The picture painted itself: The New York Knicks were down seven points, battling, with all their might, a Philadelphia 76ers team that is actively trying to lose games this season.
The Knicks had just cut the lead to two points with two minutes remaining, but folded on themselves again; they allowed Thadeus Young a wide open three-pointer to push the lead to five. Then, despite Iman Shumpert draping himself all over him, Evan Turner, en route to a career night, hit a tough, fade-away baseline jumper to create that seven-point 76ers lead. The Knicks would need stops and baskets quick to erase the deficit with less than a minute ago.
And then it happened, the scene that encapsulated the 2013-14 Knicks. Young missed a jump shot, Tyson Chandler came down with the rebound. Michael Carter-Williams, the Sixers’ rookie phenom, unannounced, unbeknownst to the Knicks, sneaked behind Chandler and stole the ball back. There it was — the Madison Square Garden PA pounding the “BOOM-BOOM, DE-FENSE!” chant, the MSG crowd booing. “BOOM-BOOM!” The crowd’s jeers grew louder. The Knicks hung their shoulders and heads, defeated; Carter-Williams skipped back out to the perimeter and reset the offense, running down the clock as an energized Sixers team accepted the victory with open arms.
Even if the sorry ending had gone differently, it really wouldn’t have been that different. Even if the Knicks had fought back, miraculously erased that seven-point deficit and stole the game from the jaws of defeat, it still wouldn’t have really been a victory. The Knicks came into the season with championship, or at least deep-playoff aspirations. They came into this contest 11 games below .500, tied for 10th place in a historically weak Eastern Conference. They had lost four games in a row — now five — after winning five in a row, showing signs of a hopeful turnaround.
Tonight there was Evan Turner, cruising to, as mentioned, a career night: 34 points, 13-22 FG, 11 boards. There was Carter-Williams, a generally inaccurate, streaky rookie, going for 19 points, 12 boards, 7 assists, and 2 steals, out-dueling the Knicks’ eight-year veteran point guard.
And there was the Knicks’ own undoing. Going 17-24 from the free throw line, missing crucial free throws that could’ve made this a real game down the stretch. There was the rebounding difference: 39-54 difference in Philly’s favor, giving them 16 second-chance points in the process. There was Carmelo Anthony, cold to start, hot in the middle of the game, cold and stagnant to finish — finishing with 28 points on 10-23 shooting. There was Andrea Bargnani, sloppy as ever in all facets but his shooting, scoring 20 points on 12 shots and not seeing the floor for the final six minutes. There was J.R. Smith, who went 5-16 and missed three three-pointers in a row in the fourth quarter.
The Knicks are 0-3 to begin this pivotal eight-game home stand. When they finish this stretch, there will be less than three weeks to the trade deadline. If things haven’t turned around by then — and it’s hard to imagine they will — that February 20 date becomes a lot more interesting.
- The Knicks got fairly solid offensive production all around, and, frankly, this loss came down to really bad timing and execution. Besides for Anthony’s 28 points on 23 shots, the Knicks got 63 points on 44 shots combined from Bargnani, Smith, Tyson Chandler, and Iman Shumpert.
- The Knicks, at times, attempted to stop switching and good things generally resulted. However, down the stretch, switching and miscommunication did them in.
- Only 13 turnovers tonight, which is an improvement over recent games where the Knicks had been averaging nearly 18 per night.
- The Philadelphia 76ers are one of those strange teams who are harder to understand in the eye of advanced stats. Because the Sixers play at such a fast pace — 102.3 possessions per game — they look like a worse offensive team in offensive rating and a better defensive team in defensive rating than they really are. Still, the Knicks gave up 110 points to a team that averages 101 points per game. Not good.
- Also not good: 64% shooting from downtown for the Sixers tonight. They shoot 32% from beyond the arc on the season, 29th in the NBA.
- Weird, but bad: the Knicks were up 90-88 with 7:15 to play when Felton replaced Prigioni and Shumpert replaced Hardaway Jr. Over the next six minutes, the Knicks were outscored 19-12.
- I BELIEVE I CAN FLYYY
I currently reside kind of close to Philadelphia, so MSG blacks out on League Pass for me when the Knicks play the Sixers and I’m forced to watch the Philly broadcast. It’s very interesting watching the Knicks from another team’s perspective. A few notes and quotes from the Philly broadcast featuring Marc Zumoff and Malik Rose (not necessarily exact quotes):
- On the Knicks’ fastbreaks: Rose: ‘And the Knicks are one of the worst fastbreak teams in the NBA, so the Sixers need to push the ball.’ Zumoff: ‘In fact, they are the worst fastbreak team in the league.’ Rose: ‘I know, I was trying to be nice, man!’
- Rose on playing in New York and dealing with the media scrutiny: ‘I was on the bench by that time, so I didn’t really have to deal with it.’
- Rose on the possibility of Spike Lee making a He Got Game sequel: “After a star-studded career, Jesus Shuttlesworth… retires. Or something.”
- Rose: “[J.R. Smith] has never seen a shot he doesn’t like!” Zumoff: “Or a tattoo!”
The Knicks are 0-1 since Beno Udrih has requested a trade.