Robert Goes to the Game

And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.”
-Revelations 6:8

It’s always a solid idea to invoke the eternal in situations like these. Granted, the Columbia School of Journalism would frown on such a thing. Not your classic pyramidal lede, after all. But I used the King James version in honor of last night’s opponent. Yours truly, by dint of luck, got to attend this titanic affair in person (some of you may have already read my in-game tweets). Just as the good Dr. Thompson would have were he still with us, I brought a pad and paper (no smart-phone for Altacockers like me — heck, I came this close to wearing a fedora and bringing a Smith-Corona with me) and took copious notes. Here, Gonzo-style, is my mostly unedited, minute-by-minute experience of/commentary on said contest…

5:20 – Walking up 7th Avenue. Looking for that “Knicks buzz” that we haven’t seen round these parts since Bubba Clinton was lord and master of all he surveyed. It’s sorta there. Scalpers milling about at five-ish is a good sign. So is cops half-heartedly trying to bust said scalpers. For a second I ponder hocking my ticket and “covering” this event from Rudy’s Bar and Grill down the block (free hot dogs!). But considering I’m a respected member of the mainstream media, I quickly ditch this idea.

5:25 – I finish my last cigarette and enter MSG. Turns out, Gerry Cosby Sporting Goods is no longer in existence. I die a little inside. Back in the day, going to the game with my father, a key part of our pre-game ritual involved a pit stop at Gerry Cosby to stare in wonderment at the game-used jerseys and (utterly out of our price range) threads for sale. I blame Ebay/Craigslist for its demise. [Ed’s note: Cosby’s is still alive, 31st street East of 7th.]

5:26 – I wander over to the concierge desk and get my ticket. Clyde Frazier saunters (and I mean saunters) by. He’s rocking a turquoise suit, shirt and shoes. Sweet.

5:35 – So this shindig’s been set up by American Express. Upon entering, I’m approached by a middle management-type who gives me a free hat (not to mention, you know, the tickets) so I smile politely and make a beeline for the hors-d’oeuvres.

5:36 – I was hoping for some good cheese at the buffet table, but alas, there’s just reheated pigs-in-a-blanket and some chicken teriyaki thingies.  I eat them anyway. I mean, they’re there so I’ll eat but I was kinda hoping for fancy cheese m’self.

5:38 – There’s Clyde Frazier and Earl “The Pearl” Monroe. I’m giddy as a schoolgirl. Seriously, just in awe. I walk over, attempting to be casual, as if chilling with all-time NBA greats is a daily occurrence for your humble correspondent. (I assume I fail. Casual anything isn’t my strong suit).  They’re talking about Rondo and how they’d defend his lack of a shot. Clyde, in his ineffable greatness says, “I’d insult him. I’d stand five feet away with my hands at my side and dare him to shoot. One miss, and he’d be mine for the rest of the game.” (I so want to be as cool as Walt Frazier in my next life). You may have seen some of the choice quotes from Clyde n’ Pearl at the mini-“press conference” that I tweeted (http://twitter.com/KnickerBlogger). But prior to this, we just hung out and talked hoops. I’m just about ready to die happily now. A few snippets of our chit-chat below…

PEARL: Dick Barnett used to bring his man close to me so he’d lay off Dick and double me. That was his way of letting me know it was time to give him the ball.

CLYDE: The Knicks haven’t executed a last-second play well since Red was the coach.

(I then asked Clyde, “Is that the players’ fault? Or the coach’s/poor play design?)

CLYDE: It’s both. They don’t practice it enough. In that situation, you’re so exhausted it has to be instinctive. You have to rely on muscle memory.

(Side note — I often carp on Clyde’s malapropisms/misused vocab when he’s calling a game. Hearing him “just talk” he’s clearly a very bright, articulate guy. It make me kinda wish he’d ditch the rhyming shtick — he clearly doesn’t need  it.)

PEARL: I almost came out of retirement to play for the expansion Dallas Mavericks in ’81. They really tried to sell me. Offered me a house in Dallas and a front office job when I retired. Almost said yes, but I really couldn’t play any more and I didn’t want the fans to remember me struggling.

