Celtics 90, Knicks 86

New York Knicks 86 Final
Recap | Box Score
90 Boston Celtics

I’m really at a loss.

I’m out of words. Or at least funny/clever ones, or something that might bring a churlish grin to the lips of a fan base that seems destined to spend now until April (the next few years? Longer?) grinding its collective molars down to nubbins/the nerve.

Early on, (Or at least halfway through the 2nd quarter), after a 14-0 run put the Celts up 17, and we all assumed they were going to get destroyed, when it looked like the Knicks (and the Celtics, really) were just going through the motions, like they were sub-par extras in a movie about basketball, and the director seemed to be asking for the same take of a listless ISO-jumper I had an inkling—a plan.

I was going to entirely half-ass the recap. Something along the lines of:

Andrea Bargnani is a basketball player from Italy. Sometimes he’s good at hitting pick and pop jumpers. He’s not very good on defense or on the boards. Sullinger scored a lot against him. He didn’t pass the ball to open people in the fourth quarter and didn’t take shots. Maybe he was scared. I don’t know. He has a funny face and the blue mouthpiece makes it look funnier. Grade, C+

Get it? The Knicks didn’t try so I won’t either. Ha-ha. But that felt cheap or hack-ish. And it’s neither that high-larry-ous nor particularly accurate. They did wake from their somnambulistic, torpid state and play some solid ball. (If that idea just plain tickles your funny bone, don’t fret—I’m sure they’ll sleepwalk through another game soon.)

From the 5:58 mark of the 2nd till 10:32 was left on the clock in the 4th, they outscored the Bostonians 48-20, to take an 11-point lead. They ran the offense, got a slew of clever buckets from Melo, Prigs was running the team like the seasoned pro he is, finding open shooters galore of high screens, and once again, they received a sepia-toned performance from STAT; 18 pretty points derived from elbow jumpers, deft low post moves, and pick and roll finishes

And I was sitting there watching, feeling somewhat pleased at the notion of securing a road win, perhaps climbing closer to the top of the excrement-based mountain (molehill?) that is the Atlantis Division (See, it’s not the ‘Atlantic,’ but rather, the Atlantis, because every team is lost and sunk. No, not funny, I know.),

On defense, they didn’t do anything special, but they kept the Celtics from netting easy buckets at the rim (Yes, that was a huge problem in digging a 17-point hole.), avoided getting brutalized on the offensive glass, while profiting from a slew of turnovers, both forced and unforced alike.

And then, it all died. Udrih turned the offense into a cesspool. Missed shots begat terrible isolation plays. JR Smith only took one shot, which caused much fretting by the MSG broadcast team. (Honestly, that’s the least of their worries. JR wasn’t taking bad shots or slamming into 3-4 defenders leading to an ugly turnover.) The Celtics once again found open three point shooters or did whatever they wanted in the paint, and just like that, the lead was gone.

Down the stretch, there were some silly ISO sets and botched sets that might have been successful, you know if this was an actual team instead of a disturbingly twisted, badly-rendered cubist portrait of the Yankees—big names past their prime, has-been’s and never-will-be’s; the vast majority of which are injured or overpaid or both.

And they lost, because that’s what they do.

This is a bad team, playing badly. Losing in ways that are either grueling and dull or heartbreaking and frustrating. Sometimes, both occur in the same game. Joy.

I’d like to be able to find a clever metaphor or at least an amusing writer-ly flourish, filled with acrobatic, verbal flights of fancy to explain this team, but even if I could, it just would feel so empty and meaningless.

Jokes feel cruel. I don’t want to laugh. I don’t want to cry or scream or explain it away. Watching basketball is a pretty miserable experience right now. Maybe it’s not that way for a lot of you. Maybe you can enjoy this team (or at least laugh off yet another in a series of gut-punch losses) in a manner such that it doesn’t poison the rest of your day. Maybe it is what it’s intended to be: a diversion, in the best sense of the word. Two-odd hours to hoot and holler, or to slap your forehead at Woodson’s foibles and terrible rotations and damnably small-c conservative instincts, and then, when it’s over, it’s over and you go back to the rest of your life—you know, the things that really matter.

