Woo boy. That one sure hurt.
The worst thing about losses like these isn’t the actual loss itself, but more so how the little things, had they gone differently, stood between New York and a victory. Fresh off a 95-91 road win against the Atlanta Hawks, the Knicks fell to 3-5 last night on the young season, coming up short against the young and exciting Houston Rockets. Between James Harden‘s return to the starting lineup (foot) and Jeremy Lin‘s second Garden-homecoming, there was enough drama to bring the building to the kind of fever pitch usually reserved for an evening in April. Unfortunately for New York, however, a late-game, controversial non-call marred what was in some ways a promising outing from the ‘Bockers.
Neither team showed much interest in playing defense, as both were seemingly keener on engaging in an offensive slug-fest — New York and Houston combined to launch some 48 three point attempts. There were runs on both sides, but in the end, despite an incredible game from Carmelo Anthony (45 points, 10 rebounds), New York was unable to overcome the disparity in fouls (44-27 in favor of Houston, leading to 38 points from the charity stripe) or the poor shooting of J.R. Smith (4-for-16) and Metta World Peace (1-for-7).
Of course, most people will be chatting by the water cooler today talking about the aforementioned non-call in which Harden clearly fouled ‘Melo off an inbounds, but the latter’s shot attempt — which was a three pointer that miraculously went in, and would have tied the game — was waived off by referee Scott Foster. Foster told reporters after the game that “the initial contact was before [Anthony] started to turn, while his back was to the basket, and then he flung it up.” Reasonable people can debate whether Foster made the right call, but from my vantage point, replays seemed to confirm that the referee had a legitimate argument. When you’re losing more than you’re winning, these are kinds of things that tend to happen.
So on a night that in many ways had a playoff kind of vibe, the Knicks put on a show, but came up short.
WHAT WENT RIGHT:
- ‘Melo was a freakin’ animal last night. For (alarmingly) long stretches, he was the only Knick capable of hitting a shot, going 17-for-30 from the floor and committing just three turnovers in 44 minutes. There honestly wasn’t much more he could’ve done aside from taking the white board out of Woodson’s hands and drawing up his own plays. Actually, that is pretty much what he does now, but if he’s this hot, not even the most ardent Anthony-hater is going to complain much.
- Andrea Bargnani is legit! Well, maybe I am getting just a tad ahead of myself, but the Italian is showing signs that he might just be a valuable commodity for the Knicks season. With 24 points on 9-12 shooting, the seven-footer was cooking with gas for most of the first half, and he really found his groove in the pick-and-pop. He was money from 14-16 feet and it’s good to see him start stringing together efficient shooting nights. Shockingly, though, Bargnani’s play on the defensive end against Dwight Howard was the real story. Granted, the Rockets didn’t do themselves any favors; Bargs isn’t a terrible defender when he’s asked to merely set up shop in the low post and put his hands up. For reasons unknown to anyone, Howard seemed perfectly willing to play to Andrea’s “strength” in that regard, charging straight at him all night en route to just seven points on 1-for-5 shooting and five turnovers. Get ‘em, Bargs!
- The Knicks shot 40% from long-range and finished with 20 assists to just nine turnovers last night. That was the formula which New York rode to 54 wins last year, so with any luck at all, history will start repeating itself more often as we go forward.
WHAT WENT WRONG:
- We knew the Knicks were going to have their fair share of struggles defensively with Tyson Chandler out, but this is just BAD. The Rockets are not a god shooting team from three (9-for-28 last night, 32.1% on the season), so of course New York essentially let them live in the paint, allowing 30 shots inside eight feet. The Knicks simply could not keep Harden (36 points) and Lin (21 points) from getting to the rim. This was an issue last season — guards getting the basket — and it remains a problem now. Paging Mike Woodson. We need a defensive clean-up in Aisle 5. Paging Mike Woodson.
- New York’s defensive aggressiveness. Yes, I realize we want them to play better D. And yes, I realize it’s somewhat hypocritical to lambast their lack of defensive prowess and call out them out for being aggressive, but there is a difference between aggression and stupidity. Case in point: Felton’s awful foul on Harden in the game’s waning moments that led to three free throws for the Houston guard. I mean, come on Ray, Harden leg kick or not, that was just plain stupid, and it certainly was a key reason why the Knicks lost the game.
- ‘Melo and Bargs combined to finish 26-of-42 from the field. YAY! J.R., Felton, World Peace and Shumpert went 9-for-36. BOO! The supporting cast really let ‘Melo down last night, no two ways about it.
- I know it’s basically preaching to the choir at this point, but the incessant switching and overly aggressive double-teaming needs to stop.
- Finally, the ghost of Amar’e Stoudemire made an appearance. He missed all three of his shots and looked amazingly bad on both ends of the floor. I echo Jamie O’Grady‘s sentiments during the game; can the Knicks get in any sort of legal trouble if they play Stoudemire for 40 minutes a night over the next four or five games so that his knees fall out, and he is forced to retire? I keed, I keed. Kind of.
- Bargs blocked Howard and I’m pretty sure the planet stopped rotating on its axis for 20 seconds. Either that or I just passed out.
- Hardaway Jr. had a very pretty finish on the break in the 4th quarter. He’s really showed a penchant for making good things happen in transition and it’s much appreciated.
- The Hawks visit the Garden tomorrow at 7:30pm for a rematch of Wednesday’s night’s affair.