CLYDE: (Comparing LBJ/Wade to himself and Monroe) Someone has to adapt and change their game. A team always knows who the alpha dog is. You fight it, and everyone gets messed up. Pearl changed to fit with me and we were able to flourish.

6:10 – I’m positively floating after getting to talk roundball with two of my heroes. In my stupor, I eat my eighth pig-in-a-blanket. The waiters are eyeballing me warily.

6:15 – The aforementioned mini-press conference. I listen for a bit. When the questions devolve into, “What was your favorite moment as a Knick,” I figure this is my chance to grab a last smoke before the game begins. Alas, I’m not allowed to leave. For serious. There’s an electronic chip on the ticket that once scanned, can’t be re-scanned or something and so if I go, I’m out for good. I begin to mumble something about hyper-technology dehumanizing us all and go back to the event, smoke-free.

6:30 – John Starks enters.

6:31 – John Starks exits.

6:32 – Wait, was that John Starks? Is he coming back? I wanna meet John Starks and do the three-fingers-to-the-heart gesture!! I go to ask the AMEX guy, but he’s hitting on the bartender. Poop.

6:35 – The pre-game event is over and we’re supposed to head up to the luxury suite, but I break away from the pack to take in the ambiance and go over my notes (this will be important later). Charles Smith walks by. He seems to not have aged at all since 1993. Ironic, since his series of bricks at the end of Game Five v. the Bulls clearly took ten years off my life and added three or four permanent furrows to my brow. [Ed’s note: That moment is what turned me from a boy into a man. It stole any childhood happiness from my soul.]

6:55 – I make my way up to the suite. I’ve never seen this part of MSG before. Honestly, it looks like the hallway of a Days Inn somewhere. Middle-aged, red-faced, clearly wealthy guys in suits, reeking of axe body wash are dragging their half-bored fraying trophy wives behind them. Again, just totally out of my element. The Garden for me will always be dingy fluorescent hallways that reek of deep-fried food and/or urine. It’s like the Great Recession never happened for these people. I can guarantee you that none of them ever considered lining their pockets with Ziploc bags to scarf buffet-table leftovers (I’ll let y’all decide if that’s a good or a bad thing).

7:00 – I enter the suite. We’re above the blue seats. To my surprise, being this high up allows for a much better view of the game than what one would find in the 200’s. There’s clearly a mathematical reason for this, but look! More buffet food. Sliders and dumplings and wings! Awesome. Excuse me please…

7:03 – Again, I try to suss out the vibe of MSG. Being this far away from the huddled, unwashed masses makes it a wee bit difficult, but there’s a genuine nervous energy about the place. Folks are ready to bust out with joy and/or hate.

7:08 – Pre-game hoopla. It’s a remnant of the Isiah regime. So much hurly-burly. T-shirt cannons. Random hype guys trying to get the crowd juiced. Hate it. I understand when the Knicks were a pitiable lot, some corporate bigwigs might have thought all this sound and fury was necessary to, you know, distract the populace from the abhorrent product on the court. But now that there’s a good (or at least usually entertaining) team, it’s just not necessary. I’m reminded, oddly enough, of a scene from that awful remake of Rollerball.

7:12 – Oh, right. The game. LeBron, etc. That’s why we’re here.

7:20 – Between sending Mike K. my tweets, taking notes and snacking like a fiend, I realize that I’m only semi-paying attention to what’s occurring on the court. I’m more impressed than ever by Bill Simmons’ running game diaries/”Cover it live” scribblings (to which this little ditty owes more than a passing resemblance). It’s really hard to write about and watch the game and be vaguely witty and/or insightful all at the same time.

7:25 – I ravage the buffet/beverage table like Amar’e going to the rim on the pick and roll. I’m on my twelfth piggie-blankety treat and loading up with Buffalo wings. So now I’ve got a hot sauce slathered face (bleu cheese dressing is for wimps) and I’m intermittently bellowing things like, “That was a foul!” and, “Stop throwing up early three’s Raymond/Will/Landry! Move the @#$%^& ball!!” My fellow box residents are starting to give me the stink-eye. None of them seem nearly as emotionally invested in the outcome of the match as I am.

