Pacers 81, Knicks 76
When you were a kid, did you ever do something so horrendously wrong, so inconceivably cruel, inhuman and thoughtless that your parents wouldn’t even yell or get angry, they’d just semi-collapse in a defeated, enervated heap of profound disappointment, as if whatever the thing or things it is you did was such a violation/betrayal of every ideal they thought they might have instilled in you?
I certainly did. I’m sure there are vast herds of beautiful, perfect youths out there who have no idea what I’m talking about, but I’m almost as sure that that same miniscule sub-genus of humanity would never deign to sully their blight/trouble/blemish/worry-free existence by becoming Knicks fans.
So if you would, take a moment and think back to whatever horrid act you may have perpetrated and try to recall the look upon your Mother’s or Father’s (or both) face. For me, that moment was worse than getting a thorough, ear-splitting tongue-lashing (And believe you me, I come from a family of professional-grade shouters.).
I mention all this, because I can only hope that that’s what Mike Woodson, who supposedly shares my folks’ proclivity for voicing displeasure in as high-decibel a manner possible, just sits them down and gives them a weary, beaten death-stare. If it’s necessary, Coach can trek to my pad and study my visage as a template, because right now I just feel sick.
So, in the spirit of withering glances and reams of disgust, there won’t be any grades tonight. For those of you who desperately crave some form of alphabetical quantification, here’s everyone’s grade:
In a picture-is-worth-a-thousand-words kind of way, I think it does an outstanding job of not only summarizing the ‘Bockers’ efforts tonight, but also getting to the essence of what I assume is the base line emotional state for any Knick fan who had the misfortune of slogging through that so-called basketball game.
I assume a good portion of you were lucky enough to be spending an evening with their loved one(s) or perhaps broadening one’s cultural horizons by enjoying any number of the performances of the lively arts or catching up on one’s bookkeeping duties or running a cheese grater repeatedly over one’s inner thigh and then dousing the area with a fine coating of salt and vinegar or any number of activities that would have proved infinitely more pleasant and missed the galling proceedings. if so, the rest of here’s what happened…
Once Melo was sent to Elba for his Napoleonic fit of rage, this was going to be a tough game to win. After an early season swoon, they’ve been putting forth some sterling defensive outings. So without a cat who’s been netting 31.9 PPG over the last ten, saying/thinking the New Yorkers would struggle to score is a prediction/wager that one would feel comfortable taking out a third mortgage to double down upon. But dear God(s), that was one of the most atrocious, aesthetically-unpleasing, pigs-wrestling-in-a-fetid-brackish-mud-hole games we’ve witnessed in a long, long time.
For those who still carry a torch for the mid 90’s wars and fondly recall post-season encounters at the [Insert Unmemorable Financial Institution here] Fieldhouse that were more Thunderdome-style gladiatorial abattoirs than professional sporting events, well, here’s a reminder that our memories are often coated with a sepia-toned warmth for a reason. If we were to truly recall how godawful those games were (except, you know, for the Knicks winning a lot of them part) we’d all be put under 24-hr. observation in some soft-walled, fluorescent-lit room with our shoelaces and belts removed for our own safety.
Tonight, the Knicks just couldn’t for the life of them figure out how to run a half-decent offensive set for pretty much the entire game. Although, like some kind of impishly cruel, cosmic joke, on the last few possessions, the whole ‘Ball movement” thing magically reappeared.
The 1st quarter ended with the score 16-14 (not a type-o). Some snarky wag on the Twitter said, “Fever 16, Liberty 14 at the end of one.” (Spoiler alert for the link-averse: it was me.) They managed to snaggle a couple of Marcus Camby floaters/runners, of all things. Honestly, I think Marcus Camby is actually a 5’11” point guard trapped in Marcus’ Camby’s body. For the most part, the offense (so to speak) consisted of attempting to ram Chris Copeland’s dreadlocked square peg into the missing ‘Melo round hole, which worked about as well as one might imagine.
In the 2nd stanza, STAT got to roll and as has been the case in the prior four games since his return, either gorted what used to be automatic 15’ jumpers (which is a thoroughly nauseating thing. I hate it so) or executed a series of explosion-free, flailing drives to the tin all while displaying the putrid defense we’ve grown all-too accustomed to. I could go into greater detail, but I believe it’s prohibited under the terms of the Geneva Convention, and I don’t have a team of 3–piece suited Harvard/Yale-educated lawyers at hand who might be able to exempt me from cumbersome, binding, international agreements. If you’re a true glutton for punishment, you can read an outstanding autopsy at Hardwood Paroxysm here.
