Perhaps it is unwise to post right after yet another home loss because I may end up typing words I may regret one day; like when KB, Brian, and I put in our takeover bid for the Knicks. (You know it’s just a matter of time.) But this was the kind of loss that tastes bad going down and leaves you feeling queasy because the Knicks more or less refused to even put themselves in a position to win.
Just into the second quarter, when I picked up the game, Arenas and Jamison were staging a full-on assault against the Knick–cough–defense. Those familiar with the Wizards recognize that Arenas and Jamison can have nights like they had tonight. (And what a night!) They shot a combined 25 of 42. 12 of their makes were 3 pointers, which comes to an absolutely silly 88% eFG!! Normally, those two have less regard for efficiency than the DMV but tonight was one of those nights where every off-balance jumper scarcely even disturbed the net. Of course, that the Knicks routinely left them both wide open because they were late and/or confused in their rotations is sadly a given. Still, Arenas and Jamison are legitimate defensive mismatches against whomever the Knicks send out on them. When they are on a roll like tonight all you can try to do is deny them touches, a point to which I shall return. Fortunately, the remaining Wizards only shot a paltry 79.5% eFG.
The Knicks are not a good defensive team. I recognize this. I also recognize that Francis, Marbury, and Richardson are all undersized at their positions. But, it is precisely because of these limitations that I have two major issues with how the Knicks played this game. First, the Knicks did not appear to utilize traps, double teams, or otherwise attempt to deny touches to Arenas and Jamison. The Knicks did pick up defensively three-quarter court when it made a brief run at the end of the 3rd quarter but otherwise didn’t begin to defend the two hot players until after they touched the ball. (Sometimes not until after they’d shot it.) The 3rd quarter began, Washington pushed open its lead a bit and Thomas called a timeout. I just knew that the Knicks would do something to deny Arenas touches after the timeout. It never happened. That appears to the naked eye to be piss poor in-game management by Isiah.
My second issue is that the Knicks went away from Curry, who had another solid night. (What has been most impressive about his spate of recent play is that it isn’t just the scoring–as Hollinger points out in Wednesday’s Sun–it’s the other stuff: the rebounding, the blocks and challenges, and he’s hustling back on defense.) The Wizards, it seems, have seen some tape of Curry’s recent games. They put Etan Thomas on him; a bit like putting a poor man’s Oakley on a poor man’s Shaq. More importantly, the Wizards were cognizant of rotating down to help. Curry’s 2nd quarter and early 3rd quarter shots all came in a crowd. He had at least a couple blocked or altered and struggled during that stretch.
Washington was basically saying, “somebody other than Curry tonight.” From my vantage point, not only were shots available in the mid-range on the pull up, but so were lob passes to Curry–something the Knicks have used–over the smaller Thomas. Yet, what did I see Marbury and Francis do repeatedly, especially in the third quarter when the Knicks were still in the game? Each put his head down and went on, as Clyde would say, “a wild foray into thee lane.” Francis was at his double-digit crossover finest. And Marbury, who was able to get to the front of the rim in the first half, failed to recognize how the defense adjusted–and subsequently where to find shots (and passes).
What annoys me here is what seems a recurrent theme from both our point guards: limited basketball IQ, particularly an understanding of what the defense is trying to do and an ability to adjust to it. I will concede here that I may be overreacting to a loss but I don’t think so; not completely. The Knicks, who had an excellent offensive first half, degenerated into an overpaid version of the And1 Mix Tape Tour in the second half. Francis and Marbury set the tone. Once they started pounding the ball, going one on one, so did Crawford and Richardson. Each driving fearlessly, and stupidly, into the teeth of the defense.
At this point in their careers both Marbury and Francis have lost enough athletically that they can no longer overpower or outquick poor decisions. It’d sure be nice to see them utilize the wealth of basketball knowledge they have presumably accumulated in their careers.