Trail Blazers 105, Knicks 90
Sigh. That one was fun for a while We’re ditching the grades tonight because it’s really late and I have to be up in about five hours, but I’ll try to use this free-form prose to properly describe our current state—a slow boat to Nowheresville.
It started out oh-so gloriously. Then again, before tip off, after learning that Chandler wouldn’t (thank [insert Deity] wouldn’t be playing, I was pretty sure the Knicks would wind up with one of two outcomes—they’d either miraculously rally behind a woefully undermanned squad and unexpectedly stomp the bejeezus out of the Blazers, or they’d get whupped in a manner that would be more or less indistinguishable from the last two autodefenestrative outings.
Welp, we kinda got both.
For the First 16-odd minutes of game play, life was but a merry dream. Kurt and Kenyon and Marcus and Jason and all the “No Court for Old Men” players were rolling like a creaky and Ben Gay-slathered but seriously well-oiled machine. Kidd and Felton fed PnR cutters with aplomb (even if Camby’s layups seemed oddly precarious and unnecessarily difficult for a long-armed man nearly seven feet tall), Shumpert’s jumper was looking particularly wet, Martin was finishing at the rim and providing dilligent defense, Thomas’ slow-enough-to-possibly-affect-the-earth’s-rotation pump fakes and mid-range heaves were finding the bottom of the net, Prigioni was jumping into passing lanes and displaying his usual passing fancy, they were limiting their own turnovers, forcing Portland into a gaggle of gaffes, and they were gang-rebounding to make up for Tyson’s absence (piano solo)…and then there’s Maude! All of this culminated in a nifty 41-28 advantage at the 7:54 mark of the 2nd quarter.
On the Twitter machine, the huddled masses were positively giddy. Maybe after days of terrible news regarding mangled, fluid-filled joints that both did and did not require treatment and a general attitude among players and management alike towards the medical profession as a whole that would make even the most rigid, devout, unflinching Christian Scientist pull back and say, “Wait a sec, Dood,” we, the long-suffering fanbase would discover a twenty dollar bill nudged in the pocket of an ancient pair of unwashed jeans—not a great, lifestyle-and-tax-bracket-altering gift, but enough to make one smile during was has to be (I’ve said this before. I’ll probably say it again) the absolute nadir of this slow, interminable drift towards irrelevance of a season.
But like those selfsame Christian Scientists say, to name illness is to give it power (A Freudian would say to say the disease out loud disempowers it. Basically you’re boned either way.), and perhaps the sea of upturned faces caused the fragile illusion of a start to the game to crumble, their oh-so-palpable desires proving far too burdensome for this ill-thought-out Rube Goldberg device composed wholly of complimentary pieces to maintain any structural integrity. Houses without foundations, y’all.
From there on out, Portland changed up and began trapping on the pick and roll, outside shots clanged off the rim miserably, J.J. Hickson started to throw his weight around on the offensive glass and Damian Lillard proved nigh-unstoppable (as anyone who’s been paying attention all year would have predicted.
For the next quarter and a half, Portlandia went on a 22-8 run to end the half (including 13-0 over the final 3:43) and 49-22 by the time they rang the bell to start the final stanza. Some more nauseating numbers? Take a deep drink of this ipecac: the New Yorkers were 0 fer 8 from downtown and a brutal 5-27 from the field overall. That’s not good, right? No Bob, it isn’t. Part of it is that they were settling for outside shots (there was an odd back-and-forth between Craig Sager and Chris Webber about whether the Knicks should be shooting more treys at the half [Sager: Yes, Webber: No]. The Knicks listened to the guy whose suits are visible from deep space.
Of course, this being the ‘Bockers, we couldn’t just curl up in a fetal ball and die. There was J.R. Smith, who, when allowed to be the be all and the end all of a team’s offense, if nothing else, will provide a thrilling ride, both in it’s dizzying highs and major-head-trauma-inducing lows. It’s like being in the passenger seat of a car without breaks: It’s certainly thrilling but you know that inevitably it’s just hazardous to your health.
