Knicks 107 Lakers 106

At the risk of over-selling this road victory I was most impressed by two things the Knicks did well.

1. The Knicks limited their turnovers.

I recently remarked to a friend, “if the Knicks aren’t going to play any defense the least they can do is force the opposition to play some.” On the season the Knicks manage to fritter away almost 19% of their possessions. We saw the clearest implications of this team’s “butterfingers complex” at Utah. Twenty-two turnovers allowed a team that NY had otherwise outplayed most of the night to hang around until their most explosive scorer exploded. Last night against LA the Knicks turned the ball over a more reasonable 11 times. In fact two players, Marbury (6) and Richardson (5), were responsible for all of them and both had an uncharacteristically poor games in that regard. In the first half NY consistently found themselves down by 5 and 8 points–the Lakers shot a sizzling 40.7% from 3 point range for the game. In the past, the Knicks would compound a team’s hot shooting by turning it over, allowing the opposition to push a 5 or 8 point lead to 15 or 20. Last night NY never allowed LA to run away and hide. An 11 turnover night is probably a somewhat unrealistic expectation for this team going forward, but there is no reason the Knicks cannot be in the middle-of-the pack on turnovers at 14 or 15/game. For all the discussion that has come out of the Utah loss, the Knicks have generally performed well in games where they have a late lead and in close games. When the Knicks keep the game close they are a tough, tough cover.

2. The Knicks defended well in the last five minutes.

Although the Knicks are not blessed with very good defensive players, the Knicks are certainly exerting more effort on defense since the beginning of the season (and more than at any point last season). Stephon Marbury has been impressive in his efforts on defense recently, definitely since the start of the new year. Keeping in mind John Wooden’s adage not to mistake activity for outcome, Marbury’s efforts last night on Kobe Bryant were noteworthy. He consistently fought through screens, and did a relatively decent job of keeping Bryant from getting into the lane at will. Of course, Bryant spent much of the night at the free throw line (11 FTAs), so let’s not start the petition drive to get Marbury onto the All-NBA first team defense just yet. Nonetheless, I have been very critical of Marbury’s defensive effort in the past. So I would be remiss to ignore the most sustained defensive effort of his career and its deeper meaning. Thomas, for all the slick PR spin on his team’s shortcomings and assorted shenanigans, has managed to get Stephon Marbury of all players to recognize the value of defense and pay it more than lip service. Helping players confront their weaknesses and then improve on them (rather than merely exposing them in the press) is a trait I find to be much undervalued in coaches. As a friend once said to me, “getting a gunner to play defense is a sign he respects his coach.”

The next hill to climb for any coach trying to turn a poor defense into a respectable one is to get players to defend well in the last five minutes. (Then of course you try to get them to defend the whole game, but baby steps people, baby steps.) The Knicks did a poor job against the Jazz on Saturday but appeared to have learned some things from that loss. Below is the play-by-play for the Lakers only from the 5:04 mark in the 4th quarter.

5:04 [LAL 96-95] Bryant Free Throw 1 of 2 (26 PTS)
5:04 [LAL 97-95] Bryant Free Throw 2 of 2 (27 PTS)
4:30 [LAL 98-95] Evans Free Throw 1 of 2 (14 PTS)
4:30 [LAL 99-95] Evans Free Throw 2 of 2 (15 PTS)
3:53 Bryant Jump Shot: Missed
3:51 Odom Rebound (Off:3 Def:6)
3:50 Odom Turnover:Foul (5 TO)
3:24 Parker Jump Shot: Missed
Team Timeout:Regular 2:41
2:41 [LAL 100-101] Evans Free Throw 1 of 2 (16 PTS)
2:41 Evans Free Throw 2 of 2 missed
Frye Rebound (Off:2 Def:5) 2:40
2:00 Parker 3pt Shot: Missed
1:58 Odom Rebound (Off:4 Def:6)
1:58 [LAL 102-103] Odom Layup Shot: Made (12 PTS)
0:59 [LAL 103-103] Bryant Free Throw 1 of 2 (28 PTS)
Team Timeout:Regular 0:59
0:59 [LAL 104-103] Bryant Free Throw 2 of 2 (29 PTS)
[LAL 106-105] Bryant Running Jump Shot: Made (31 PTS)
Team Timeout:Regular 0:07
0:00 Odom Jump Shot: Missed Block: Lee (1 BLK)

By my count that’s 2 for 6 from the field, including a drawn charge and an excellent defensive stand on the last play. The Knicks gave up 8 FTAs and some untimely offensive rebounds over that span but played quite well from the field defensively.