It isn’t that way for me, and I’m starting to think that that’s actually kind of sick.

When the Knicks are terrible, I think about it constantly. I read what the smart people say about the team. I read the myriad articles mocking the team. I fiddle with the trade machine. I even read the scurrilous pointless gossip column-y trade stuff.

It just makes the world feel gray and pointless, and that’s probably the wrong way to go through life.

Every year, I tell myself that I’m going to change; that I won’t behave this way, and every year, regardless of the quality of the team, really, it happens again.

(AUTHOR’S NOTE: I’m going to talk for a little bit about something personal that is only tangentially related to basketball/this team. If that’s not your cup of tea, feel free to skip to the end.)

Here’s a painful admission. For a good chunk of my life (thankfully, not any more) I was a bulimic. It’s a tough thing to say out loud because, for all of my supposedly enlightened, progressive thinking, it feels humiliating to say that I had (and still have) body issues and issues with food because, you know, that’s something that girls have and it feels dumbly emasculating.

I was a bulimic because I thought (and still do think) that I’m fat. I can’t really eat anything without setting off the calculator in my head, totaling up the calories and immediately planning out what other foods I’ll have to eliminate for the rest of the day in order to make up for the thing I’m enjoying, which pretty much eliminates the possibility of actually enjoying it/taking pleasure in food.

The problem is, when I’m being ‘good’ and eating healthy, cutting back carbs and sticking to lean meats, I feel like I’m denying myself. And then the “Why” game kicks in. “Why can’t I eat what I want? Why can’t I be happy with what I look like? Why do I have to deny myself these things? It’s been the case since I was thirteen years old—when does it end?”

So I get angry, and of course, the way I want to deal with anger and with feeling denied is to eat. And if I do eat, I get angry with myself for breaking the diet and start panic-thinking that I’m fat/unattractive (and by extension, unlovable).

And if I do go bonkers, and devour an entire box of Entenmann’s Chocolate Eclairs, the instinct or the thought is still (and probably always will be) there to purge; to run to the john and make myself throw up. I’ve learned how to deal with that urge, but the thinking behind it hasn’t really changed. That’s the longer, harder process of recovery. I’m still stuck in a cycle where not eating makes me feel deprived and eating makes me feel like a failure, such that no matter what I do, I feel bad. It’s a no-win situation, a really nasty Catch-22.

I mention all this not because I particularly enjoy revealing all this stuff, but for a couple of reasons.

One, I was reminded of projectile vomiting by this flurry of tweets from Jared Dubin. In case you missed it, after Bargs hit a couple of mid-range shots in the 3rd, Marc Berman felt that it was the appropriate time to unleash these statements:

I disagree with what Mr. Berman said. Two jumpers does not mean that one gets to declare victory/start taunting a GM. Jared, via a torrential outpouring of defiance worthy of Martin Luther nailing his protest to the door of Castle Church, started listing every 2nd rounder of note for the past twenty years, about 45 in total, along with the hashtag #TakeThatMasaiUjiri. Check out his twitter feed if you’d like to read them all. That felt like a purging that was actually healthy. Getting all the poison out of your system, as it were.

The second reason is, just like I’m not really going to be ‘cured’ of my bulimia until I deal with the cause, the only way I’m going to solve my problem with this team (as opposed to the team’s problems. Those are pretty unsolvable, given the current ownership) is if I change. It can’t mean as much as it does anymore. I have to be able to, like Ram Dass advises, “Collect nothing. Leave nothing. Just go through lightly. Lightly. Grab. Let go. Hold on tightly. Let go lightly.”

I don’t know if I can. I just know that this (whatever ‘this’ is) isn’t working anymore.