7:35 – 1st Quarter ends. Nix down nine. I’m trying to figure out what cost our lads the lead. Felton/Amar’e seem too eager to play well. Doubling LeBron is allowing Bosh and Carlos effing Arroyo to nail easy open shots. While marveling at my brilliant analysis, I suddenly realize that I’ve been in the wrong luxury suite the whole time. I’m surprised no one asked who I was what I was doing there or something, but as I said, these folks didn’t seem to care too much that they were there, so my presence wasn’t likely to make that much of an impression.

7:38 – I make my way to the AMEX box. This is more like it. I’m suddenly surrounded by some seriously jacked fans, wearing Amar’e jerseys and drinking heavily. (The fact that this suite [unlike my first one] contained a fully stocked bar probably helped. I take a moment to curse the fact that I’m an alcoholic and move on). Much theorizing about why they’re down. Someone says, “D’Antoni sucks!” Cogent analysis or not, these are my people. The AMEX guy asks, “Where have you been?” I mutter something about being in the wrong suite and he laughs stiffly and whacks me on the back saying, “You rock, dude!” He’s like the fraternity brother I never had.

7:52 – Oo! A Padma Lakshmi sighting in celebrity row! She’s like, really pretty and like, this season of Top Chef looks like totally promising if…Wait. Wrong pointless obsession. Sorry ’bout that. [Ed’s note: I thought I was the only one? Which chef do you think has the best game? The easy answer is Anthony Bourdain, but I’d put my money on the darkhorse chef/cager, Eric Ripert. There are plenty of ballers in France… I see what you mean by pointless obsession.]

7:59 – The Knickerbockers start to claw their way back in the game, capped by Willll-son CHAND-La!’s thunderous dunk on the break. The suite’s rocking and the one attractive woman in the room starts to dance seductively to whatever classic rock tune they’re playing during the time out. Suddenly every male with an operant limbic system shifts their curdling blood-rage into an indefinable lust for this supple yet lithe, gyrating female. Her ostensible boyfriend, heretofore the most vociferous chap in the joint, gets quiet and protective.

8:10 – Halftime. Tied. I’m seriously jonesing for a smoke, but the food-coma I’m entering is counteracting the effects nicely. Everyone in the suite is super-sure that the Nix will win this one. I’m not convinced. It’s not the ten years of losing, mind you. My Nix, even when they were a “contender” always seemed to botch games like this’n. I wonder how these doe-eyed optimists are going to react when the soul-crushing defeats inevitably arrive. Will they be thrilled just to have “meaningful games?” Will they revel in “moral victories?” Or will they be even more distraught?

8:30 – My notes say in all-caps & repeatedly underlined, “3 MISSED FREE THROWS BY STAT. THAT’S THE GAME. IT’S OVER.” Again, I’ve seen too many of these affairs. It’s not because I have any great b-ball insight, mind you, it’s all a matter of  repetition. I’ve seen this show before. Just like I know how Hamlet’s going to end when I watch that bit o’ drama play out.

8:54 – And just like that, down 16 at the end of the third. John Kenney’s got a much more thorough recap but in short, LeBron went into full-on killer mode.

9:02 – The fans in the pricey seats start leaving in droves and the energy in the arena deflates quicker than the Metrodome.

9:12 – The AMEX guy asks if I’m sticking around for the post-game interviews. Of course, I say. He seems edgy and queries what I plan on asking Gallo/Stat/Turiaf (Who evidently are going to hang around to chill with us uber-fans after getting grilled by the beat reporters. I’m impressed. After this game, I’d be high-tailing it out of there.) I reassure him I won’t say anything to kick the team after a bad loss. Clearly, I’ll never be employed by the New York Post.

9:25 – Game’s over and we’ve made our serpentine way through the bowels of MSG to the court. We wait.

9:30 – We wait some more. Again, if Gallo/Stat/Ronny chose to bail, I wouldn’t blame them.

9:31 – By the way, the fans in the pricey seats left a TON of food on the floor. Aside from the mess, those things are expensive and some people took less than one bite before throwing it away! Why not take it with you? It’s still good! Och!

9:33 – Stephen A. Smith walks by. Someone in our group yells out, “Quite frankly, I love them Cheesy Doodles!” I laugh like a hyena. If you’d like to get the reference, check out this clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nAB5lOIl-2U. Heh. Cheesy Doodles.