It was perhaps the season’s most satisfying victory. It reminded me of last season’s quip from Antonio Davis about how the team’s 7-game post-holiday winning streak was “fool’s gold” because the defensive effort wasn’t there. Let’s hope last night’s victory leads to real gold this time around.

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Part-time blogger on the Knicks at and Seahawks at In my free time I hang out at the University of South Carolina and occasionally fill thirsty young minds with knowledge about various and sundry things related to consumer behavior and marketing.

32 thoughts to “Knicks 107 Lakers 106”

  1. What a great win, hopefully we can pull the back to back tonight against Golden State and go 2-0 into the break…It’s nice to see Jamal passing up the last shot…especially for an alley-oop to Eddy, who has played better in the clutch as of late.

  2. very nice win. doesnt make up for the sick feeling i got after the Utah debacle, but it’s a start.

    with a relatively easy schedule after the break, tonight has turned into a very important game.

    i would be satisfied with 24-29 going into the ASB, especially with the brutal early schedule these guys had.

    all in all, it looks like a totally different team – nothing to brag about yet, but they have taken some major strides since last year. goes to show jsut how despondent this group was last year, and if only for that, Isiah deserves credit.

  3. Speaking of turnovers, Curry went from 8 in Utah to a shocking ZERO in LA and he got more touches than anyone. He passed out of double teams too – I remember a particularly nice one to an open Crawford.

  4. NY hasn’t beaten the big 3 this year (Dallas/Phoenix/San Antonio), but of the other 13 teams currently in the playoffs, they’ve beaten 11 of them, everyone except Toronto and Houston.

    got to win tonight! GO NY, GO NY, GO!

  5. I agree. If the Knicks would limit their turn overs to under 10 per game,they would have won and will win more games. They had so many close games that they blew with turnovers. I like how they have developed as a team this is the hump we need to get over to make the playoffs.

  6. Did Lee really block that Odom attempt? Didn’t see that. Good for him, though. I can’t believe that was the play the Lakers ran at the the end. Marbury had Kobe fairly shut off, but it didn’t seem like Odom was looking to pass at all.

    Also, what was with playing an entire 10 man rotation in the first quarter? There were probably more than ten different lineups in the floor throughout the period…it was bizarre.

  7. It was an enjoyable game. The defense rotated properly and three point shooters always had a hand in their face.

    It is easy to get up for the Lakers. I hope they have the same passion for Golden State.

  8. Odom said in the recap he thought Lee got a piece of the shot. You figure the Lakes actually got the matchup they planned for in that situation; Odom in what amounted to a clearout one on one vs Lee, and Lee locked him down. With a bit of grudging respect Odom said something like, “I think he may have gotten a piece. He’s a pretty athletic kid.”

    Shyeah. You don’t say.

  9. I wouldn’t call Lee a defensive PF quite yet, if that’s what youre saying, but there’s no reason why he can’t be with some coaching. Jerome James certainly ain’t the answer.

  10. yeah, that’s all I’m saying. I think the more he plays, the better he’ll get and also the more respect he’ll get from the refs. I’ve seen a lot of promising signs on that end, he’s just not consistent enough yet.

  11. “anyone else unsettled by these Gooden for Frye rumors?”

    no one takes the Daily Snooze seriously. or no one should, anyway.

  12. I was also really impressed with Jamal. In the LA game and at Utah I saw him atttack the basket more than I have seen him since last year. He is a deadly offensive player when he goes to the hoop and shoots that little floater and lets the jumpshots come to him. The fact that he has shot over 50% the last three games without being particually on fire is a major thing for Jamal. I personally think the last two games give me more hope than the 52 point bomb he laid a couple of weeks ago.

    If he can pressure a defense he is incredibly hard to defend. Lets hope this is the end of him chucking fadeaway three’s.

  13. I re-wound that final play several times this morning. It feels good to be a Knick fan again

    if you are interested in a blog about the Knicks and everything else….check me out at the link above

  14. Ben – I’ve been wondering this whole season why he doesn’t rely on that mid range game more. He’s literally one of the best in the league from around there, he collects fouls, and the shots are often more or less unguardable. I hope Isiah is pressuring him into this and it’s not just a temporary fluke…I feel like I’ve seen him perform this way before and then revert back to his chucking old ways after a game or two.

  15. Dan – I frustrates me to no end. When Jamal is playing like he did last night the game looks so easy for him. I am not sure if he will keep it up but I also really hope Isiah is in his ear about this.

