Will The Knicks Dribble Right Into the Trap?

Tonight the Knicks have a chance to springboard into the 8th playoff seed in the east. The Knicks take on the Seattle Sonics at home while the Nets, who currently sit one-half game in front of them for the 8th seed, must travel to the lions’ den in Dallas. To make matters worse for the Nets, their loss this weekend to an improved 76ers team was dispiriting to say the least.

Unfortunately the Knicks have been here before, and more often than not the moment has been too big. The Knicks have played some of their worst basketball in such moments. Even more unfortunately, a number of factors conspire to suggest that we will see a similarly moribund effort tonight against the Sonics. Stephon Marbury and Steve Francis have been incredible the last couple games. And yet wins over the Hawks and Warriors, two of the league’s worst, have been down-to-the-wire nail-biters. David Lee is still day-to-day and today does not appear to be the day, as he is doubtful for tonight’s game. I am not sure about Nate Robinson’s availability. In addition, Eddy Curry seems to be hitting a wall of sorts. He was a non-factor in the last game due to what Isiah described as “dead legs,” reminiscent of the “dead arm” complaint often heard from pitchers during the dog days of August. Finally, Seattle will have it’s top player, Ray Allen, back for his second game since returning from ankle problems.

Yet, to quote the Lady Galadriel, “hope remains while the company is true.” Various members of NY’s bench brigade have stepped in and played admirably at times. Mardy Collins has improved the perimeter defense in Crawford’s absence. Richardson has been solid, though his back is acting up again. Renaldo Balkman continues to bring energy and defense. (He is also, quiet as it’s kept, one of the best on the team at cutting without the basketball rather than standing and watching.)

In some ways tonight’s game is the truest test of this team’s mettle and identity. This is a game that, despite being at less than full strength, the Knicks should win at home. But it is the kind of game the Knicks have lost in the past due to immaturity and carelessness. I want to believe that this team has grown a bit over the past few weeks through some big wins, some disappointing losses, and through inspired play despite injuries. But what I haven’t seen this team do is sustain solid play over a stretch of games. I am not personally one to label games “must-wins” until a team is down 2-0 in a best of seven. In this league, a player like Ray Allen can drop 60 on you on any given night and beat you.

Nonetheless, it is way past time for this team to begin building on good play rather than alternating good play with boneheaded play.

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Part-time blogger on the Knicks at Knickerblogger.net and Seahawks at FieldGulls.com. 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.

64 thoughts to “Will The Knicks Dribble Right Into the Trap?”

  1. steve francis had ONE good game. NOT GAMES…a single game nor is he anywhere near the “incredible.” Marbury has had (plural) incredible games. What I find incredible is that you dont talk about how francis is a bum and shouldnt be so privileged to wear a Knicks uni. the man only comes back beacuse one of our guys gets hurt. great teammate. Jamal plays hurt on a stress fracture for three weeks and this BUM Francis fronts about his injury because he wasnt getting playing time. TOUGH! There is a reason isiah exiled him.

    You all have a very nice website, don’t disgrace yourselves by giving Francis an iota of props or even put him in the same category as Marbury.

    Newsflash…when Jamal comes back for the playoffs, Francis will either ride pine or go back to houston. INCREDIBLE HUH?

  2. tonight is a must-win if they’re going to make a real run at the playoffs, the schedule gets tougher again after this.

    yes, Seattle with Allen and Lewis is dangerous but they have an awful road record, and we’re coming off a couple of nights rest, have to have this one.

  3. The Knicks normally start slow so the emphasis needs to be defense. If they can lead or stay within a single digits, they win easily. This team finally has a new goal other than 23 wins. Isiah deserves major props for what can turn out to be one of the greatest frachise turnarounds in sports history. Oh yeah and he did it the hard way.

