By now just about every Knick fan has seen or read about the ending to Sunday’s Portland game. Clinging to a 1 point lead, Brandon Roy hits a layup as time expires to give New York another loss. If you haven’t check out Gian’s SSOM Webisode on it. Gian does an excellent job breaking down this play, as well as the others that led to it. So how did Roy get his shot off?
On the final play, Portland has the ball on the sideline with 4.3 seconds left. Duhon is covering Aldridge at the top of the key. Behind him is Oden guarded by Lee, and next to them Richardson is covering Outlaw. Aldridge heads to the corner and Duhon frantically calls out a switch. But Richardson ignores the plea and instead follows his man who clears past Duhon. With no one on Aldridge, Duhon races over to cover.
This frees up the middle of the court from everyone except for Roy and Oden. Up to this point Roy is in the middle of the box and is covered by Jeffries. Oden turns to set a screen on Jeffries, and Roy is free to get the ball a few feet behind the arc. Oden sets such a strong pick that Jeffries is off balance and easily 8-10 feet away from Roy when he receives the ball.
Roy turns and sees Jeffries a few feet away on his right, so he drives to his left. Roy picks up a full head of steam and steers away from Jeffries. With 3 seconds to go, Jeffries catches up to him at the three point line, but can’t get across court to get in front of Roy. Instead Jeffries follows Roy on his right side. This is the only chance he has to foul Roy on the ground. A half second later Roy is set to jump. Should Jeffries foul him at this juncture, it’s likely that Roy will receive two shots for being in the act of shooting. Lee slides over to Roy’s left to assist, and Duhon leaves his man in the corner to help as well. Richardson tries to assist as well from the weak side, but he’s eclipsed by Oden.
At this point in time, Jeffries is to Roy’s right, but a half step behind. Lee is in front of him, but his momentum is taking him to Roy’s left. Duhon is in front of Roy on his left. Roy jumps on a diagonal to the right and clears all the Knick defenders. He scoops the ball in his right and lets it go. The shot sinks with time expiring and the Knicks lose.
There is a lot of blame to go around. Immediately after the play, Knick announcer Clyde Frasier voiced his displeasure saying the Knicks had a foul to give and should have used it. And in the post game interview, Oden said the team had planned a second play because they expected New York to foul. However due to the excellent pick by Oden this was difficult for the Knicks to execute. Jeffries was so far from Roy that he had a small window to foul him without risking a shot. Granted there was a window, but Jeffries missed it.
Some of the blame could go to Richardson for missing the communication from Duhon telling him to switch to Aldridge. Perhaps the defensive scheme was to keep Duhon near the top to help, but the missed signal moved him into the corner. D’Antoni gets some of the blame as well. He should have made sure that his team fouled Roy to give Portland a few less seconds to make a play. Additionally, putting Jeffries on Roy may not have been the best move. He could have went with a more traditional matchup and placed Duhon on Roy. Lee deserves his share as well. He’s in perfect position to block the shot, but let’s Roy get a good look at the basket.
But ultimately the failure comes down to the Knicks roster construction. In a situation like that you put your best defensive five on the floor, and D’Antoni chose Lee, Duhon, Richardson, Jeffries, and Chandler. Hardly the 1994 Knicks. The lack of a shot blocker or perimeter stopper left D’Antoni with few options. Lee or Richardson might have been in a position to block the shot, but both are well below average in that area. You could argue that Jeffries is the Knicks best defender, and he was the one guarding the shooter on the play. Even if the Knicks foul Portland, the Blazers would still have about 3 seconds to execute another play, and Roy got this shot off in less than 2. Taking that into account with the Knicks poor defensive lineup, it’s likely the result would have been the same even if they fouled Portland.
New York will be plagued by plays like this until the team is able to turn over some more of it’s roster. This first year, Walsh’s goal has been to cut enough salary for free agency in 2010. So far he’s done an admirable job, but the cost has been a roster filled with scorers who don’t defend. It’s possible that over the summer Walsh might be able to add a few defenders, either through trade, draft, or free agency. Until then, Knick fans are going to have to grin and bear a few more defensive lapses like this.
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