9:35 – Gallo/Stat/Ronny come out. AMEX has swung us a free photo with them on the Knicks’ logo at center court. I wait my turn and step on to the sacred floor of Madison Square Garden.  I’m 12 years old and Bernard King is still the best baller ever. I mime launch a three and stand next to the aforementioned trio. Kill me now.

(Side note — NBA players are really tall. The thing about watching games on TV is that, since everyone on the court is usually a ginormous human being (save Nate), one doesn’t realize how massive these guys really are. We’re not even the same species. There’s a photo coming of this moment via mail which I’ll share with y’all as soon as it arrives. I’ll be the midget sporting an ear-to-ear grin.)

9:36 – As the photographer gets ready, I say to Turiaf, “C’est dommage, mon gros!” (Translation: Too bad, my friend!) Completely unsurprised by my comment in French, he replies, “Oui, Oui, Le demain sera meilleur.” (Translation: Tomorrow will be better). Ronny Turiaf is super-cool. Then I say to Gallo, “In bocca al lupo! (Translation: Into the mouth of the wolf – it’s Italian slang that means, “good luck”). He was seriously taken aback, but still managed to pull off a fist bump while saying, “Crepi!” (Again, it literally means “Eat it!” but it’s slang for, “I will!”).  Dap from Gallo plus a bit of linguistic gymnastics has me on cloud nine. I’m King Superfly Baddass Mofo.

9:40 – We find out the Q&A has been canceled. They’ve got to get on a plane to Cleveland. No quibbles here.

9:50 – I’m on 7th Ave again, killing my nic-fit and still in a daze (maybe it’s the literal truckload of buffet I gobbled). Thinking back on the evening’s events, I’m given pause by how much it didn’t feel like going to the game (at least not in any sense that I’d experienced before). I know we lost and I have a few ideas as to why, but the usual emotional highs and lows were for the most part completely absent. And then it hit me. I couldn‘t watch the game as a fan because I was there to report on the game. Now, I’m not saying I had a typical sportswriter’s experience. For one, I assume that real reporters aren’t nearly as star-struck as I was. But the thing I think I shared with those ink-stained wretches is the sense of detachment that’s required for the task at hand. There’s really no way to root for the Knicks and write about it as it happens (recaps for Knickerblogger are clearly another matter entirely) in any competent manner. So I sacrificed my emotional investment in order to type this. And were someone to pay me to report on this team on a daily basis (Ha!), I’d have to stop pulling for this team in order to do my job. I guess I just inadvertently discovered objective journalism.

Didn’t see that coming.

Heat 113, Knicks 91

December 17th, 2010, is a date that has been circled on my calendar since the league announced this season’s schedule. Tonight was the city’s chance to shout out our new opinion of LeBron to his face for the first time. Long wooed by the city, with Knicks fans applauding his accomplishments on our home court, his “Decision” changed everything. The fans who once longed for James in orange and blue now despise him.

And boy, did MSG do its part tonight. From before tipoff throughout the first half the crowd was electric, with thunderous chants of “DE-FENSE” every time the Heat touched the ball, and loud Boos ringing out each time it was passed to LeBron. The crowd even reserved a special chant for when Chris Bosh would shoot free throws: “OVER-RATED“, no doubt a result of the Heat’s implied belief this summer that Bosh was the best free-agent power forward, a belief any Knicks fan would now contest. Moreover, the team was giving us a reason to cheer, overcoming a 13 point second quarter deficit to lead the game with 3:24 left in the first half on a Landry Fields tip-in. Though the Knicks and Heat entered the half tied at 59, the game was soon to turn, with the Heat outscoring the Knicks by 16 in the 3rd quarter, with LeBron shooting 6-9 in the quarter for 14 points. The fourth quarter left nothing to doubt, as the Knicks were unable to find any offensive rhythm. Despite the horrific 2nd half, I don’t believe that tonight’s loss should be a cause for major alarm. My thoughts on the matter and analysis of the box score below.

