Game Recap: Grizzlies 94, Knicks 83: A Grizzly Performance

What is there to say, other than the Knicks appropriately walked into FedEx Arena and really mailed one in?  A 94-83 drubbing that wasn’t even as close as the double digit score would indicate due to a 31-19 4th quarter in the Bockers favor, the Knicks put up a horrendous performance against a 3-6 team without Z Bo.  The Knicks shot 37% from the floor, and while the defense was strong at times, in general, it was a terrible and lackluster performance.  The Knicks came out flat from the start, Amar’e picked up 2 fouls in the blink of an eye and the rout was on, with the cherry on top of that awful start being a horrendous 2nd foul on Melo with under a second to go in the first on Rudy Gay.  It was that kind of night.  The Knicks did a decent defensive job, outside of repeatedly getting torched by Gay and OJ Mayo, who put up a very efficient 26 and 18 respectively.  For the Knicks part, Melo played well prior to first hurting his wrist, then spraining his ankle (more on that in second), and had a nice little Baltimore battle going with Rudy Gay until his injuries.  Fields and Bill Walker were the lone bright spots, as Landry played a strong controlled game, somehow ending up with +9 +/- in that sea of garbage, while his fellow starters posted horrendous numbers.  Bully Walker shot 4-7 from deep on his way to nice 14 point performance.

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In Your Face, Malik – Knicks 85 Sixers 79

Malik Rose, you were a forgettable player from a forgettable era.

“Knicks are going to let them back in the game.  It’s like historical.  They always do that.” So said Malik Rose right before the teams entered the half with the Knicks leading 45-35.  Unless you believe that game jerseys have magical powers and white jerseys with “New York” on the front cause players to blow second half leads, the logic of his prediction made no sense.  Other than Jared Jeffries (who thankfully didn’t play last night) this team is completely different than those architected by Isiah Thomas during Malik’s time in New York.  Heck, this team is vastly different than the team from the beginning of last season. I’m probably giving Malik a hard time.  I think he happens to be a pretty good rookie announcer even though, after a 13-year career, he didn’t know that a player gets two free throws on a flagrant foul.  So this isn’t “one plus one is two, all day long, and it’s never gonna change. And that’s factorial.”

Malik was on point all night long with his criticism of Carmelo Anthony, and on multiple occasions said he preferred having Melo in the game becasue the ball movement stopped, making the Knicks easier to defend.  We’ve already detailed Melo’s selfishness and poor decision making late in games, but tonight was a new kind of awful.  The box score reads that Anthony had 27 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists in 37 minutes, but he also needed 24 shots and committed five turnovers.  Pretty inefficient statistically speaking, however, the real problems were the things that don’t show up in the box score. Read more of this post

Turkey Sandwich Consumed: Knicks 91 Bobcats 87

"Up your nose with a rubber hose!" - Tyson "Horshack" Chandler

This game was a turkey sandwich. It’s good for you, it fills you up, and it’s reasonably healthy; it gets the job done, but it leaves you feeling entirely unsatisfied. The Knicks, playing the Bobcats at home for the second time in 5 days, hoped to avenge a disheartening loss last week, in which New York looked sluggish and uninterested. The Bockers spotted Charlotte a quick ten points, to the vocal chagrin of the Garden crowd. Perhaps spurred on by the boo-birds, the Knicks clamped down on defense and got some easy looks, running out to a 21-16 lead, before closing out the quarter up by 3. That’s when things got extremely boring for a prolonged stretch, only to get a little too interesting in the end. Ultimately, the heady play and hustle of Tyson Chandler saved the Knicks from another embarrassing home loss against the team that dumped his salary just last season, as New York was able to cling to a 4 point victory that Knicks fans enjoyed but did not relish, just like a turkey sandwich.

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Game Recap: One for the Scrubs – Knicks 102 Pistons 80

Good teams beat bad teams and they beat bad teams on the road. Last night’s Knicks victory surpassed the Sacramento win as the team’s best game of the season. With the lockout cutting training camp short and earlier season injuries, the Knicks took longer than people expected/wanted to find their rhythm. Last night will either be a sign of things to come or an early season aberration. I think it’s the former.

The defining sequence was in the mid second quarter.  STAT and Melo ran a beautiful give and go as Stoudemire found Melo on a back door cut that would have made Pete Carril proud. Then after a quick Pistons miss, the Knicks got the board and ran. It wasn’t a fast break but it wasn’t half court offense, it was something the SSOL Suns did so well. Melo pushed the pace and before the defense could settle found Bibby who hit one of his four three pointers for the quarter. The first play was something that happens when you have two of the best dozen or so offensive players in the game working together, and the second was something that D’Antoni teams do.

