Here’s an interesting article from TrueHoop’s on yesterday’s Knick game. Henry attended yesterday’s game, and watched it without the aid of a live box score.
Every once in a while I’ll attend a game as a regular person. Sitting in the stands, buying overpriced ice cream and the like. It was fun. But I wan’t online, and wasn’t watching any kind of fancy statistics. But everyone in the building knew that the Knicks, with Nate Robinson on the floor, were a wholly different team than when he was on the bench.
So, if you’re the coach of a team in that situation — where the starters are going nowhere, and some bench players are killing it — who gets to play in crunch time?
With 3:12 left in the game Knick coach Mike D’Antoni sat Robinson and brought in Quentin Richardson. (Gallinari, at that point, had already left the floor, and even the bench area.) The Knicks were up eight, but the chess match was still on. I pointed out to my friend Randy that the Knicks’ best player of this game was on the bench, and he said that clearly Robinson must be injured.
But alas, this morning there are no such report. And I thought maybe it was a case of bringing in a free throw shooter to help protect the lead, but if you check you’ll see Robinson is notably better than Richardson at the charity stripe.) It was simply a case of a coach bringing in a starter for whatever reason.
And it worked, I guess. The Knicks held through all the free throws to win by five.
But I can’t help but wonder: Was that the right move? When the game is on the line, don’t you have to go with your best players? And last night, was any Knick better than the smallest one?
I’m quoting Henry here, because I watched the game as well. But unlike Henry I was in the comfort of my home with the tv on, checking out the boxscore on my computer, and eating regularly priced ice cream. And I have a slightly different perspective on the game. I agree that Robinson and Gallinari were great last night. The pair scored a combined 30 points on 20 shots in just under 45 minutes. But I’m not thinking that either one was the best player on the floor. In my eyes it was David Lee.
Say what you want about the David Lee love here at KB, but last night he was just awesome on the offensive end. There’s still a thought among many Knick fans that Lee is just a workman who converts on easy buckets. A few days ago someone on the forum used the word “garbage” to describe one aspect of his scoring. Had a basketball scout watched David Lee for the first time, I doubt the word “garbage” would have been in the scouting report.
Lee scored well from the inside & out. He hit two jumpers within the first 3 minutes and sank 5 of 11 from outside. Even more impressive is when you consider that he played against larger players for most of the night, and still managed to convert 7 of 10 from inside. As for the “garbage bucket” argument, only one shot was off an offensive rebound. Lee reclaimed 3 Knick misses, one ended a quarter, the second he put back, and the last led to a Gallinari three pointer.
While many of these baskets were assisted, Lee was able to knock down the outside shot and create when needed. Lee made a behind the back pass under the hoop to Jeffries, and near the end of the third quarter he hit a turnaround bank hook shot while double teamed. He finished the night with team highs in points (25) and rebounds (16). Although Robinson arguably had just as good a game (20 points on 13 shots, 4 boards, 4 dimes, and 4 steals), the difference for me was the intangibles. Normally when we use that word around here it’s in jest to discuss stats other than points (rebounds, blocks, steals, etc.) However I thought Nate was on the bench due to his defensive shortcomings.
On one possession Grant Hill backed Robinson down for an easy two, on another he was forced on a switch to guard Shaq. In a way it’s the New York defensive scheme that hurts Robinson’s value. Since the Knicks don’t have many good defenders and they have a lot of forwards, it makes sense for them to switch often. The downside for switching is less for this specific group than hedging or going over/under. But switching is a problem for the undersized Robinson.
Hence, from my perspective, it made sense to take Robinson out late in the game, despite his hot shooting. And perhaps Nate’s brainless technical foul, coming off the bench to taunt Amare on his hard foul to Lee, had something to do with it as well. But more importantly I think this reason made Robinson less valuable to the Knicks than Lee was last night.
Often times we talk about value in absolute terms, but value is tied into environment. As I said with my Kurt Warner analogy, Kurt was great for the Rams/Cardinals, but awful for the Giants. Robinson might be worthy to have on the court later in the games if the Knicks had better defenders and perhaps a few shot blockers. This way the team won’t be as fearful on switches, while gaining from Robinson’s ability to play the passing lines and his offensive contributions.
So for those that saw last night’s game, who was more valuable: Robinson or Lee?