It’s a lazy Sunday, and so we’ll be brief here in the Ancient Kingdom of Recapperia. But lawdy be, I’ve done gone and buried the lede. For shame, noble ‘Bocker-scrivener… for shame. The Knicks emerged from the dark twoer that was a seven-game losing streak to pummel the lowly Hunks o’ Precious Stones, not so much because they’ve managed to solve all the endemic, structural issues that plague this ball club, but mainly because the kindly schedule-maker set up a tilt against a squad as utterly hapless (if not more so) than they are. More importantly, those Denver dudes look positively miserable. Yeah, I know that I’ve set up my handy-dandy portable Speaker’s Corners soapbox and railed against the type of body language temperature-taking soothsayers that plague, say, the Bill O’Reilly Happy Funtime Spite and Bile Hour, but this is different.
Brian Shaw’s got that 1000-yard Isiah Thomas stare down pat, where you kind of want to flick his ear or something to make sure he hasn’t suffered a debilitating brain aneurism, and you can practically see inside of his mind, where there’s a Count of Monte Cristo/Bobby Sands-esque emaciated, bedraggled prisoner furiously scrawling, “They’re gonna have to fire me. I’m not quitting and losing the millions left on my contract,” over and over again until it covers every available square inch of his cell walls.
Their offense is a mess, and the defense is worse. Faried, in particular, looks nothing like the wondrous bundle of irrepressible energy that we saw in the FIBA Championships, save for a stretch in the third (more on this in a jiffy) Lawson was a mess, looking alternately passive and content to launch contested 20-footers, or an out-of-control turnover machine, Gallo’s a shell of his former self, Mozgov’s an immobile, non-rim protecting stiff, and Nate… well, no one should ever trust Nate Robinson to run an offense.
And yes, notice that all of these bros, whether by “Once A Knick…” branding or myriad trade rumors, is connected to New York in some way shape or form. There’s still a tendence to plop all of these cats on some eternal scale and re-litigate a certain transaction from February 2012. There’s certainly a long, circular, conversation that could be had about Dolan-meddling, and whether they gave up too much, and on and on. I think (hope) that we can let that debate go for now.
As to the game itself, it was kind of a ridiculous, sloppy, and often un-fun afternoon, with Denver starting out straight gunning from three. According to my notes, seven of their first eight shots were treys,. And I mean, the Nugs had time to work on their novel or make a sandwich or sensitive, sensual love to the partner of their choosing out there, whether they were (sing along) all by themseeee-eh-elves either after pushing the tempo when the ‘Bockers couldn’t pick up guys in transition, or after a few high screen and rolls with J.R. Smith in particular lagging behind, clearly sweating out the last few droplets of last night’s bottle-service Patrón.
They hit six of nine early on and…that might have been by design?
Okay, before we continue, that’s… I mean. Wait, what? Sure, I get the desire to pack the paint, but I think “encouraging” a team to rain down threes upon their heads—and from what I saw, none of them from 28+ feet away—seems like either a very poor choice of words from Fish, or just… I’m gobsmacked. Among the myriad problems with the defense, is that they were dead last in defending three pointers coming into today.
That is partly due to with the long, hard slog of re-wiring a bunch of cats’ brains after 2+ years of switch-o-mania, but even so, they’ve got a bunch of swingmen that seem to go into a fugue state after the initial action, and a passel of bigs that are just plain slow.
Why by all that is holy and good would you encourage an opponent to stick a fruit-carving knife right into the soft, flabby midsection of the Knicks’ weaknesses?
Anyhoo, despite all that, the first quarter ended up knotted at 31 apiece, thanks to a bunch of Melo bullyball play in the post and a heaping of J.R. buckets, either off dribble-handoffs or step back heaves. In what may be a recurring theme this season, at one point we heard Breen utter the words, “The Knicks are shooting 67% but find themselves down by four.”
What stopped this from being another galling, frustrating loss, was the second quarter. Yes, the defense did perform better, with Prigs in particular snarlin’ and crafty-ing his way to a couple of swipes and forced turnovers, but the Coloradans just turned ice-cold and bewilderingly slowed the pace to a crawl. New York outscored them 31-8, and Melo was the proud possessor of a beeyootiful 7-9, 16 point scoring line. They actually got some freebies at the charity stripe, as Denver seemed as grabby and reach-y as the Knicks.