  • First and foremost, this was not Amar’e’s night. During the recent win streak, Amar’e had appeared perfectly in control, a combination of power and grace that could not be stopped. Tonight was the polar opposite- everything Amar’e did seemed rushed and slightly out-of-control. 24 points on 28 shots is not the efficiency we’ve come to expect, and four turnovers certainly didn’t help. However, I doubt this problem will continue. For one thing, it appeared that Amar’e was hit on the arms every time he drove towards the hoop, with nary a call. It’s questionable tonight whether it would have helped- Amar’e shot an incredibly poor 2-7 from the free throw line- but other refs may well have been blown the whistle. Every superstar has a bad night now and then, and tonight easily could have been the result of the incredible minutes per game D’Antoni has been playing Amar’e. Perhaps the best thing tonight’s result could do is force the Knicks to lean a bit more on someone like Anthony Randolph (who looked hungry for playing time during the few minutes of garbage time he received) to spell Amar’e. Amar’e finished with a +/- of -22, which was poor but hardly the worst on the team.
  • That honor would belong to Raymond Felton, who posted an incredible +/- of -33. I wonder if the heavy minutes are again a suspect for the poor play, specifically because some of the things Raymond is best at (driving the hoop for a lay-up, for example), were absolutely beyond him tonight. Raymond hit the underside of the rim at least two times on drives- ugly.  He shot 3-12, was 0-3 from 3, and while the box score shows he dished 10 assists, he had no impact on the game. Not a result you would like against a team which is widely considered not to have a point guard. I’m not sure who we can look to to give him rest though, so this one is questionable.
  • Interestingly enough, the only positive +/- on the night belonged to Shawne Williams. This is attributable largely to his presence on an interesting second quarter line-up featuring four players shooting over 36% from three- Gallo, Chandler, Williams, and Fields- and a 5th, Toney Douglas, who is not shy to shoot. This was quite the interesting lineup. Wilson Chandler was the player presumably playing at center, if one had to be designated as such.  This group erased much of the deficit, and gave the Heat plenty of trouble defensively, mainly because the Knicks knocked down a few shots, but, alas, this particular lineup was not to return in the second half.
  • Thank goodness Gallo was dialed in to start the game, or it might not have remained close for even a half. Gallo’s 21 points before halftime were inspired. One could sense that he was playing with a great deal of confidence. Unfortunately his shot, along with the rest of the team’s, went away in the second half. Regardless, his 25 points were a game-high.

So why am I not particularly worried? First, I think Felton and Stoudemire are better than they showed tonight. Given proper rest, I would doubt they perform as poorly the next time they play the Heat. Second, their free throw shooting was just atrocious tonight (56.5%.) Making the ten free throws we missed wouldn’t have won the game for us, but considering the quality our players normally demonstrate at the charity stripe, shooting such a low percentage is an anomaly. Third, LeBron and the Heat were just incredible tonight, but in a way that could be hard to repeat. If you disregard a late miss by James Jones in garbage time, the Heat shot just under 59% from 3 tonight. Furthermore, LeBron knocked down a number of long two-pointers. While one is hard-pressed to call it great defense when his shot is dropping, the defenses of teams who have played the Cavs in the playoffs have designed their scheme to force him to take that exact type of a shot. On another night, his shooting percentage could quite easily be below the 60% he had tonight, including 50% from deep. This shooting contributed to the largest +/- on the night, at +31. However, this is why we wanted him on the Knicks. LeBron James is really good at the game of basketball. While the Knicks couldn’t ‘Beat the Heat’ tonight, despite the rowdy support of the MSG faithful, there are some losses to which one doesn’t need to overreact, and I count this among them.

What Difference Did Two Games Make, Statistically Speaking?

The Knicks have won their last two contests, and have snuck into 7th place in the Eastern Conference standings. This chain of events might have coaxed Knick fans who were on the ledge back into safety. But what do these recent games say about the team? To do so I’ll compare the Knicks stats from prior to this win streak to today. I’ll concentrate with team stats, since they are the most insightful.

The good news is that the New York offense has jumped up to the 8th spot from the 18th. Although the Knicks have improved in each of the four factors, the biggest improvement has come in free throw shooting. Getting to the line is now a Knick forte, with the 3rd best rate in the league. Although Amar’e (8.2 fta/36) and Gallinari (7.5 fta/36) power the franchise, Wilson Chandler has made the most significant strides (3.4 to 4.0 fta/36).

