Raptors 100, Knicks 98
When you have it in basketball, magic can make the fleeting sublime seems permanent and the ball borderline sentient – its path through the basket more a matter of gravity than chance. Magic turns mere men into agents, of a calling and cause at once closer to god and further from us.
But what happens when the magic runs out?
To which church do we turn when the cottage comes down?
In the bosom of what brothel wench does one bury his head when the switches and double-teams have singed his soul?
Towards what port does one steer a wayward ship, when its highest mast meets mayhem in a gale?
From which grain of grit are we to mold a defense capable of playing a full 24 seconds without bailing the other team out?
To where does one retreat when even an earnest effort on D includes Kyle Lowry and Rudy Gay having at you like snacks they just grab from the cupboard at will before their parents come home?
Down the standings, for starters.
The ‘Ptors handed the Knicks a 100-98 loss on Robert Randolph, the team’s fourth straight and 14th in their last 28. Toronto, meanwhile, has won six of their last seven, proving once and for all that Andrea Bargnani secretly owns the team.
Carmelo Anthony and Rudy Gay scored 32 points each, shooting a combined 22-47 and exchanging a few big buckets down the stretch.
Unlike in the Indy Inquisition (it’s the best I could do), the Knicks started the game engaged and enraged, as Earl Monroe might have to start saying if Clyde never comes back – a sluggish first quarter was quickly covered up by a second rife with perimeter clampdowns and terminated possessions.
Unfortunately, the Knicks offense wasn’t much better, dependent as it was on timely spurts from J.R. Smith and that seems like the right place to end that sentence.
Despite connecting on 10 three-pointers – the Knicks were November-0 when hitting as many prior to tonight – New York’s offense never assumed a consistent flow, and many possessions ended accordingly, either in turnovers (16) or horrendous shots (thousands).
For Melo, a rough start from the field (1-5) became a brief photonegative of the torrid starts of yore, with his 17 first half points being the chief impetus for a 51-48 halftime lead. He cooled off quickly down the stretch, however, missing wide-left on the Knicks’ last-ditch attempt at a tie in the game’s closing seconds.
He even held the follow-through.
The game was close from tip to buzzer, with neither team enjoying a lead greater than 13 and both showing the ability to cover ground quickly in stretches throughout.
The Knick offense remains a shambolic shadow of its halcyon self, but by far the most disconcerting trend – more obvious than the Bubonic Plague at this point – is the #@$!%^USgVODaf GGA KLRJG:LSGJD ; SWITCHING!, which the Knicks once again wielded like a limp dick in a sword fight.
J.R. Smith’s relatively disaster-free night (19-4-4 on 12, mostly reasonable shots) proved a couple things: 1) J.R. Smith is still capable of playing good basketball, and; 2) Even if he went out last night, he probably forgot to exchange the currency ahead of time.
A Cossack-vicious throw down off a sweet Melo feed aside, Tyson Chandler might as well have had eggbeaters for hands for much of the game – at least on offense. For someone who routinely rises above some of the world’s most monstrously huge people to grab a rebound, Chandler has a tendency to treat offensive passes in traffic like balls of spent uranium covered in Vegemite.
But credit Tyson also for helping establish something resembling a defensive presence during the second quarter – by far the Bocker’s best effort on that end since…. I can’t count that low – while contributing a pair of vicious blocks (DECEASED: Gay, Valenciunas) that had the considerable Knicks contingent in attendance being generally obnoxious, I’m sure.
With the Nets falling at home to the ascendant Rockets (Jeremy Lin is better than Raymond Felton), the Knicks stood pat in the Atlantic and still hold a one-game lead over their cross-river rivals.
That, unfortunately, is bound to be the silver lining in what was yet another skull-crushingly brutal Bocker performance. That’s how low we’ve come.
Actually, this is how low we’ve come:
Seriously. Someone consciously took the time to create a new Twitter account, just to tweet that. And a few hundred other no doubt awful things that disappeared – along with the account – after I asked him what he’d do if someone I knew had IP tracking software.
Because we’re not allowed to criticize Raymond Felton?
Because we think that giving up open three pointers is something that happens when you double team off of bad switches?
Because when Kurt Thomas asks you during a presser (or a funeral – doesn’t really matter which as long as you shut up and listen) how you’re tweaking the starting lineup, and then you don’t tweak the starting lineup, we worry what’s going on in the clubhouse? Because Kurt Thomas deserves answers?
Because some of us think there’s such a thing as lazy chemistry?
Because that person is an asshole. Plus maybe some of those other things.
This much is clear: The Knicks have been found out. The offensive poise and patience that marked the season’s start, and the wins that woke in tow, have fallen by many a wayside. Fatigue, distrust, confusion – there’s likely a dash of each in this crap casserole, and a great many more unnamed.
Whether Woodson can rein it in, who #@$&!%& knows. There’s certainly something to be said for having the ears – and the respect – of dudes with millions on the line. If nothing else, Woodson has that with these mysterious, mercurial Knickerbockers.
But that’s a far cry from having a plan – a plan to salve, if not solve, the switching issue. A plan for Iman Shumpert and Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni and Kenyon Martin for crying out loud. Something to juice the nerves and spark the offense. A move to shame us as well as shake us. A real game-changer….
…Oh, right, almost forgot: Amar’e Stoudemire had 16 points on 10 shots with six rebounds in 27 minutes. Forgot about that….
Sorry, which panic level were we on?
Beyond his work for KnickerBlogger, Jim is a contributor to the New York Times Off the Dribble NBA blog, ESPN.com, and The Classical. He is currently working on a biography of Robert Silverman, titled "Clownin' and Astoundin.'" Follow him on Twitter @JPCavan.