But it’s really hard to separate how good New York was, if only because of how groaningly terrible the Nuggets played. Their only bucket coming in the final seconds before intermission via a Lawson layup. 1-16, seven turnovers and a game tape that should be burned lest an innocent child lay his/her pure, unsullied big-as-saucers peepers upon it.
Look at this 2nd quarter shot chart. LOOK AT THE NIGHTMARISH, BLOOD-RED HORROR AND BE BORN AGAIN.
The whole quarter was janky and weird, more along the lines of what you’d expect from a sleepy matinee performance. J.R. pulled his fave terpsichorean move where he barrels into traffic while attempting a sort-of spin and just flings the ball somewhere, anywhere but towards a teammate or (ha!) the basket. Prigs jacked up a running one-hander that bricked the side of the backboard, followed hard upon by a botched Denver outlet pass that went skidding out of bounds. Gary Harris slammed an uncontested dunk off the front iron. At one point Acy and Dalembert tried to run a two-man game and they both ended up clutching the ball on the ground, like two grunts in a foxhole trying to jump on a live grenade.
Quincy Acy hit the “ridiculous speed” button and found himself way too far under the basket, glitched the layup, and still had time to scoot back the other way and hack the crap out of JaVale McGee.
Denver clawed their way back, and cut it to as little as nine in the fourth, but a muscle-y Amar’e and one pushed it back to double digits and they never really threatened the rest of the way.
So yay. Wins are nice, even if it means suffering threw some pretty shitty basketball in the process. Some individual notes and we’ll be out of here like Vladimir (Radmanovic)…
? Melo seems to be getting the hang of this whole triangle thing, amirite?
Why yes, that’s definitely better. One thing I’ve noticed is that when he starts the game by establishing position down low, especially when he feels as if he can flat overpower the feller guarding him, and can score by either bulling the ball towards the rim or using that cute little duck under move when the defender overplays, he tends to shoot better for the rest of the game. That’s what got him going against Utah, and he went right back to that nifty formula today. What would be dandy is if the weakside entry passer could hit him when he slips the post and cuts to the rim for an alley-oop. I can’t tell if the Knicks aren’t recognizing it before Melo takes off or what, but it’s there, and it’d definitely help loosen things up if they converted one or two.
? I know I’ve mentioned STAT’s improvement on the glass before, but you know what? Heading into today’s action, he was ninth in Total Rebound Percentage. In like, the whole NBA n’ stuff. Seriously, take a gander. So yeah, not just “Good compared to his crappy ‘bounding, but like, actually good. He’s still completely bumfuzzled as to where and when to pass, and it sent a couple of possessions totally to pot. Aside from one or two plays where he manages to poke the ball away is still a blight on D, but you know, that’s good rebounding!
? Some dandy rim-protectin’ from Dalembert. Only one block, but a slew of contested shots and even a couple of canned jumpers, though one move actually caused Breen to chortle, ‘Oh! Oh? Ohohohohohohahaha!” At least according to my notes;I may have missed a ho or a ha.)
? At the half, Assistant Coach Rasheed Hazzard, said, “Our transition defense was pretty good 85% of the time.” For one, that’s a pretty specific number. I’d like to think Jimmy’s DolanBucks can afford an entire phalanx of number-crunchers that could provide this type of data, and two, if not, it’s an Anchorman-worthy line.
? Yeah, I scolded J.R. before and made a cheap joke about his late night carousing, but he had his best game of the (still young) season so far. A lot of was just straight freelancing when the offense broke down, and he probably starts drooling like he just heard the hostess say, “Open bar tonight” at the thought of an offense that actually seems to encourage long twos, but he did force a bunch of steals and deflections, and a 10-16 line is nothing to sniff at. Was that more alcohol/drug humor. Yes. Yes, it was.
? Perros Reservorios!
? And the less said about Gallo’s personal stylist, the better.
C’est tout, mes gars. There are a bunch of winnable games up next. Perhaps all the early season futzing and discombobulation will actually lead to a winter free of discontent. Maybe? Don’t get my hopes up? Goddangit, why do you always have to rain on my parade, Other Bob.