But that’s about it for tonight. Thanks for taking the time to read, and if me talking about something so personal feels like an imposition or self-indulgent, I apologize.

Tomorrow the Knicks probably won’t have Kenyon Martin or Amar’e Stoudemire, which, if nothing else, should allow for a different face or two to be the avatars of failure.

I’ll be there. I hope you will too. If nothing else, it’s a lot more pleasant to know that we aren’t suffering this team alone. Go Knicks.

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Robert Silverman

Hey, did you know that in addition to banging the keys here and occasionally for the NY Times and at ESPN, Robert is a playwright, an actor and a wand'ring mendicant/gadfly? He also once wrestled a bear...and lost.

39 thoughts to “Celtics 90, Knicks 86”

  1. The following was written on April 30th 2013 during the Celtic-Knicks playoff series:

    With J.R. Smith out of the lineup against Boston in Game 4, the Knicks leaned heavily on isolation play from Carmelo Anthony. His jumper was not able to bear the load. Melo fought his way to the line, but only shot 8-21 combined on isolations and post ups. When we include turnovers, that’s just 16 points from 25 possessions! But when we count the 19 (!) free throws and 16 makes he earned off of iso and post up plays (this counts a foul on offensive board that came off of an isolation), he actually scored 28 points off of approximately 33 possessions, or a very respectable .848 points per possession, a rate that is actually not far off his season average Synergy.

    But there’s another way around the Celtics defense, and that’s with the pick-and-roll. Jeff Green, Paul Pierce and especially Brandon Bass are comparatively ill-equipped the navigate the intricacies of pick-and-roll defense, and Carmelo Anthony, as it so happens, is the best pick-and-roll scorer in the NBA. That’s right, according to Synergy, no one scores more than Melo’s 1.12 PPP on these sets. In the series with Boston, Melo has taken nine shots out of pick-and-rolls and scored eight times. And whereas he’s coughed the ball up nine times in post ups or isolations, he’s yet to turn it over as a pick-and-roll ball handler.

    In the final few minutes, spread the floor and execute nothing but Melo/Amare PnRs until Celts show they could stop it. How hard is that to figure out? I bet Melo/Amare’s PnRs are even more efficient than Melo’s league leading average last season cited above.

  2. Robert, for whatever it’s worth, take the saying “skin and bones” and try to imagine it completely literally. That’s me. And you’re far more attractive than myself. We fucking love you. Go Knicks.

  3. To second David, we do love you Robert. You are a real mensch and ill clank a can if cel-ray to that.

    On a basketball note, it truly is depressing and distressing that down the stretch of tight games we always know its time for Woodson to run out pipe as long as he can regardless of how he is playing (or how hurt he is) and stray away from whatever part of the gameplan may have been working (by accident or design? I lean towards the former) and go to iso-melo. I feel as if its genuinely hopeless to hope for any positive change while the goatee is at the helm and his favorites have their limbs attached to their bodies. All I can say for sure is that I’m biting my nails with anticipation as to what Dolan pulls once the dec. 15 floodgates open for new signees and trades. My gut tells me Lowry will wind up here and likely in a worse deal than was spoken of.
    I can see Masai convincing jimmy that there’s some sort of “dick-around tax” to be paid for the past few days maneuvers. Either way I’m doing my best to regard whatever unfolds as entertainment…a grand soap opera or some garbage…rather than basketball. It doesn’t work. My soul is crushed. God is dead. Miley Cyrus is considered a musician. Puppies now embody Satan. Saran Wrap my soul please for a brighter age.

    Next weeks gonna be great when we have melo, the 2011 raptors, and 3 volume shooters to be determined leading the way for our beloved knicks under the flag of one former silky shooing knick with no coaching experience and more money than he ever should have been paid.


    Cripes. Almost spilled the celray.

