Thought I’d go over a critical time of the Knicks-Celtics game and try to understand what caused such a bitter defeat. Midway though the fourth quarter, Chauncey Billups just completed a 4 point play to put New York up by 9. The Knicks appeared to be poised for victory, but in less than 3 minutes, the Celtics would regain the lead. How did such a collapse occur?
07:14 Anthony Foul : Shooting (5 PF)
07:14 Pierce Free Throw 2 of 2 (14 PTS)
The Celtics clear out for a Paul Pierce isolation on Carmelo Anthony. Turiaf is at the top of the key, and when Ronny turns his head away from the play Pierce makes his move towards the hoop. Carmelo is a step slow and fouls Pierce for two free throws. Ironically this is exactly the kind of play Anthony excels at on offense.
06:53 Fields Jump Shot: Missed
06:52 Davis Rebound (Off:2 Def:7)
Billups gets the ball to Amar’e who tries to drive in the paint, but is surrounded by Celtics. He sends the ball to Fields on the far side. Fields and Amar’e run a pick & roll. Landry gets the ball to the free throw line, spins, and attempts an ugly jump shot in the middle of the paint. It’s not an ideal shot for the Knicks.
06:46 Pierce 3pt Shot: Made (17 PTS)
Pierce dribbles up the floor and calmly sinks a three pointer.
06:45 Team Timeout : Regular
06:26 Anthony Jump Shot: Missed
06:25 Allen Rebound (Off:2 Def:4)
Mike D’Antoni has been criticized for not being able to draw up plays after timeouts, and this is a good example. Billups passes the ball to Carmelo on the wing, and Turiaf attempts to run a pick & roll. ‘Melo lets Turaif roll to the basket with nary a look and it’s isolation time. However Pierce knocks the ball out of bounds for an in-bounds play.
At this point you have to wonder what the Knicks coaching staff was thinking. I can understand if you want to get the ball to Anthony, but run something with a little more creativity than just a iso-clear out. You can have that on just about any possession.
During the in-bounds play, Anthony shoves Pierce and gets free. Billups gets him the ball in the corner, but Garnett leaves Amar’e to take ‘Melo. Pierce and Big Baby both cover Stoudemire, leaving Turiaf wide open at the foul line. Anthony holds the ball pondering the works of Bukowski, then takes two dribbles and puts up a contested shot against Garnett. Knick announcer Mike Breen says “that’s not a good shot.”
06:09 Allen 3pt Shot: Missed
06:09 Team Rebound 06:09
05:53 Pierce Jump Shot: Made (19 PTS)
Rondo tries to thread the ball to Big Baby in the paint, but Amar’e comes off his man and tips the ball. Turiaf and Davis both try to retrieve the ball, but Baby comes up with it. In the confusion Ray Allen is open in the corner, and Davis hits him with the pass. Allen misses the shot, and three Knicks are there to rebound it. Unfortunately the ball takes a healthy bounce and Stoudemire tries to track it down. Rondo speeds over into the corner and knocks the ball out on STAT.
On that series the Celtics both got lucky (Davis coming up with the ball) and made their own luck (Rondo hustling to save the possession). The Knicks take ‘Melo off of Pierce due to his foul trouble. The Celtics go to Pierce in an isolation again, and he gets dribble separation from Landry Fields for an easy jumper.
05:38 Stoudemire Jump Shot: Missed
05:36 Allen Rebound (Off:2 Def:5)
I certainly wouldn’t call this a jump shot. Amar’e goes baseline and is met by three Celtics. Stoudemire goes for the dunk, but can’t get to the rim. He lobbies for the foul call while the Celtics spring up court…
05:32 Garnett Alley Oop Layup shot: Made (22 PTS) Assist: Rondo (11 AST)
… and in 4 seconds Rondo delivers an alley-oop to Garnett to tie the game.
05:12 Fields Layup Shot: Missed
05:11 Fields Rebound (Off:2 Def:4)
05:07 Anthony 3pt Shot: Missed
05:05 Pierce Rebound (Off:0 Def:5)
The Celtics double team Billups at the top of the key, who gets the ball into Landry Fields’ hands. The Knick rookie has a mismatch on Davis, but can’t take advantage. He puts up a poor layup (the ball goes backwards), which takes such an odd angle that it seems to catch everyone by surprise. In the confusion, Fields gets the ball back and finds Carmelo Anthony for an open three. But ‘Melo misses and…
05:01 Allen Driving Reverse Layup Shot: Made (11 PTS) Assist: Pierce (1 AST)
… all the other Knicks are on the baseline, which means no one is back on defense. By the time the Celtics grab the rebound, Fields is standing next to Carmelo, who is still in the same spot from his missed attempt. Both Ray Allen and Rondo have slipped passed the Knicks (think soccer offsides), and the Celtics throw the ball up-court for an easy layup.
Although the Knicks did tie the game again, this critical moment illustrates some of the problems this team is going to have this year. Two of the three problems I noted yesterday came to light in these series. First the Knicks lacked that swingman stopper and were unable to prevent Paul Pierce from scoring down the stretch. Carmelo Anthony and Landry Fields were both unable to make him uncomfortable and force him into a more difficult or less efficient shot. Second the Knicks needed a big man that could make the defense pay from the perimeter. Turiaf was open a number of times, but the Knicks chose not to get him the ball due to his lack of an outside game. Additionally having a more tenacious rebounder chase down the missed Allen shot would have saved a possession.
Most importantly, this team is not constructed to compliment the strengths and weaknesses of Stoudemire and Anthony. Not to beat a dead horse, but rather to illustrate the roster problems New York is facing, had the Knicks had Chandler and Gallinari instead of Carmelo & Turiaf they would have been better suited in these possessions. For instance instead of forcing an over-matched Landry Fields to guard Pierce, Gallo and Chandler could have taken turns. And the latter pair would have been more suited for the task. Additionally, the Celtics could not have left either Chandler or Gallo open like they did with Turiaf.
Again the Knicks have a roster problem, and not one of chemistry. If New York is going to fill their team with scorers who have questionable defensive habits, they need defenders to fill the other spots. Asking Landry Fields to guard Paul Pierce in a critical possession isn’t ideal. If on offense they’re going to go to isolation with their two stars, they need guys that will make them pay for double teams. Having Turiaf on the perimeter in the SSOL works because the ball travels around so much he can use his passing skills to find an open man.
But trying to run isolation with the Celtics playing 5 on 4 due to Turiaf isn’t what the team had in mind back in July.