On the other hand, the defense has declined as New York now ranks 24th, down 4 spots from prior to the win streak and 13 spots from less than a week ago. Defense appeared to be a Knick strength, but now has become a liability. The only factor that dramatically dropped was opponent shooting percentage, which is now the fifth worst in the league behind the Kings, Wizards, Suns, and Clippers. The knee-jerk answer is that Turiaf’s injury has made New York worse on defense. However Ronny came back on the 16th, a day after the Knicks were ranked 11th. Additionally he’s started in the last 3 games, so it’s hard to explain the defensive decline on his absence. The better explanation is that the team overall hasn’t done a good job in preventing opponents from getting good looks at the rim. The strength of the Knick defense is in making opponents cough up the ball, as New York ranks 11th in forcing turnovers.

Nuggets 120, Knicks 118

To be honest, if before the season started I had known that the Knicks would drop this game, I wouldn’t have been too upset. The Nuggets have been a quality team for a number of seasons, and losing to them on the road would be no great problem. The problem is that I likely would have assumed that the Knicks entered the game with a better record than the 3-7 they sported as they entered the Pepsi Center this evening, a record made even more excruciating by the manner in which the Knicks have lost. Tonight’s loss was the Knicks’ fifth by five points or less, which doesn’t include the 21 pt blown lead in the game against Minnesota. The team is proving that it is good enough to make the game close, but also that they are still that play or two away from getting over the hump. Down by eleven points with just over six minutes left, the Knicks made up the difference in three minutes to tie the game at 109. From that point on, however, the Knicks missed six of their last nine shots, with only a Raymond Felton(19 pts 11 ast) three-pointer with one second left bringing the margin back to within two points. Quick thoughts from the box score:

  • If there was a positive to be taken away from tonight’s game, it was the continued emergence of Landry Fields into a bona fide starting guard in the NBA. Count me as among the optimists when it comes to Fields- he’s displayed an excellent ability to drive past his defender and finish at the rim, and his numbers tonight (21 pts on 15 fga and 17 reb) back up the data from the season thus far. Fields is an efficient scorer whom I’d love to see given more opportunities to display his previously-questioned-now-undeniable athleticism.
  • And the loser tonight? That distinction must belong to Roger Mason Jr., who managed an astonishing +/- of -11 in only six minutes of playing time. Mason looks nothing like the shooting guard who fearlessly fired three-pointers on San Antonio Squads earlier in the decade. His minutes could almost certainly be better divvied up between Fields and Bill Walker, giving Mason a nice seat next to Eddy Curry.
  • On the Nuggets side, rumored Knick-to-be Carmelo Anthony scored 26 points, requiring 21 shots to do so and turning the ball over five times. I leave it to you to decide if you’d be excited to trade for him.
  • Wilson Chandler contributed five blocked shots, keeping his average at an incredible 2.3 per game and putting him in the top ten in blocks per game in the NBA this season. Those critical of Ill Will’s efficiency may have been pleasantly surprised by his 23 points on 16 attempts, although one would like to see him corral more than one rebound.
  • Finally, Gallo’s shooting woes continued (6-19), though he did shoot 7-8 from the stripe to give him 21 pts.

All in all, the loss tonight puts pressure on the Knicks to take a game from the Kings in Arco Arena this Wednesday. If the Knicks are to truly be considered a playoff team in the East, it’s the type of game they need to win, not only to add a W to the win-loss column, but also to stop what is now a six-game losing streak.

Wolves 112, Knicks 103

view of a road sign saying panic button

Before the game I took a gander at my stat page to see what the Knicks were up against. The Timberwolves seemed to be their typical pathetic selves, ranked 30th on offense and 25th on defense. Most of the four factors were below average, far below average. That is except for one notable exception, rebounding. Prior to tonight’s game, Minnesota ranked 2nd in offensive rebounding, 8th on their own glass.

So it should not have been a surprise to see the Twolves dominate New York on the glass. In the third quarter with Amar’e Stoudemire on the bench due to foul trouble, it seemed that Kevin Love grabbed every Minnesota miss. With Mozgov occupied with Darko Milicic, New York had Wilson Chandler on Love. And for the most part that match-up on the glass looked like a high schooler facing off against grade schoolers. Love set a Minny record with 15 rebounds in the 3rd quarter, three shy of the NBA record (Nate Thurmond in 1965). By the game’s end he also set the team record for total rebounds with 31.