  4. Robert, you’re my favorite writer before this recap, and even more favoriter now!
    We’re all the same. Us humans have a limited set of emotions that every one of us feels, and we beat ourselves up over it. Go figure.

  5. This is an incredibly good and corageous article, Robert. Yet another reason why this blog is so good.

  6. @HerringWSJ: Woodson: “I thought Bargnani passed up about three open shots [at the end]. And he missed Amar’e on a high-low.”

    Love how he calls out everyone except JR, who was the worst player on the court all night

  7. For all of Mike D’Antoni’s faults – and he had many – he was right about how this offense should be run. If he were here we’d be running pick & rolls and getting the most out of offense down the stretch. This is melo’s just dessert for quitting on him to get himself a yes man in to give him the ball whenever he wants it.

  8. “I thought Bargnani passed up about three open shots [at the end]. And he missed Amar’e on a high-low.”

    Psst. . .coach. Bargs is shooting 29% from 3. The Bargs is big, tho, man.

  9. Robert,
    There’s two important people in my life that suffer what you suffer from, and I just wanna say I recognize how hard it is to come out say something like. You go through more then anybody knows or realizes. Keep fighting man, and I’ve seen one of the most helpful things to so is find other people who are going through it too. They’re the ones that really understand and can over support, it’s not something you truly under stand unless you’re experiencing it.
    The Knicks… Oh the knicks… I’ve had my Carmelo jersey hung on my wall all semester, and I don’t think it’s coming off. Don’t even want to wear it around anymore.. It’s a sadd day when a team with tanking aspirations, Boston, can beat us by 45, and then come back and beat us again.

  10. 8 yr old daughter came down during the game last night and said “is that Carl Anthony?” yup…..that’s Carl. looks just like his brother, but doesn’t have his game.

  11. Hey Rob,
    Nice article and very brave. You’re a supremely talented man and I pray you find a way to express your artistic voice in a more meaningful forum than a sports blog.

    On the metaphor, yes, being a Knick fan is similar to having a mental illness or a drug problem. Moments of highs (for me, saying I would buy a Bargnani jersey after the ORL game), followed by a crash when reality sets in. Anyone who knows anything about the sport sees how pathetic NYK fans are and yet we can’t stop. We vow to quit but keep getting sucked back in.

    As to the trade rumors, Lowery for Felton strait up is fine. If we give up Shumpert or Hardaway or God forbid the 2018 pick, I’m done. Really! This time I mean it!

  12. The excuse for Andrea Bargnani’s shitty 3-point shooting the last two seasons was that he was injured. Well, he seems pretty healthy now, and he’s shooting the same shitty sub-.300 percentage he has now maintained for three consecutive seasons.

    He can’t shoot the three. Not at an elite level, not at a good level, not at a decent level, not at a passable level.

  13. Bargs missing threes is not the problem, it’s 5 guards combing for 12 points…we will never win if that is the shooting line.

  14. Bargs missing threes is not the problem, it’s 5 guards combing for 12 points…we will never win if that is the shooting line.

    Yes and no. I mean, obviously, that’s terrible, and it’s hard to win consistently with no back court scoring. But we could have won last night if Bargs hit a couple threes, if we hadn’t gone only iso-Melo down the stretch, or if we got Stat some more shots.

  15. Just because our guards suck does not mean Bargnani does not suck. Mr. Stretch-The-Defense makes less than 30% of his threes. For three seasons running now.

    He blows.

  16. One of the arguments for using Cole Aldrich is that it would allow the Knicks to rest K-Mart more often, and prevent him from breaking down. Or you could just keep running K-Mart out there until he breaks down in mid-December, either way is cool.

  17. We should take bets on what time the Cole train pulls out of the station tonight. I’m saying he gets on the court with 4 minutes to go in the 4th. Maybe another 30 second cameo before the half.