But J.R. got hot in the way that few who are not J.R. can, leading to a 14-2 spurt to start the final quarter, bringing the Knicks back within four. A few ghastly, unforced turnovers made short work of the hope that this ramshackle pack of plucky spinsters could eke out a victory (Hope /h?p/ Transitive Verb: to desire with expectation of obtainment. Noun: The sharpest, cruelest knife in fate’s kitchen drawer.) and the Blazers copied off the paper from those Warrior and Nugget kids sitting near them and routinely beat the Knicks down the floor, strolling to the rim for layups or hitting trailing gunners for bombs galore.
A few more things and we’ll call it a night (morning).
Dame Lilliard, mang. He’s good. Granted, any point guard with basic motor skills has been able to eviscerate the Knicks this year, but there’s something thrillingly sudden about his game. That is to say, he seems so in control and understated – playing within his lane, as that LeBron guy said – that when he does produce a blank verse-inspiring, balletic/poetic burst to the rim, it seems idiopathic, as if it arose out of nowhere, and all the more delightful. Like I said, real good.
Raymond Felton. If you’d like a rundown on why the Rose City residents reacted like a pack of snarling, feral, rabid jackals whenever Penguin Man touched the rock, Friend-of-the-Blog Danny Nowell has a swell rundown here.
Suffice it to say, this was something of a prove-my-doubters-wrong-type game for Ray and he didn’t. There was a smattering of everything that made the phrase, “Feltdown” a popular one in coffee shops and bacon and maple donut-serving artisanal restaurants throughout the Pacific Northwest—dribbles that went bounding off his flippers, wild, out of control passes that ended up in the opposing team’s mitts, and ghastly, off-balance, contested 20-foot heaves that, even when they went in, made Red Holzman spin like a top in his grave. 4-12 from the field, 3 dimes and a near-team low -20 for the night.
He’s having pretty much the same year this year as last and it’s more or less in line with his career numbers. I get that he pissed off a particularly provincial group of people with his piss-poor play and possibly acted like a complete dick while doing so.
These people wanted blood. It’s a level of vitriol I haven’t seen since the first time Pat Riley returned to MSG as the coach of the Heat. It was like Orwell’s Two Minutes Hate, but stretched out for two and a half hours. Riley, though, was an evil, treacherous, Machiavellian shit. Ray was/is just a mediocre-at-best point guard having a sub-par season (sort of) so I’m still a little bit at a loss as to explain the vehement, unrelenting rage that was evinced last night.
The best way that I can explain it is that part of it is that, for a franchise that has suffered so many injustices – passing on Jordan for the oft-injured Sam Bowie, a sad re-boot of Walton’s feet disintegrating and then compounding those mistakes by tripling down on an equally fragile, supposed-to-be-generational-big in Greg Oden, again passing on a true superstar in Durant, they’ve decided to focus their enmity on something they can name – our man Ray.
But that may too much armchair psychology. It’s also possible that the Felt-hate, which has been talked about and analyzed and allowed to fester for a while now, became a self-generating meme. That is to say, the idea of hating Felton engendered the actual emotion. People talking about it made it true and converted more followers and who talked about it and on and on. Such that, when he actually dared to waddle on the court, it had grown in to an uncontrollable behemoth.
Either that or they just don’t like the bulldog-y little mofo.
And, of course, as I write this, we’ve learned that Kenyon Martin suffered a shin contusion of some sort, because it’s not a Knick game without bodies dropping faster than the Battle of Stalingrad. I’ll fill in the rest: No MRI because doctors are vessels for evil spirits. He’s listed as day-to-day, with a possible amputation in the near future. I’m not even mad at this point. I’m not mad at Woodson or the team for understanding or utilizing modern medicine or Dolanwald for constructing a roster based on an implosion model. I’m not even sad at the loss of a year that started with so much promise and joy turning horribly into what all the wise wags said would be another first-round exit. It’s no fun being Cassandra. I just feel drained and tired. I’ve said repeatedly that I’m going to take these games less personally. That I was going to be a fan without being a fanatic and like a recidivist criminal or a serial philander, I keep going back on my word. I’m sure I’ll be there, hoping against hope, on Sunday.
Let’s just look at Earl’s dunk and end it there. Sigh.
Hey, did you know that in addition to banging the keys here and occasionally for the NY Times, Robert is a playwright, an actor and a wand'ring mendicant/gadfly? He also once wrestled a bear...and lost.