  4. Nice read – thanks David.

    Funny thing is, given the defensive intensity brought by Balkman, Jeffries and Collins, one has to wonder if the offseason roster moves under consideration should include losing Nate. Collins playing next to Jamal doesn’t look so bad in terms of backcourt combos (one passer, one shooter, four long arms) for 2009 and beyond…but he has to keep getting minutes and that means Nate shouldn’t.

  5. Lee/Nate won’t play tonight. QRich will. Ridnour is out for Seattle. Allen and Fortson are going to play.

    I’m interested to see between Q/Jeffries who takes Rashard Lewis and who covers Jesus Shuttlesworth. W/Quentin’s balky back, you don’t want him running around trying to get through screens on Ray-Ray, but then again, Lewis can shoot right over him. If Balkman/Collins can come through with a solid effort and let Richardson rest up for the next few days, it’d be a big help.

    It’d also be nifty if Channing Frye could have his first big game since the triple OT thriller v. Detroit…

  6. “I?m interested to see between Q/Jeffries who takes Rashard Lewis and who covers Jesus Shuttlesworth”

    Why not stick with what worked last time at put Steph on Allen?

  7. Funny moment from around the 4:30 mark of the 3rd:

    Breen: Great ball denial, by Francis ….. who now falls down.

    Cracked me up.

  8. I knew the shot was going to be off after Kenny Smith, when he shot it though on release it looked good.. its a shame.. but Starbury is back :P

  9. Holy crap we missed a lot of free throws.

    I can’t get too mad at Steph after he scores forty points and almost sent it to OT- he has just been unconscious.

  10. Free throws are such a simple thing. How do we miss so many. Thank you steph for putting us on your back, but he cannot be blamed. get frye out of there-he has no confidence and should completley be benched. if lee does not start on sat, i dont know what to say. also, how about rose’s effort, he was the only reason we were in the game. lastly, whats the last play we drew up for marbury-drive to the basket and get fouled, dont take a fadiing away 3. those are the little intanglibles that loses games, not wins them.

  11. Starbury is definitely back, but he needs help and he got very little tonight outside of Malik. the thinking (“thinking”) on the next to last possession (nothing was drawn up there, there was no time out) was that a three puts us up by 4 and takes the game out of Ray Allen’s reach. not such a bad idea, honestly. if we get the long rebound there, we win.

    so hard being a Knicks fan…

  12. I can’t image how many people are furious with Kenny Smith for calling “this game’s going to overtime” after Marbury sunk the first freethrow. Fuck him. He should never work for the MSG Network again. Can’t blame this one on Steph – let’s take a look over at Mr. Jared Jeffries and his 0-4 night from the line. Thanks, Jared.

  13. Arrrrrrgh…..how do we miss all those free throws? I don’t blame Steph, he was the only guy keeping this team in the game while everyone else was bricking free throws and playing horrible three point defense. He can only do so much – there should never be a game where Steph scores 40 while playing within the flow of the game and the Knicks still lose.

  14. i can’t blame stephon for missing that free throw, but he should have barrelled to the hoop on the possession before. with a lead at the end of the game, you’re gonna get AT LEAST two free throws, much less an “and 1”. he’d be adding to the lead at the very least. settling for a 30-foot three like that was absolutely inexcusable.

    that’s just simple end-of-game management. he should have known better.

    then again, he had a monster game, and seemed to be the only one who really showed up tonight, so it’s difficult to get mad at him.

  15. Yeah, the second to last possession was dumb. Because if he drives to the hoop, it’s less likely they’d get an easy transition bucket as they did.

    Hard to get mad at him for shooting it considering how hot he was (and he almost made it)..but really, driving to the hoop would’ve been the play…if you go up 3, lewis or allen might bury a three, but at worst you’re going to OT and should get another chance to win it.

    Steph was unreal though. We had no business being in that game.

    We need Lee back.

  16. Now you know why I wasn’t willing to put up a new entry. ;)

    Better you than me be the jinx, Dave! :)

  17. A couple thoughts,

    The Knicks had 28 more FT attempts than the Sonics, but hit only 63%.