  16. I also thought that Marbury did a nice job of covering Kobe last night. Granted, Kobe got his usual 30, but he did not get the opportunity to take over the game. Additionally, Kobe said that he was merely a decoy on the final play. I don’t buy it. Odom had an off night as far as shooting goes. The only problem was that Marbury was glued to Kobe, so Odom didn’t have an opportunity to pass to him. Great game overall. That said, I think the officiating was giving the Knicks the shaft again, however, this time around, they were able to overcome the bad calls.

  17. On another subject, Jason Kidd did not play last night or tonight. I know the Nets are saying he has a back injury. Anyone think he’s on his way out the door?

  18. Peter Vecsey seems to think so, but the rumored package from LAL doesn’t seem enough, especially because if Kidd goes, Carter definitely opts out at the end of the season.

  19. i like the knick’s chances of winning 40 games and making the playoffs. The nets and orlando have a much harder schedule after the all star game. What do you guys think? I think the last spot will be between these 3 teams. I predict 4-42 wins total.

  20. NY has shown no signs of being able to string wins together at any point this season, they seem to always follow up a good win with a bad loss. dreadful start in a must-win game so far tonight, Malik Rose coming in 7 minutes before Frye or Lee is just inexplicable. 40 wins is a pipe dream until we see some consistency.

  21. and now Q gets tossed, way to keep your self-control.

    unless something drastically changes in the second half, this is the lamest effort of the season (along with that Charlotte blowout), and exhibit #1 in why there’s no chance we’re making the playoffs this year. so goddamn frustrating.

  22. After the got the game within 9 or so, with about 7 minutes to go, Isiah doesn’t do any substitution to bring some of the regulars back in. I can understand going with the team that got you within striking range, but well, my problem is that I don’t think Isiah considered the move, rather than not making the move.

  23. Did this game remind anyone else of the early games of the season? The starters would fall behind by 20+, and the bench would score & bring them back within striking distance. Robinson, Lee & Balkman provided a good amount of energy, albeit Nate got a little too hyper. He needs to get the rest of the offense involved more. He’s a good passer, had a few nice ones tonight, but too often looks to jack it up, especially when he’s hit a few. It was nice to see Balkman – not his best game by far, but he was quietly active. Poking the ball away on a few plays, running in transition, a few boards, playing fine help defense, etc.

    Again Frye disappointed me. He easily missed 3 or 4 wide open jumpers during the Knicks’ ressurgence.

    On another note, the Knicks seemed to still run their offense down 15+ with under a 20 seconds left. What’s Nate doing? Doesn’t he remember the Denver game?

  24. “Did this game remind anyone else of the early games of the season?”

    yeah, I thought of that too.

    dreadful game by Isiah, this Jerome James stupidity has to end now, and to follow it up with Malik is absurd. start David Lee already, for crying out loud.

  25. It’s a back to back. We have yet to win both sides and have gone 3-9 on the second half of back to backs. We always seem to start them out flat. Some of our worse losses were on back to backs:

    11/18 Loss to Boston at home after two huge blowout victories vs Washington and Miami

    11/25 Loss to Chicago at home while they were struggling and were 3-9 which started their 10 game win streak

    12/2 Loss to Toronto at home to begin our six game homestand with a loss

    12/16 Blowout loss to Denver at home that resulted in the brawl

    12/23 Blowout loss to Phily after winning three great games vs. Utah, Cha, and Chi

    1/31 Blowout loss to Charlotte

    2/14 Blowout loss to Golden State where we let them get up by 31

    Luckily we have only have seven back to backs left. They really seem to be why this team cannot go on a long run. We win a couple of games and then lose to a bad team on the second half of a back to back.

  26. I feel like this back-to-back problem has been the case not just this season but for several seasons. This I find extremely weird – so many of our players are young athletic energy guys and we can draw on a 10-deep rotation if we need to in order to give them some relief minutewise. If any team should be able to play through tired legs its the Knicks. Contrast that with Phoenix who play just seven guys at all every game at breakneck speeds (and a couple of them are older vets) and yet have managed to string long winning streaks that include wins on the second half of back-to-backs. I don’t get it. There’s no reason we should lose this badly so often.

  27. Isiah only guaranteed James until the Break.

    I presume/hope this is the end of that ridiculous experiment.

    I mean, even if the idea was to pump up his trade value, it doesn’t exactly work that way when (as in the LA game) you pull the guy from the game ASAP, then never use him again!

  28. The way the Knicks lost that game stumped me. Isiah’s rotation, the Knicks lack of intensity both on offense and defense, blew me away.

    No matter what Isiah says there has to be a trade coming.

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