New York squandered a 21 lead in the 3rd quarter, and Minnesota eventually took the lead in the 4th quarter with 9 minutes left and went on to victory. In addition to being out-muscled and out-hustled on the glass, the Knicks shot poorly (44% eFG). Five New Yorkers had more shots than points, Chandler (17 points, 19 fga), Amar’e (14 pts, 15 fga), Douglas (10 pts, 9 fga), Mozgov (0 pts, 2 fga), and Randolph (0 pts, 2 fga). Although Chandler shot poorly, he did contribute with 5 blocks and 7 assists. And Felton (22 pts, 13 fga, 8 ast), Fields (16 pts 14 fga, 9reb, 3 stl), and Gallo (25 pts, 17 fga, 5 reb) saw their good nights wasted in the losing effort.

2010-2011 Game Recap: Warriors 122 – Knickerbockers 117

One of the most entertainingly stupid games I’ve seen in a long time.
— Frank O.

How to sum this up for those that might have missed this sordid affair? Well, it’s a game the Knicks should have won, that for the majority of it, they should have lost, that for a second there in the final seconds, it looked like they might be able to win, but no, in fact, they lost. I’ll touch on the overall hi-jinks of our hardwood heroes, but first, a few in-depth thoughts regarding the sequence of plays that cost them the game. The ‘Bockers were up two (and, to be honest, really getting bailed out by the refs, even if they were canning their FT’s) when…

1:57: Dorell Wright makes 25-foot three point jumper (Monta Ellis assists) 114-113

For what seemed to be the umpteenth time, Curry beat Douglas/Felton off the dribble and kicked out to a wide-open shooter, to which the Nix wouldn’t or couldn’t close out. Okay. No worries. Let’s just execute on offense like we had been for the last 6 mins of the quarter. No prob!

1:36: Toney Douglas misses 25-foot three point jumper. Raymond Felton offensive rebound. Gallinari misses 25-foot three point jumper. Wilson Chandler offensive rebound. Gallinari misses 4-foot jumper 114-113

Just an AWFUL sequence. Yes, Toney was open, but he hadn’t hit a three since Chicago and they had been killing the Dubs at the line. Felton gets the board, but Gallo forces ANOTHER off-balance 3. Chandler gives them another chance and Gallo bricks a layup. Leading to this fastbreak…

1:05: Stephen Curry defensive rebound. Chandler blocks Reggie Williams’s jumper. Dorell Wright offensive rebound. Wright makes layup 116-113

Great play by Chandler to block the shot, but the rest of the team just gave up on the play. Guys, I know it’s frustrating that you really screwed the pooch on the last offensive sequence, but run back on d, pretty please? Okay, that was bad – but still time left, just keep attacking the rim. All is well. Remain calm!

0:49: Dorell Wright shooting foul (Amare Stoudemire draws the foul). Stat misses 2 free throws

Look, they’d made 27 or so in a row, but you have to have those. Lee then made one of two and Gallo forced a three, AGAIN. And that cued up the fat lady. Yes, Stat’s three that made it close, but Chandler was positively the last guy who should have taken the shot that could have tied it (even if he was 4-9 behind the arc at that point).

One minute and thirty-odd seconds of Dumb.

Powerful Dumb.

Dumb with a side of extra stoopid and a boneheaded chaser.

You know, I was born 10 years too late to watch/root for the Clyde/Willis teams, and lawdy it galls me. I so want to pull for a smart team. (And please don’t say the Rileybockers. They played like a bunch of crazed dogs [as Lawrence Taylor might say], but watching the head-scratching things they’d do to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory caused me to literally put my head through the wall on one occasion.) Tonight, for every good thing the Knicks did, they did something so gut-punchingly awful that one could easily forget what the good thing might have been. F’rinstance. Stat hit a bunch of tough shots and finished with what looks like a pretty cran-tastic line (33 points on 15 shots, 10 rebounds, 3 steals), but he turned it over six times (and I’m surprised it’s only 6), all of them on unforced errors – dribbling the ball off his foot, hands of stone on the pick and roll – and of course the two bricks from the line at the end. Gallo was driving to the lane and playing solid D, but…he forced some terrible treys at the end of the game. Toney Douglas made some tough runners as they were coming back in the 4th, but…he too couldn’t buy one from downtown and played some uncharacteristically flimsy defense (going under screens, dumb reach in fouls), especially v. Stupendous Stephen Curry (Seeing him for an entire game for the first time, I gotta say that he’s wicked good. Better than I thought, even. I’m so pissed that he’s not a Knick. Effing Warriors. Anyway…) And Chandler…gap-toothed Willy, one might be tempted to call him from here on out…27 pts, .40 3FG%, and 3 blocks notwithstanding, on the final play he definitely had time to get the ball back to Stat or even swing it to Gallo in the corner for the final shot (MD’A said as much in the post-game presser, but it doesn’t excuse the fact that he did take the shot.)