    Not counting Steph, the Knicks shot 41.3% from the floor and went 3-13 from 3pt.

    Richardson’s back problems have turned him into a spot up shooter who rarely drives inside when his shot isn’t falling. He shot 33%FG (2-10 3pt) last night and didn’t get to the line once. As mentioned above, it has also made him a liability on defense. At this point, resting Q would do both him and the team some good.

  18. Brian –

    I was trying for the reverse jinx! ;)

    I probably shouldn’t even tell you that before Steph shot the first free throw I said, “He hits the first and misses the second.”

  19. Hey KB, you know that the standings on the Stats page are all screwed up, right? For example, it lists Detroit as having 1 win and 39 losses, with a winning percentage of 21.000, and 6/10 of a game back.

  20. that was a soul-destroying ending.

    i do have to take issue with the complaints about steph’s second-to-last play. yes, it was not ideal; yes, in retrospect he probably should have driven to the basket; yes, it may have cost the game. but steph’s been making that shot all season, the late game 3 in the middle of a 4th quarter hot streak, and he’s hit it way more often than he’s missed. if he had hit it, they would most probably won the game. in the midst of a 40 point game, that shot was not as stupid as it looked.

    the bigger complaint is, of course, where was the rest of the team last night?

  21. np,

    i’d agree with you except that it was an incredibly long 3-pointer. he was a good six to eight feet beyond the arc. that’s a 20% shot in the very best circumstances, even if Marbury is on fire like he was.

  22. That was a bad shot. Even worse was that the long rebound went right to Curry. Instead of jumping to grab it with two hands, Curry tapped it backwards to start the Seattle break. Those are the mistakes that kill this team.

  23. How the ball comes off the rim is a completely random event. As Dean Oliver pointed out in “Basketball on Paper”, long shots and short shots are rebounded by the offense at about the same rate.

    To blame Marbury for how the ball came off the rim is illogical: he had no control over the event. The only question is whether or not that was the right shot to take.

    Seeing as Marbury was the only one who showed up for the Knicks, I don’t see why he shouldn’t have been taking the shot. If he was feeling it, let him shoot.

  24. “To blame Marbury for how the ball came off the rim is illogical: he had no control over the event.”

    no one did that here, what are you talking about? Larry was blaming Curry for not grabbing the rebound correctly.

    tangentially, I’m one of Curry’s biggest defenders here, but he’s been pretty dreadful the last couple of games, although that block near the end on the driving layup was very nice.

    “Seeing as Marbury was the only one who showed up for the Knicks, I don?t see why he shouldn?t have been taking the shot. If he was feeling it, let him shoot.”

    no one’s questioning this either, they’re questioning the shot he chose, which was clearly something of a force to try to seal the game. I don’t have a big problem with it myself, as I said above, but I can certainly see the argument for him trying to drive it in that situation and at least get a bit closer.

  25. i have a huge problem with scarbury taking that 3 at the end of the game – he is supposed to be the qb of this team, that shot, with the game on the line, is absolutelty inexcusable – it is the tip of the iceberg for a cancerous mefirst player – stephon marbury: the only superstar journeyman i know

  26. Its very difficult to justify that shot. He left so little time a drive and dish would have been difficult. There was too much time left on the clock to hope for that a scramble off a miss would ice the game.

    The comment about Curry not grabbing that rebound is 100% correct. Hr tipped it directly to a sonic for a FBO. Just unbelievable. And he committed five turnovers.

    Jon, you are one of Curry’s biggest defenders, and he is one of our biggest defenders, and blocks like that one last night are way too infrequent. I was in a bar last night watching the game (I do actually watch games, though I prefer to read the scores :-)and when it happened I turned to the guy next to me with a look of joy on my face, and he actually said, “thats something I havent seen in a while.”

    Which is actually true as it turns out. Curry has just 10 blocks in the last 25 games.

