In the last installment, I looked at a recorded version of the Knicks’ game against Miami on Sunday in order to get a better understanding of the team. Today I’m going to look at David Lee’s play in the first quarter. Due to Zach Randolph’s absence, Lee started but was removed only a few minutes into the game. From a layman’s perspective this might have seemed justified because his man Udonis Haslem scored 10 points on a perfect 5-5 shooting. Isiah Thomas sent Malik Rose, whose strength lies on the defensive end, to the scorer’s table just 7 minutes into the game. Since I was curious what Lee did that earned him a quick hook, I’m only going to look at the plays that are significant to this event.
10:40 [NYK 6-0]
Lee Slam Dunk Shot: Made (2 PTS)
Assist: Marbury (1 AST)
The Heat get distracted as Quentin Richarson fumbles the ball, but recovers it. Lee slips past his defender under the hoop and raises his hands. Marbury hits Lee with a pass, and David dunks the ball for an easy 2 points.
Davis Layup Shot: Missed Block: Lee (1 BLK)
Miami has the ball and attempts a pick & roll with Davis & Haslem. The pick & roll (especially with Haslem) will be a staple of the Heat offense all night long. Lee switches on the play, follows Davis to the hoop and blocks his shot attempt.
Crawford Turnover:Lost Ball (1 TO) Steal:Hardaway (1 ST)
9:59 [MIA 2-6]
Haslem Driving Dunk Shot: Made (2 PTS)
Assist: Hardaway (1 AST)
Crawford losses the ball as the Knicks bring it up, and Lee picks up Jason Williams in transition to slow the Miami fast break. Unfortunately nobody picks up Lee’s man Haslem, and Hardaway finds him for an easy score.
Lee Turnover:Lane Violation (1 TO)
This one speaks for itself. Lee steps into the lane too early on a Curry foul shot attempt, and the Knicks lose a point. This is a foolish mental lapse on Lee’s part.
Davis 3pt Shot: Missed
Lee Rebound (Off:0 Def:1)
David Lee is one of three Knicks that has to guard against Jason Williams’ incursion into the lane. Williams kicks the ball out to Ricky Davis who misses an open three. Lee grabs the miss.
8:48 [MIA 5-8]
Williams 3pt Shot: Made (3 PTS)
Another pick & roll by Miami. This time Crawford is on Jason Williams, and the pick is set by Haslem. Crawford is so far behind on the pick, that Williams is at the free throw line while Jamal is still behind the three point line. Lee does a good job picking up Williams and forces him to the baseline, preventing him from getting in the lane. Crawford recovers, and Lee leaves to cover Haslem. However with Crawford on him, Williams creates some space for himself and sinks a three pointer.
Lee Layup Shot: Missed
On the next series, Lee goes baseline against Haslem, but he misses the reverse layup. The Knick announcers state that it was a “nice move” despite the negative outcome.
Marbury Foul:Shooting (1 PF)
Williams Free Throw 1 of 2 missed
8:17 [MIA 6-8]
Williams Free Throw 2 of 2 (4 PTS)
Miami runs the pick & roll again, this time Marbury is on Jason Williams. Lee gives Stephon room to go under the pick. Despite being in a position where he should be able to defend the inside, Marbury is unable to prevent Williams from getting to the hoop. Marbury fouls Williams, who converts one of two.
7:45 [MIA 8-8]
Haslem Jump Shot: Made (4 PTS)
Assist: Williams (1 AST)
The Knicks miss a shot, and Miami is in transition. Quentin Richardson is playing center field, making sure no one gets an easy bucket. Marbury takes Richardson’s man, Ricky Davis. Suddenly Davis drives to the hoop towards Richardson with Marbury trailing. With two defenders on him, he kicks it out to Marbury’s man, Jason Williams. Lee rotates over, and Williams hits Lee’s man Haslem for an open jumper.
Lee Turnover:Bad Pass (2 TO) Steal:Hardaway (2 ST)
Richardson is posting Hardaway, and Lee tries to get Quentin the ball. Penny jumps in front and intercepts the pass. Miami tries to take advantage of the opportunity…
Davis Layup Shot: Missed
Lee Rebound (Off:0 Def:2)
…but Davis misses the shot and Lee grabs the miss.
Haslem Jump Shot: Made (6 PTS)
Assist: Williams (2 AST)
Jason Williams blows past Marbury on a Shaq pick & roll. Lee helps out on this play, and Haslem is wide open. Williams hits Haslem, who nails the open 12 footer.
O’Neal Layup Shot: Missed
Haslem Rebound (Off:1 Def:1)
6:21 [MIA 12-12]
Haslem Hook Shot: Made (8 PTS)
Shaq has the ball in the post and Lee double teams to assist Curry. Lee flails his arms as Shaq comes towards him, but O’Neal misses the shot. Looking at the replay, two things occur here. First is that Lee is shocked for a moment that he isn’t called for a foul on the play. It looks like he intended to foul Shaq to force him to convert from the charity stripe. This moment of hesitation may have cost him the rebound. Haslem beat Lee to the ball and puts it back for another score. The second thing is that Eddy Curry could have had the rebound. After Shaq misses the shot, Curry who is less than 6 feet from the hoop runs towards the offensive end, instead of trying to rebound the ball.
Lee Jump Shot: Missed
David Lee misses an open jumper. Lee had the ball by himself on the baseline, but Shaq was under the hoop conceding the shot, not allowing Lee to get closer.
Malik Rose seen sitting at the scorer’s table waiting to check in.
O’Neal Jump Shot: Missed
Lee Rebound (Off:0 Def:3)
Shaq misses, and Lee grabs the rebound.
3:41 [MIA 18-14]
Haslem Jump Shot: Made (10 PTS)
Assist: Williams (3 AST)
Williams and Haslem again run the pick & roll. Williams goes through it to his left, then back to his right. Marbury is unable to stay with Williams, and Lee helps out picking him up at the foul line. Williams passes the ball behind his back to Haslem, and Haslem buries his 5th shot. In this play, Lee was hampered by Marbury who ran into him trying to get Haslem, preventing him from getting to Udonis.
Lee Layup Shot: Missed
3:21 [NYK 16-18]
Curry Putback Layup Shot: Made (8 PTS)
Marbury & Curry run their own pick & roll. Marbury passes to Curry, who is quickly double teamed. Curry then hits Lee who is picked up by Shaq. Lee can’t make the layup, but Curry is there to clean up the mess.
Lee Substitution replaced by Rose
Looking back at Haslem’s perfect 5-5 stretch against Lee, 2 were in transition, 2 were on pick & roll plays, and one was due to an offensive rebound. However it’s hard to single out Lee as the culprit for these plays. For the transition baskets, Lee made sure he was back on defense, but had to cover someone else’s man. Similarly with the pick & roll, Lee had to defend the guard on the Haslem buckets.
While Lee didn’t have a good offensive start, his defense was at least adequate. Looking at these plays it’s clear that the Knicks’ defensive problems stem from more than just one player. It’s easy to point to the guards as the root of the cause, but New York’s defensive woes may go further than that. Take the pick & roll. I don’t recall the last time the Knicks “hedged” (where the forward steps out to slow down the guard) under Isiah Thomas. It’s funny because the hedge was a staple of the past Knick teams. In fact I can’t even think about Kurt Thomas without thinking how good he was at slowing down guards on the pick & roll. In fact they seem to do one of two things. Either the guard goes under, or the guard goes over and tries to catch up with his man. Unfortunately neither tactic seems particularly effective. The Knicks inability to come up with any way to slow down the pick & roll might be the fault of their players. But it might also be the fault of the coaching staff, who has been unable to put together an adequate defense.