Some Plays Count: Stephon Marbury & David Lee 11/11/07 (Part I)

For better analysis nothing beats cranking up the old projector and going through game film. In the spirit of the “Every Play Counts” series made popular by, I’ve decided to analyze parts of the Knicks loss to the Heat from Sunday’s game. Instead of following one player during the game, I chose two players at two different times of the game.

The person I’ve chosen to review is Stephon Marbury in the final seconds of the fourth quarter. Fast forward to 47 seconds left in the game. The Knicks, who led for most of the game, has seen their lead dwindle to a single point in the final minute. New York needs to score in order to keep the game in their hands, and they use a timeout in order to draw their play. After the inbound pass, Marbury receives the ball on the top of the key. Curry sets a pick for Stephon who goes to his left and drives towards the hoop. The Heat counter with a double team him by Alonzo Mourning. Marbury leaves his feet and panics in mid-air throwing the ball cross court. The pass was intended for Crawford in the right corner, but Crawford left that spot and the pass sails out of bounds. Rewinding the tape reveals an unguarded Eddy Curry heading towards the lane, because the Heat left Curry alone to double Marbury. It was a standard high pick & roll play, and the Knicks’ point guard missed the most obvious recipient – the man that set the pick.

Now Miami has the ball with 37 seconds left, trailing by only 1 point. Jason Williams tries to get free from Marbury, and runs through two picks in order to shed his defender. To Stephon’s credit, he stays on Williams. The Miami guard drives towards the blocks, near Mourning, but gives it up to Ricky Davis on the outside. At this point in time, there are three Miami players on the left side of the court. Rickey Davis is behind the arc with the ball. Alonzo Mourning is trying to setup in the low post, with Jason Williams next to him due to the aborted drive. Curry has good position on Mourning, and doesn’t allow him to get his feet set. Marbury is next to Williams, in the vicinity of Mourning. As the play continues, Williams drifts out to the corner. Instead of following his man, Marbury inexplicably decides to stay with an off-balance Mourning to form a double team and prevent the ball from going inside. Davis passes the ball to a wide open Williams who hits the jumper to give Miami the lead for the last time.

The Knicks would have two more opportunities to tie or win. On one possession they would cough up the ball, and on the last New York failed to get anyone open for a game tying three pointer. While most games aren’t lost on a handful of possessions, the two plays above were at the most critical moments of the game. New York had the lead and failed to either extend it or protect it. The last time I ran a query like this, Eddy Curry was the goat of the game. This time Stephon Marbury made two mental mistakes which cost New York the game.

Stay tuned for part II, where I look at David Lee’s play against the Heat.

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Mike Kurylo

Mike Kurylo is the founder and editor of His book on the 2012 Knicks, "We’ll Always Have Linsanity," is on sale now. Follow him on twitter (@KnickerBlogger).

18 thoughts to “Some Plays Count: Stephon Marbury & David Lee 11/11/07 (Part I)”

  1. After watching the fourth quarter twice to confirm that the official play-by-play data is in error, I thought that errant pass from Marbury, and I’m not at all convinced that it’s primarily Stephon’s fault.
    Consider the lineup on the floor at that time, Curry, Lee, Crawford, Steph and Mardy Collins. With Collins doing a lot of ballhandling (a bad idea), Jamal was the three. The three’s role in that kind of dribble penetration play is to spot up in the corner to punish a defender drawn to the action in the paint.
    Jamal spotted up, got impatient and wandered away from his post. Thus the pass went to a spot where no one was home.
    Part of the problem is that Jamal is not used to playing the three. With Q-Rich in the locker room, maybe just maybe this was a good time to use Wilson Chandler, especially since Collins was having such a difficult time out there. Or maybe, someone should have reminded Jamal that his responsibilities on the play as the three are different than when he’s a two.
    Either way, Marbury had every reason to expect that Jamal would be in or near the corner.


  2. Martin – Stephon made 2 mistakes on that play – the first was missing Curry, which I stated above. Curry does a lot of bad things, but catching passes and converting is not one of them. The second is that Marbury leaves his feet – as Clyde says – the cardinal sin of passing.

    Watching the replay (again) you are right though. Crawford should have been in that corner. Ricky Davis shades towards the middle, and Jamal would have been open. It’s just hard for me to buy that the cross court pass is the right thing to do in that situation. Especially when Curry is open on the pick & roll.

  3. Yeah, I think you’re both right. Marbury should have hit Curry rather than try the cross court pass, but there’s no way Crawford shouldn’t be there to get the pass.

    Really, the whole usage of Collins just mystified me – he was absolutely LOST on offense.

  4. Here’s something that just occurred to me this morning: why the hell was Collins in there anyway? If Collins is subbing for Richardson, why not use Balkman, who is as good a defender, a natural SF, adds rebounding, and can even scoring around the hoop?

    There is one thing I noticed this year is that Isiah is going to that awful 3 guard alignment too often. He’s using Collins like a small forward. According to, he’s played half his minutes there. There was one series against the Magic where Quentin Richardson was the PF, and Lee the C. I recall the Magic having a pretty tall team out there, and Q-Rich was badly beaten on a defensive rebound in that series. 82games also has Fred Jones playing all his minutes at SF. Here are his 5 man units:


    (You could argue the one with Collins, Jones is the SG.)