So how is one to feel? Are you pleased that they did so many things well? Or appalled that they continue to play utterly sans IQ (Save for Landry Fields. Landry, you complete me) and seemingly get stupider at the end of games (see Portland, last week). Do you marvel at Felton’s guts/clutch play? Or groan that he’s worse than Duhon on the Pn’R?  Whither these fledgling Knicks?

And we couldn’t have a wrap-up without mentioning our homeward angel, David Lee. Nothing we saw tonight we hadn’t seen time and time again over the past five seasons, but his absence certainly has made my heart grow fonder. David, we hardly knew ye.

One more thing.Those new GS unis are damned pretty. I’m sorely tempted to break my piggy bank and buy one w/a certain “un-athletic” PF/C’s name and number stitched on the back.

Celtics 105, Knicks 101

Tonight New York went into Boston hoping to keep their 2011 season on an upbeat. Unfortunately they came up short against the Celtics, losing 105-101. Although Boston held the lead for most of the game, New York kept it close and occasionally took a lead here & there. In fact New York missed a great opportunity with 31 seconds left in the game. Toney Douglas stole the ball from Ray Allen, but Wilson Chandler missed a three pointer to bring New York within 1 point. After a pair of Paul Pierce free throws, Stoudemire made a three pointer (his second of the game) to slim the lead to 103-101. But another pair of Pierce free throws and a final attempt by Amar’e was blocked, giving Boston the victory.

Some notes:
Amar’e Stoudemire provided efficient scoring with 27 points on 17 shots. He had a pair of blocked shots, but one of his defensive lapses hurt the team. It was on a switch, and I’m not exactly sure what happened there, but he seemed upset that Toney Douglas went over a pick. Amar’e was clapping his hands, and left his man open for an easy basket. Otherwise I thought he played well enough defensively.

Toney Douglas chipped in with 12 points on 8 shots, but he had a head scratching moment near the end of the first half. Douglas forced an ill advised shot on a broken play, even though there were 11 seconds left on the shot clock. On the next possession he threw a cross court pass out of bounds. I’m not Paul Ekman, but D’Antoni’s facial expression wasn’t “happy” at those plays.

Danilo Gallinari continued his regressive play. He was 0-6, including 0-3 from behind the arc, and ended with 2 points in 11 minutes. He hasn’t looked good since last year. This is very concerning considering this is the year he’s supposed to make forward strides. I’d like to hear a reason why he isn’t playing well, that doesn’t include the phrase “sophomore slump.” (Yes I know technically it’s his third season…)

Wilson Chandler contributed 19 points on 20 shots, but more importantly played 33 minutes, much of it at SF instead of Gallo. Chandler was active defensively, and led the team with 4 blocked shots. Unfortunately his three point shooting, especially that attempt in the last minute, hurt the team tonight. He was 1-7 from downtown, which has me wondering if he’ll ever improve in this area. (Yeah I know it’s only game 2, but don’t forget his history.)

Roger Mason took one shot, and it was an awfully forced attempt in a fast break, which he missed. I want this guy to light it up from three, because well that’s his strength. I don’t see him getting minutes once Azubuike returns, unless he goes NBA Jam from three.

Finally Landry Fields is such a joy to watch. He’s active at all times. You’ll see him cutting to the hoop without the ball, being active on the boards, helping out on defense – everything that would take a superior athlete and make him a next level player. Fields led the team with 10 boards, and only had 11 points on 10 shots. But he didn’t have a single turnover, and dished out 4 assists. He’s a keeper.