high minutes. Nazr Mohammed only made a nominal contribution in the 29 minutes he played, and I wish I could say the same for Baker & “JYD” (0 points combined in 14 minutes). Wilkens will have to find more minutes for Sweetney, and I expect he will once he realizes that Sweets is the Knicks only low-post threat.
Tonight the Knicks lost on one stat alone, shooting percentage. Minnesota shot 54% eFG%, to the Knicks 43%. Looking at the stat sheet, only Sam Cassell had a poor shooting night (7-19, 37% eFG%, 1.0PSA) for Minnesota. Everyone else had a field day. New York outplayed the T-Wolves in turnovers per possession (.12 to .17), offsensive rebounds (20.8% to 10.3%), and scoring from the foul line (.191 to .165 FTM/FGA). I may have to eat my words from a few days ago when I said “the Knicks don’t need to get better at contesting shots”. With Mutombo gone, and Shanderson about to rack up “DNP-Coach’s Decision” at a phenomenal rate, maybe the Knicks have lost a step defensively from last year. They don’t have a great defensive presence on the entire team, and it’ll be something to watch this year.
*eFG% = Efficient field goal percentage, this is like FG%, but gives a proper bonus for three pointers made. (FGM + 1/2*3PM)/FGA
**PSA = Points per Shot Attempt. Unlike eFG%, it includes free throws. (PTS/(FGA+FTA*.44)