  27. Miami starting to separate themselves, they’ve won four in a row, even without Wade, blowing out Chicago tonight.

    but Indiana is still in free-fall, seven losses in a row by an average of more than 17 PPG.

    so two of these four will be in, two out:

    7. Indiana 29-31
    8. Orlando 29-33

    9, NJ 28-33
    10, NY 28-34

    Orlando and NJ are probably the faves there right now, but it’s certainly up for grabs IF WE COULD WIN SOME DAMN GAMES.

  28. “it is the tip of the iceberg for a cancerous mefirst player – stephon marbury: the only superstar journeyman i know”

    if jon’s gonna be eddy’s defender, then i’m gonna be steph’s: give the man some credit for this season, which (first 15 games aside) has been great. sometimes i think people are so used to criticizing the knicks from last season that it’s hard to get out of the mindset and actually look at what’s going on on the court.


    i’m hoping that lee coming back is going to be a big boost for this last stretch. have to say ny’s done way better than i thought they would have done without lee + jamal. i was semi-expecting one of their occasional down-from-beginning-to-end games but they’ve pleasantly surprised me. i’m really hoping this long break will give eddy curry his legs back (or whatever it is that’s wrong with him). this is exactly the point that eddy needs to step up if he really is an all-star caliber player.

  29. Yeah, hopefully a rest is all Eddy needs.

    Think somehow he misses Lee? not really sure why or how.

    I’ve been wanting to see how the team will play minus Crawford plus Lee.

  30. “Orlando and NJ are probably the faves there right now, but it?s certainly up for grabs IF WE COULD WIN SOME DAMN GAMES.”

    The rest of the schedule looks very tough to me. Some good teams coming into town and a lot of difficult road games. I would not put money on a Thomas team jumping over anyone, especially after the loss of Crawford. I think Francis is going to be an increasingly disruptive force. Concern now is how far back they might fall.

  31. “Marbury was benched the second half of a game this past weekend and refused to huddle with the team during timeouts, he just sat at the end of the bench”
    -ESPN website in january

    is anyone else sick of seeing his trademark scowl? maybe you don’t see it enough cuz of the towel he wears on his head… anyways, i am not saying marbury can’t score. he can. i just don’t think a championship team can be built around him, former teammates call him the worst teammate theyve ever had. he doesn’t listen to his coaches. i mean damn, does that bit from the espn website not say it all about what kind of team player he is

  32. and no, this season hasn’t been great. its better than last season, but just about any season could be. i am not satisfied with this season, the knicks are nowhere near the elite teams of this league

  33. “i just don?t think a championship team can be built around him”

    what’s the list of players who a championship team can be built around currently in the NBA? Wade, LeBron, Duncan, I guess Shaq still counts, Nowitzki, maybe Nash (although they’re going out in the second round this year).

    maybe I missed one or two, but it’s not long. Detroit won a title without having any one player to build around, so theoretically that’s the model to follow if you can’t land one of the extremely rare championship-quality franchise players.

  34. marbury traded from wolves bc he refused to defer to garnett, traded from suns bc he refused to defer to stoudemire – PG refusing to defer?

  35. I don’t know why you have this vendetta against Marbury, but he almost single-handedly won that game for us. I also don’t think it’s fair to bring up past trades, especially while young, to judge someone’s current character and career. Jason Kidd would look like an ass. So would Kobe Bryant.

    Okay that was a bad example.

  36. Also, saying that Stephon Marbury is not a guy you could build a championship around is not the same as saying he’s bad for a basketball team.

    By definition, most good players cannot carry a championship team but we’d still be glad to have them. In fact, many of the players are our own team that we’re happy to have–David Lee, for instance–aren’t superstars.

    I’m always one to cut Marbury some slack, since it’s not his fault we expect so much out of him.

  37. You;’re taking about the guy who refer to himself as “Starbury” and only two short years ago announced he was the best point guard in the NBA. That guy. I think he brings it on himself. That being said he has played great the past week, last minute decision making notwithstanding, and deserves credit for that.