It was like that tonight. Same dilly. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. It’s not for a lack of effort on STAT’s part, it’s just that his energies are so misdirected—his befuddling attempt to molest Tyler Hansbrough 20’ from the tin being tonight’s Exhibit A. The Knicks even unveiled a zone for brief stretches when STAT was on the floor/to open the 3rd. I get the logic. Since rotating to a shooter/dealing with the pick and roll is not something you want Amar’e doing, you might as well just tell him, “Just stand there, STAT, and sort of guard whomever passes in front of your field of vision.”
In spite of all that, the defense tonight was pretty decent. That said, let’s not kid ourselves, they weren’t exactly channeling Thibodeau’s Bulls. Much of their success was due to the fact that the Indianans were just as putrid with the ball in their hands as they were devastatingly effective when the Knickerbockers had the rock.
After halftime, it looked for a brief, shining moment as if they’d managed to grind this one out, briefly retaking the lead. But then, in the final frame, it all went absolutely to pot. Nothing. Nada. Futile passes around the perimeter that only left the ball in J.R.’s hands with the shot clock running out, leading to contested shot after contested shot. Earl’s final, 11-29 shooting line looks downright execrable, but honestly, he was put in a no-win situation since neither Kidd (who was about as bad tonight as all of those [like me] who hated his signing over the summer feared he’d be with sloppy turnovers, and bricks as far as the eye could see) nor Prigs could seem to orchestrate anything resembling a pro offense. He was the only one capable of beating his man off the dribble or finding open ‘mates while at the same time was tasked with guarding with and being shadowed by a long, uber-athletic, shutdown wing defender in Paul George (who’s gonna be really, RILLY good [if he isn’t already]).
How bad was it? Look at this snapshot at the 5-minute mark, at which point they’d scored a grand total of one bucket.
And it was all so atrociously ugly. Carve your retinas out with a butter knife ugly. Stab a hatpin through your cerebral cortex in the hopes of short-circuiting the neurons that would retain the memory of this game ugly.
And the fact that it came at the hands of the fucking Pacers, with all of the old villains in attendance — Rik Smits cramming his cumbersome, gawky frame into an ill-fitting suit and an equally undersized luxury box, Donnie Walsh, master of the comb-over, looking on like an inmate that had been paroled from this madhouse, LaSalle Thompson, that steakheaded thug on the Knicks’ bench, Haywood Workman, gyrating like a Sufi mystic with a borderline ecstatic glee at every call that went against the Gothamites (Seriously, NBA, Haywood Workman reffing a game in Indiana v. NY? Way to erase the memory of Tim Donaghy. No appearance of bias at all. Kudos.), and worst of all, that palsied twit, Reggie Miller adding his inane, witless, hackneyed “commentary” throughout.
I could go on and on, but that was maddeningly enraging. Heck, I’ve got a whole 300 words on Woodson’s stupefying insistence on cramming STAT into the lineup at the end of the game despite the fact that they retook the lead/were able to properly space the floor at the end of the 3rd when his 100 million dollar tuchus was firmly planted to the pine and his inability to cobble together anything resembling an effective play/make changes when it was clear the original game plan was just not working, but for the sake of all our sanity, we’ll save that for another evening.
In the end, I think we just all need to grimly accept that until Felton gets back and/or Melo can get a prescription for some serious serotonin reuptake inhibitors, they’re going to struggle.
Chicago’s next on this week of hate. Joy. A few minutes after the game, I got an email from my father which I think sums it up well/puts it all in the proper context.
That game was the lowest point in 3 years! [Editor’s Note: Like all of us, I think Pop has a selective memory, but I get the outrage. That’s probably pretty clear to y’all after reading the previous 1500 words.] Far more important, a new issue of Harper’s has a usual smarmy article by Thomas Frank (What’s the Matter With Kansas) in which he takes apart Lincoln (the movie and that incredibly overrated Doris Kearns Goodwin book) with this wonderful line about Spielberg: “The Michelangelo of the trite”. I should find it online edition and send it to you. This team seems headed for the mediocrity that was hidden for 35 games. Maybe they should go watch that movie together. It’s as overrated and ends as badly as they do.
You tell ‘em, Pop. Screw ‘em all. Spielberg, the state of Indiana, Lincoln, Goodwin, STAT, Woody, Reggie, Spike Lee, the fact that both Camby (sore foot) and Smith (balky knee) were seen hobbling and/or hunting around for crutches after the game, shattered dreams, lost causes, has-beens, never was, lost loves, the death of hope, an existence that is nasty, brutish, meaningless and short…the whole bunch. Stuff ‘em all into the dustbin of history with the force of this nifty J.R. Smith facial.
Hey, did you know that in addition to banging the keys here and occasionally for the NY Times, Robert is a playwright, an actor and a wand'ring mendicant/gadfly? He also once wrestled a bear...and lost.