I don’t know about you, but last night’s “playoff” game really drained me. And we are only two games through the 82-game slate! If the Knicks are going to play with our emotions like this all year — and we all know that they will do just that — we had all better pick up a Costco-sized bottle of Rolaids.
Pretty much as soon as the final buzzer sounded — right after Carmelo Anthony missed a potential game-winner seconds after Derrick Rose converted on same — the Twitterverse was set ablaze with positive and negative Knicks spin. Many fans lamented the decisions made by coach Mike Woodson, specifically his inexplicable tendency to roll with questionable lineups. (Like the no ‘Melo, no Chandler, no defense squad that was deployed to start the fourth quarter.) Other fans cheered the fact that despite Woody’s odd strategic moves, the Knicks were actually able to stay in the game until the bitter end. (The ‘Bockers were down by as many as 13 points and committed 13 turnovers in the first half alone, yet somehow managed to grab a fourth quarter lead.)
Alas, a loss is a loss is a loss, and this one stung a bit, mostly because of the horrific offensive ineptitude on display during the critical final minutes. To wit, Chris Herring of the Wall Street Journal tweeted a few interesting nuggets on ‘Melo taking that final shot. The first being that Anthony has never hit a game-tying or winning shot when he was shooting 48% or less at time of the shot. Herring also noted that over the last ten years, Anthony has been the league’s best last-second shooter, hitting at a 44.6% clip. Oddly, however, the Knicks’ best player finished last year just 1-for-10 in those situations. You can’t really debate that Carmelo is the guy you want taking the last shot, but you can criticize the stagnant Iso-’Melo approach taken by New York in the game’s waning moments.
The guy who didn’t miss his final shot, of course, was Rose, who hit a baseline floater over Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler with 5.7 seconds left on the clock which gave the Bulls a one-point lead. I’m pretty sure that Chandler is still wondering how the league’s former MVP converted on that crazy attempt. After the game, Tyson said ”I don’t even know that he saw the basket, to be honest with you.” Give credit where credit is due, though. The Knicks played pretty good defense on that sequence and Rose hit a great shot in traffic. It happens.
Much has been made of late about perennial Knicks-hater Charles Barkley, he of the snarky TNT commentary about the Knicks barely beating the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday. Well, guess what, Sir Charles, it’s very early in the season, and though last night was a tough loss for New York, they showed they can hang with one of the best teams in the league. In fact, they were just a missed foul shot and an extra possession away from a beating them.
WHAT WENT RIGHT:
- The Knicks showed some guts. Trailing 76-66 after a Rose basket with 7:52 left in the fourth, New York went on a huge 12-0 run, displaying some pretty stippling defense, forcing turnovers and hitting big shots.
- Tyson Chandler. I know some less informed people will be moaning and groaning — Hi, Clyde! – about Chandler’s missed free throw in the closing seconds, the Knicks’ center played out of his mind last night. Turning the clock back to 2011-12, the man snagged 19 rebounds! Without his intensity and hustle, the Knicks are probably out of this game by the end of the third quarter. Tyson’s importance was only underscored when he Woodson had to give him rest and sub in Amar’e Stoudemire. At one point, Chicago hit five straight baskets with Chandler on the bench. Knicks fans have every reason to worry about the team’s lack of an inside presence on the defensive end when Tyson needs a spell. Perhaps Kenyon Martin can pick up some of the slack, but it’s a need that New York’s GM, Steve Mills, is going to have to address at some point during the season.
- Tim Hardaway Jr. played nearly 27 minutes and tallied 10 points and three rebounds. He also finished at +7 for the game and hit a couple of 3-pointers (2-for-6 from downtown). THJ wasn’t “lights out, oh my God, where did this kid come from?,” but he’s got a beautiful shooting stroke and it is fair to ask if the Knicks won’t be doing themselves a major disservice when J.R. Smith returns and Hardaway’s minutes become scant.
- The defense! Okay, fine, the defense AT TIMES, but still! The Knicks’ effort on defense was especially impressive during the fourth quarter, when they put a ton of pressure on the Chicago, making the Bulls look like the stumbling, bumbling first-half Knicks.
WHAT WENT WRONG:
- Carmelo Anthony. Yes, the Knicks’ forward finished with 22 points. And yes, he was an integral part of New York’s fourth-quarter 12-0 run. But ‘Melo also reverted to his isolation-happy ways at the most critical stage of the game. He was a ghastly 8-for-24 from the floor (2-for-7 from long-range), and he held onto the ball too long instead of finding open teammates. We all know that Anthony is going to opt-out at the end of the season so that he can re-sign with the Knicks for a max-contract. What we don’t know is if Carmelo can ever be the kind of player who can elevate his game and the games of those around him when it matters most. Watching the Knicks stand around while ‘Melo eats the entire shot clock before hoisting a contested jumper is beyond maddening, but the frustration is only made worse when you consider how long this kind play has been condoned by Woodson.
- So. Many. Turnovers. (In fairness, give the Knicks credit for the cutting down on the sloppiness in the second half, but overall, YUCK.)
- The Bulls scored 46 points in the paint to the Knicks’ 26.
- Chicago out-rebounded New York by 6 (Joakim Noah had 15 boards by himself.)
- The refs displayed quick whistle-triggers and Pablo Prigioni, Iman Shumpert and Stoudemire found themselves in foul trouble early. Matters were made worse when New York found itself in the penalty with 8:46 left in the fourth. Five Knicks finished the game with four fouls.
- Andrea Bargnani is going to need to rely less upon his head-fake and dribble drive. He’s telegraphing it almost every time he touches that ball and he’s picking up way too many offensive fouls. There are times when it looks like he has never played in the NBA before.
- The game’s closing moments. At some point, but probably never, the Knicks are going to have to learn that they cannot win games reliant upon ‘Melo’s heroics alone. Every single championship team shares the ball, works together and doesn’t forget what works for them just because the clock is winding down. New York probably had no business winning this game — it might have been a blowout if the Bulls were in mid-season form — but the Knicks COULD have won this game. And if that sort of thing starts to happen with regularity this season, it won’t be too difficult to imagine them ending up with a 6/8/8 seed and first round exit in the playoffs.
- Happy Halloween! New York’s orange alternate unis were… something. I am still not sure whether I loved them or I loathed them, but at least they’re unique. Television probably has something to do with it, too; the orange looked great in close up shots, but all you can see is orange blobs when the camera pans out for full court views. Still, though, if I had the money, I’d probably buy one of those jerseys.
- Steve Kerr was really trying his best not to sound like a Bulls homer on the TNT broadcast, but he failed pretty miserably. Also, I miss Marv Albert. Mike Breen is one of the best in the business, but hearing Marv call a Knicks game instantly transports us back to the mid-Nineties, and that is always a good thing.
- TNT showed a few clips of Anthony being interviewed before the game, and he talked about how he wanted to get other players to sign in New York and how he wanted to retire a Knick. I guess someone at the Garden — or CAA – gave him a little talking-to after all those free agency comments!
- Up next for New York: Sunday, 7:30 p.m. v. MIN, Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. v. CHA
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