  38. Nate Robinson is reported to be ready to play Saturday night at Washington–10 lbs. lighter after his bout with the flu.

    Nate Robinson minus 10 lbs. is former Bullets guard Michael Adams.

  39. man, these days off really help us in the playoff race, Nets getting blasted again tonight. sadly we have to start playing games again at some point. :)

  40. Enough about Marbury. Yeah, he’s a moody guy, but he’s playing like a stud lately. Marbury (and Malik) were the only reasons the Knicks were in a position to win the game against Seattle. Marbury was 80% from 3-point range when he took that last 3. Who else would you want to shoot the ball? By comparison, Marbury was 50% from the field, so percentage-wise, jacking up a 3 wasn’t such a bad idea.

    Regarding Malik, it looked like he was channeling David Lee out on the court. High octane on both ends of the court. Hopefully he keeps it up, because the Knicks could really use that energy during this part of the season.

    Does anyone have an update on Lee? I heard he had to shut it down in practice the other day.

  41. Confucius –

    The comparison with Adams is an interesting one, though I was just trying to be funny when I wrote it.

    Adams as a 23 year old rookie, two years older than Nate as a rookie, played only 18 games. But his 2nd season (age 24) compares favorably to Robinson’s 2nd season (age 22).

    Adams: eFG 44.3; TS 50.6; 3pt 27.5; PER 14.3
    N-Rob: eFG 49.0; TS 54.1; 3pt 34.0; PER 14.6

  42. DMull asked above:

    “Yeah, hopefully a rest is all Eddy needs.

    Think somehow he misses Lee? not really sure why or how.”

    and the answer is pretty clear in this sentence from today’s Newsday:

    “The absence of Lee has allowed teams to double Curry with another forward without fear of leaving the Knicks’ best rebounder without a body on him.”

  43. Back to the Franchise/Starbury starting back court……..

    If ever a wild over-strethed analogy between a starting five NBA lineup and a dysfunctional nuclear family could be made THIS has got to be it



  44. I know we have injuries and blah blah, but I challenge anyone on this message board to come up with a more outrageous ridiculous starting lineup then this in the annals of NBA history

  45. Thank God Washington plays the same intense defense we do.

    Let’s hope we take this game. NJ is playing the Spurs tonight as well, and with the way they’ve been playing it looks like you can already pencil in a loss for the Nets. That would throw us ahead of NJ a game for the 8th spot.



    I haven’t screamed like that watching a sporting event in a while. what a ridiculous win. WHOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!

  48. Talk about a game with no flow or rhythm…

    Two aspects of this game that may easily go unnoticed:

    1. Marbury & Francis kept Arenas in relative check.

    2. Eddy Curry was a presence on the boards. Especially late, he made himself useful even though he was having a difficult shooting night.

    I might have added Jared Jeffries’ game, but it’d be hard not to notice what a nice game he had on both ends.

    Francis’ shot at the buzzer was pretty sweet. After missing that free throw, and making three of the worst decisions on fastbreaks I’ve ever seen he hung in there and hit the big shot at the end. It was apropos. He needed and so did the team. Nice.

  49. What an incredible ending to such an up and down game. My god we’re in the 8th spot with Orlando and only a game behind 7th. Wow.

  50. status report on the three teams we’re competing with for the final two spots:

    Orlando has lost 8 out of 10, 12 out of 16, and 20 out of 27, they go to Houston tomorrow.

    Indiana is still in free-fall, 8 losses in a row, O’Neal and Daniels hurt and Tinsley was suspended today for ‘conduct detrimental to the team’.

    NJ’s about to lose their 5th in a row, Kidd and Frank both got thrown out, Frank’s first ejection ever and Kidd’s first as a Net.


  51. also, this can obviously change a lot very quickly, but as of right now, Chicago would get our pick at #15 (no lottery balls) and we’d get theirs at #22.

  52. Yes sir!

    Thought for sure I was watching a replay of last game, great shot by Steve.

    That really was a big win.

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