  18. On the Kyle Lowry front, would you believe both James Dolan and Billy King said no to Toronto’s exorbitant demands? You’d figure to have a sucker between those two when bidding for the same player. I don’t think Toronto is getting a first/young player for Lowry. Ujiri’s best play seems to be to see if he can stick either franchise with Derozan.

  19. One of the arguments for using Cole Aldrich is that it would allow the Knicks to rest K-Mart more often, and prevent him from breaking down. Or you could just keep running K-Mart out there until he breaks down in mid-December, either way is cool.

    Did you see K-Mart walking into the locker room? Looks like he broke down last night. I’d be surprised to see him in the line-up anytime soon.

  20. So when people say Iso down the stretch what do they mean? DO they mean those 2-4 possesions where they tried to force it to Melo that stopped around the 7-5 minutes left or the other offense that failed for the rest of the game?

    I am critical of Melo for not directing the offense into Amar’e in the post but it wasn’t just 8 minutes of iso ball. It was around 2 -3 minutes off iso and 6 minutes of pnr with MElo/STAT, high horn action with prigs, and back to iso that lead to a blk by Green around 58 secs left. Maybe my memory is off but that’s what I remember. I may need to look at the 4th again.

  21. “Just because our guards suck does not mean Bargnani does not suck. Mr. Stretch-The-Defense makes less than 30% of his threes. For three seasons running now.

    He blows.”

    He was a +14, our best player last night

  22. So when people say Iso down the stretch what do they mean? DO they mean those 2-4 possesions where they tried to force it to Melo that stopped around the 7-5 minutes left or the other offense that failed for the rest of the game?

    Carmelo checked in with about 9 minutes left in the game and us up 79-72. We took 15 more shots in the game, and Carmelo went 1-8. It wasn’t all iso, but the offense totally went to shit and it was Melo dominated.

  23. And to be fair to Melo, he’s played 122 minutes in 4 days. Can’t wait to see how lively he is down the stretch tonight!

  24. This is where I’m really starting to tire of Woodson. When everything is going to shit and your offense isn’t functioning at all, call a freaking timeout and try something else. Dump the ball into STAT, try some pick and rolls with STAT and Melo. But instead it’s iso-Melo every time down the court, the opposition knows it’s coming and a very winnable game turns into a disheartening loss.

    And as the game unravels, our coach stands there with that dumbfounded look on his face like he can’t believe it’s happening.

  25. “How long coach Mike Woodson plays Prigioni each night seems to matter quite a bit, too. The 36-year-old has plantar fasciitis in his feet.”


    Also, can you get plantar fasciitis anywhere besides your feet?

  26. I don’t have any clue what the reason is, whether it’s bad conditioning, bad effort, lack of confidence, bad breaks, bad luck, bad coaching, injuries or some combination of all of the above, there is no denying that every single guy on the roster is playing worse than last year. This is rapidly becoming the most depressing sports season that I’ve sat through in the last 30 years. And their stink is even sticking to former teammates. Both Copeland And Novak are shooting about 35percent from 3 this year. Remind me again why I care about this team again?

  27. “Tyson Chandler continues rehab to recover from a broken leg in his leg”.

    “Last night Kenyon Martin left the Knicks game with a strained abdominal muscle in his abdomen”

  28. This made me laugh

    “- I would not say Beno Udrih telegraphs his passes to opponents. I would say he handwrites a memo that says “I am going to pass” and mails it to each player. Then he scans the memo into his computer and sends them each and email (subject line: “I am going to pass”, body text: “I am going to pass”) with the image attached. Then he uploads the image to his Facebook account, which is public to friends of friends, and posts it with the caption “I am going to pass”. Then he tweets “I am going to pass”, then he hacks into @KatyPerry and tweets “Beno Udrih is going to pass” with a Twitpic of the image of the memo that says “I am going to pass.” Then he commandeers a manned spacecraft and zooms around space hijacking satellites and rewiring them to broadcast “Beno Udrih is going to pass” on every television and cell phone in the world. Then he passes and an opponent steals it.”