    I just don’t see what putting 3 guards out there does for the team. Our weakness is defense, so why play small which just exacerbates the problem?

  5. BTW Martin Johnson wrote about the play in today’s Sun: (titled: “Knicks Should Rethink Their Defensive Scheme”)

    What enables these teams to shoot so well is the Knicks’ insistence on double-teaming opposing pivotmen. The best example of this came on Sunday night’s deciding play. With the locals clinging to a 72?71 lead, the Heat rotated the ball on the perimeter. After Jason Williams passed the ball, his defender, Marbury, dropped off of him to double Alonzo Mourning in the post. Forward Ricky Davis swung the ball right back to an open Williams, who canned a 19-footer to give the Heat the lead for good.

  6. from that Daily News piece:

    “A person close to Marbury says he is beaten down emotionally from everything that transpired over the summer and through the Sanders trial and that deep down he would welcome a change of scenery.”

    so ridiculous. the clause that’s left out here is “… while keeping the $20 million that NY is paying him.” I was excited when they traded for him, but what a disaster it’s turned out to be.

  7. My guess is that Crawford and Marbury have logged the most minutes of any backcourt tandems that the current Knicks have had yet the chemistry between them is non existent especially on defense.

    I disagree that the ball should of been passed to curry because there is no way he’s getting a shot attempt off without getting fouled and I’d rather take my chances on a crawford 3 than Eddies two foul shots any day.

  8. KB – That is an excellent excellent piece.

    Curry is a major liability on defense. We knew that. But it’s interesting to see people making the link between his defense and opposing team’s perimeter success.

    Will be interested to hear your comments on Lee’s play on defense, specifically re how often he had to help defend and double team that game.

  9. Steph on the way out? Good Riddance. What are our point guard options? Luke Ridinhour? Good passer, terrible defender and so-so shooter. Damon Stoudemire? Same as Ridinhour. I wonder what it would take to get Brevin Knight? Great passer, defender and can run the offense effectively. Maybe Malik Rose and Marty Collins.

  10. Amazing how the Knicks manage to take an exciting victory (over Denver) and turn it into two horrible losses.
    Marbury leaving would be nice, but we’re left with not much else. I think Robinson could do the job when healthy. Hammies take a long time to heal sometimes, especially when players try to play through them.

    What a shock:
    The Knicks play poor perimeter defense.
    Crawford is streaky.
    Marbury is in decline and makes dumb plays.
    Balkman and Lee are young and young players typically have consistency issues.
    Curry is not good at establishing position and receiving passed into the post, and he is a poor rebounder.
    Q gets hurt.
    Isiah makes a number of questionable substitutions that some feel blew the game.
    The Knicks seemed to lack an end of the game strategy…

    Does any of this sound new at all?

  11. if we’re thinking of buying out marbury now, why wouldn’t we have bought out jerome james before the season started?

  12. I do not think a Marbury buyout is going to happen. There are a number of good reasons to keep Marbury on the team.

    1) The Knicks do not have any better options at PG.

    There is only one other pure point on the team, that being Collins. He plays great defense but he is lost on offense. He is great on the break but he struggles in the half court offense because he cant hit an outside shot. Robinson is not ready to run the point full time and he really is still a two in a one’s body.

    2) Marbury hasnt been that bad when compared to the rest of the Knick backcourt.

    With the exception of Collins and to some extent Jones, the guard defense has been awful. Both Crawford and Robinson refuse to fight over screens. Marbury does try to fight over screens but it is clear that he has lost a step. Crawford makes as many mistakes with the ball as Marbury probably more. Robinson makes passes while in the air and drives with his head down. Collins cant run a halfcourt offense or create, much less hit, his own shot.

    3) Marbury’s contract has some value next year.

    21 millon off the books would be a boon to many a team. The problem is finding a team that has a decent player or two that they want to be rid of that matches Marbury’s salary.

    4) I havent seen or read anything that says Marbury has been bad in the locker room or on the bench in the last two years.

    Yes, we know he had issues with KT. We know he nearly came to blows with Q. But last season we did not hear anything about locker room arguments. He seamed to be cheering his teammates on during the two wins. He was never the malcontent that Steve Francis was in orlando or Bonzi Wells has been since birth.

    5) Divorce should really be the last resort.

    I’m married. I have disagrements with my wife but they can be worked out. I do not think (at least I hope) that whatever is wrong cannot be fixed.

    Marbury showed last season that he can be an effective team player. I think he can do it again. Unfortunately, Marbury needs to accept that he has lost a step and that he must learn to do new things.

    He is never going to be a great defender but his defense would be improved by better front court defense.

    This team is very fragile. I think cutting Marbury at this point could shatter the team’s confidence. Look, every team is going to struggle at times. But it is a long season and you have time to get things right.

    For the sake of the Knicks, I hope IT can get this matter fixed.

  13. i’m with you, mr. black. it’s trading ewing before his contract became valuable that got us into this mess to begin with. and doing that again with marbury is just another dagger into our salary cap situation.

    not that anyone within the knicks organization has any clue about what that means.

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