Knicks 102 Wizards 98

It was one of those games as a fan, you love to watch. There was a little bit of everything for everyone. The Knicks are still fighting for a better playoff spot, so it was a meaningful game. Even though they clinched a playoff spot, a few wins might move them up to a higher seed. However since the playoffs are so close, the Knicks also want to give a rest to their starters. They don’t want their best players tired in their first round matchup. So the Knicks were trying to win an important game with playoff indications on the strength of their (mostly) young players. If that isn’t enough to get the fans’ blood pumping, the game was close throughout, and went into overtime.

With all the Knick’s youth on the floor, it was like a glimpse into the future. The only regulars were Tim Thomas (because of a lack of SF depth due to Penny’s stomach virus) and the prehistoric center Dikembe Mumtombo. For most of the crunch time, it was DerMarr Johnson, Frank Williams, and Michael Sweetney on the floor. Frank Williams, one of my favorite underused Knicks, didn’t play exceptionally well. He did hit a “clutch” layup, but only shot 2-3 with 3 TOs and 4 ASTs in 32 minutes. Of course he played better than Morris, who shot a horrible 1-8 and had only 1 assist with his 1 turnover.

One of DerMarr Johnson’s weaknesses over his career has been his average shooting. His career FG% is just 38%, and more importantly his career eFG is an unspectacular 45%. Yesterday he shot 54% with an eFG% of 62%! I couldn’t pinpoint anything different, except going to the hoop more often, including a two handed jam. His shots just seem to be going down.

DerMarr is an interesting player. He has Reggie Miller’s frame, but other than that has little resemblance to one of the most efficient scorers over the last decade. He’s an average scorer, at best, and lacks Miller’s incredible shooting eye. Like most players that come out of Cincy, the former Bearcat is an athletic defender. The 2002 Basketball Prospectus called him “one of the best defensive prospects in basketball.” From what I’ve seen the 23 year old is still a prospect. He was no match for Ron Artest at SF in Indy the other day. His skinny 6-9 body with long arms is more suitable for defending against SGs.

MSG’s player of the game was the Knicks’ first round pick Michael Sweetney, and rightfully so. Sweetney was, as Clyde Frazier likes to say, omnipresent under the boards. He picked up 5 offensive rebounds, and 7 on the defensive end. Combined with Mutombo, they did an excellent job countering the Wizards advantage on the glass. As for his offensive game, Sweetney shot 6-9 and I noticed he plays a little bit better when given ample playing time. In the 8 games he’s been given 20 minutes or more, he has shot 22-40 or 55%. Last night, he showed a nice array of post up moves. At one point he turned a near blocked shot into a left handed layup by adjusting mid flight. I’ve seen him make this type of adjustment at least twice on the season, and they are impressive to watch.

These last few games should be interesting to watch. The Knicks’ might be playing these guys more often. Sadly, it could the last time you see any of them in a Knicks’ uniform. Isaiah Thomas has a trigger finger when it comes to trades. Any or all of them could be gone if he feels he can net a better player in the process. In a way it’s a shame, since I’ve grown to like all three, and can see potential in all of them. There is something special in sports when you watch a young player develop into a good or great player. However sports is a business, and I would trade any of these guys if it meant getting a top notch player.

Indiana 107 New York 86

First Half Notes:

Two shocking moments for Knick fans in the first half. First is Lenny Wilkens getting visibly angry. The usually reserved Wilkens “lost it” when Tim Thomas got called on a dubious offensive foul against Ron Artest. No technical called on the Knicks coach. Maybe the refs were too shocked to call a T.

Second, a Dekembe Mutombo sighting! When Deke came in the second quarter, my jaw almost hit the floor. It was good timing, since the Knicks had been getting killed by Pacer defensive rebounds.

After Thomas’ foul (see above) DerMarr Johnson subbed in. Johnson made a nice play on a missed Indiana shot that won’t show up in the box scores. With the Pacers in good position for (another) offensive rebound, Johnson came from under the hoop. DerMarr, using his height & leaping ability, tipped the ball out to a Knick to save the rebound. He won’t get any credit for the play, but he should have.

Shandon Anderson got stripped by Jamal Tinsley twice in the first half. I could swear that he just dribbled the ball towards the Pacer’s PG and practically handed Tinsley the ball.

Penny Hardaway ruined an easy 4 on 2 fast break. Even I know when you’re going down the court, and you have the option, you give it to your big man (Nazr). Mohammed was open on the wing, but instead Penny passed it to the trailer behind him. The Pacers easily stole the ball & had a break of their own.

Nazr Mohammed started off 4-4. It should have been 5-5. Mohammed had head faked his defender & had a clear path to the hoop. Nazr (6’10), instead of going strong to the basket, tried to lay it in from a late helping Ron Artest (6’7). Artest got called on the foul, but Mohammed missed the shot. Had the Knicks’ center taken it strong, he most likely would have gotten an opportunity at a three point play.

Michael Sweetney played excellent in the first half. He stopped the bleeding that was the Knick’s defensive rebounding, by pulling a few down. Of course as soon as he got started, he was back on the bench again. At least it wasn’t in favor of Othella Harrington (0 first half minutes).

Second Half:

One of the announcers was talking about Nazr Mohammed’s development. He said that Mohammed is growing every day, because this was his first year starting. A moment later, he tried to qualify his statment by saying that he had started in the past, but that it was only spot starts, and this was Nazr’s first real year as starter. If starting 73 of 82 games in 2001 doesn’t count as being a starter, then I don’t know what does.

Mohammed blocked 4 shots tonight. The last time he did that, was January of 2003, against Portland.

It’s shocking to see Andy Pettitte in another uniform. The Astros/Giants game on ESPN2 was infinitately more enjoyable than another one of those New York Met commercials. I almost expect them to be fully endorsed by George Bush.

Vin Baker has just lost it. He’s fouled Jermaine O’Neal 4 times in a row, and if that wasn’t showing his frustration enough, he’s earned a technical foul for arguing as well.

The Knick announcers, with a 19 point lead and 9 mintues left, were discussing since the Knicks have a home game tomorrow, Lenny Wilkens will have to decide when to give up on tonight’s game, and save the player’s energy for tomorrow. Well if Lenny had the “game state matrix”, he would know that the Knick’s chance of winning on the road at that time, was less than 2%.