    – Seth Rosenthal

  29. Watching this terrible 4q again on MSG replay. The criticism for the ISO heavy offense seems unfair. They were running some good sets and pick and rolls. Real problem was Bargnani. He has tunnel vision for Melo. Woodson was right, he missed a wide open Amar’e two times off a pick and roll that would have led to Amar’e dunks if he made the pass but AB wasn’t even looking. As soon as he gets the ball he looks for Melo and passes to him no matter what.

    Where Woodson really deserves blame is on the defensive end. They targeted JR every which way. He had to come out.

  30. @ Hubert

    that’s what I notice too. You save me from watching the game again. There was some open shot during that stretch to that just didn’t fall but Amar’e had it going last night and Sullinger was out the game. Melo, Prigs, and Woody should recognize that. Woody you still can go Iso just do it with Amar’e and let Melo crash the boards.

  31. He (Bargs) was a +14, our best player last night

    That makes me question how accurate statistics are kept.

  32. Late in the game Green was sticking to Melo, denying him the ball. There were a couple of critical possessions with the knicks coming out of timeouts ran plays specifically designed to iso Melo, running past a few screens to try to free him. Boston swarmed Melo, but that didn’t stop him from forcing up shit shots. This loss is on Woodson. And Melo

  33. Watched – and then rewatched – the game and came up with the following:

    1. In the last ten minutes, when the wheels came off of the offense, the Knicks walked the ball up so slowly they consistently were in danger of an 8 second call despite no backcourt pressure from the Celtics. The Knicks really only made the Celtics play defense for about 12 seconds on each possession.

    2. Amar’e/Melo on the PnR is real. That was the only useful set for the last quarter.

    3. During the Knicks’ great run, Bargnani did a better job of defensive rebounding than I have ever seen. If he grabs defensive boards, he goes from putrid to just awful on defense (even giving him credit for on-the-ball post defense).

    4. Shumpert and Smith are both broken. Neither attacked the basket. Shumpert could not hit shots. Smith was not looking to shoot.

    5. On offense, Bargnani is an awful finisher at the rim unless he can windup and dunk. When he uses his agility to get past his man 15′ out, he has no balance to finish. He also frequently gets whistled for travelling, even when he is not, because he looks so awkward.

    6. Carmelo Anthony had a bad half of basketball, but his teammates gave him nothing. On several occasions, he tried to pass to open wings who either stopped moving or failed to convert.

    7. There is a reason why the Knicks keep having the heartbreak of K-Mart, Kurt Thomas, Rasheed Wallace and Marcus Camby get hurt. The are old. They are available because they are old. It’s like Chekhov putting a gun on the stage in Act 1.

    8. This team needs Tyson Chandler.

    9. This is not a good time to be a Knick fan.

  34. He also frequently gets whistled for travelling, even when he is not, because he looks so awkward.

    This is an important point, and one that made ruruland’s preseason prediction/hot-air spewing without value to me.

    It doesn’t matter whether Bargnani actually travels, or Harden actually flops on a called charge, or Durant actually gets fouled on a shot attempt or sells it. The truth is in the outcome as much as the process. If Bargnani turns it over, it’s a turnover. We can go on at length about how Bargnani could fix his little “awkwardness” problem, but the reality is that if he’s turning the ball over because of the way he appears, that’s as bad as actually committing the travel itself unless it’s something more easily fixed, which is not something we can accurately say. I think by now I’m preaching to the choir, but it’s worth repeating.

    Likewise, if Novak’s reputation as a poor defender causes players to take long 2PT attempts and post a lower eFG%, that makes him a valuable defender. Not a good defender by the traditional criteria, but a valuable one. And that’s the problem with this team. Lots of potential, little value.

  35. “For a good chunk of my life (thankfully, not any more) I was a bulimic.”
    You mean, you could read MINDS?!?!
    ( . .) (o o) (O O)

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