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Game Recap: Knicks 99, the Wiz 96

Tonight’s game was a matchup of teams in crisis. Both teams spent Thursday regrouping; the Wiz held a highly publicized player’s only meeting while the Knicks holed up in the film room diagnosing their defensive troubles. Fortunately for the Knicks they were able to pull out the W though the game was definitely too close for comfort for most Knicks fans, with the Wiz having a chance to take the lead in the waning seconds on a John Wall three that clanked off the back of the rim.

The first quarter felt all too familiar. The Wiz, who entered the game averaging only 85 points per game on just under 39% shooting, put up the easiest 32 points they will score all season. Second year stud John Wall had no trouble getting to the rim, in transition or through penetration in the half court set. Meanwhile, Young scorched the Knicks from the outside. The Knicks inability to stay in front of the Wiz guards put them in a 14 point hole by the time the first buzzer sounded.

But the second quarter saw a change in momentum. The Knicks slowly chipped away the Wizards lead on the backs of their superstar tandem. Melo and STAT put up 21 and 15 points respectively in the first half and did so by getting to the rim. It was a welcome change to see them attack the basket, not settle for three pointers possession after possession. After having been down by 16 the Knicks amazingly had a chance to take the lead before halftime but Melo’s deep 2 fell short.

Halftime score: 47-46.

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Game Recrap: Bobcats 118, Knicks 110

The season is still young, but these are the games that make a difference in playoff seeding, or even whether the Knicks will dance in the second season or be watching ping pong balls on behalf of the Rockets (thank you Jared Jeffries salary dump) come spring. In an embarrassing showing, the Knicks yielded 118 points to the previously clawless Bobcats, losing 118-110 at the Garden. Combined with losing on the road to a Steph Curry-less Warriors team and Monday at home to the Craptors, this is the Knicks 3rd loss that a team with as much talent as the Knicks CANNOT lose, regardless of how banged up the team is or how little time they have had to “gel.” It just can’t happen.

The game started off perfectly for the Knicks. Tyson had a great oop from Melo 5 seconds into the action, Amar’e actually corralled a rebound and TD and Chandler had a great pick and roll for the early flush. Then, it kinda got really ugly. The defense was horrendous all night, as the rotations weren’t there or totally puzzling in execution. The Woodson plan apparently involves switching on every pick and roll (ya know, because Tyson Chandler and Toney Douglas are basically interchangeable as far as who they can guard), help never came for a majority of the night and Bobcats had more contested jumpers in warm-ups. The lines for the ‘Cats mediocre cast of characters was alarming: 12-15 for 27 from Boris Diaw, 10-13 for 24 from Gerald Henderson, 5-8 from DJ White for 10 and 6-8 for 16 from Byron “Don’t Call Me BJ” Mullens. Just an absolutely traumatic defensive performance, especially by the front court.

For Mullens’ part, that was a head scratcher if I ever saw one. This is the same guy that was described upon leaving for the draft after his freshman year (where he averaged under 10 ppg at Ohio State) as unable to create his own shot and lacking any perimeter game, but he seemed to be reborn as a shooter against the Knicks porous front line. This leads me to one of three conclusions: 1) dropping the BJ from his name made him an elite shooter 2) his time in the NBDL, Greece and prison league ball really refined his perimeter game or 3) the Knicks defense is a complete and utter failure. Considering the evidence would indicate the BJ moniker led BJ Armstrong to be one of the best shooters of my lifetime, it was either the pick up games in cell block 6 that led to Mullens’ amazing growth, or the NYK defense is really that bad. While it may be worth it to send D12 to a few West Orlando Juvenile detention games (because if Howard developed a perimeter game like Mullens showed last night he’d be the greatest player in the history of man), I’m going to point the finger at the Knicks huge embarrassing failure of interior D here. The perimeter D was no better, as the Bobcats shot 55.3% in all, with 63.6% from 3. Good stuff. In an unrelated note, I have no idea how Corey Maggette was never an Isiah era Knick. He’s selfish, a terrible team player, extremely overrated and overpaid. Zeke really dropped the ball on that one.

Offensively, things were a little more encouraging for the Knicks (how could they be worse?), particularly in light of the defense and what we have seen offensively in recent games. Amar’e had his best game of the young season and actually ventured inside, putting his quest to become the league’s biggest 2 guards on hold for the time being and getting over the kryptonite effect the paint has had on him early this year. This team really needs Amar’e to be a big time scorer, even more so than Melo, simply because Amar’e is so much more efficient. Melo is who he is, and there is a place on this team for a high volume elite scorer, but it certainly helps to be flanked by another elite scorer who does so efficiently. Amar’e also rebounded tonight to the tune of 12 boards to compliment his 25 points. Nice performance coming off the injury from STAT.

Chandler didn’t miss a shot, but outside of the first few minutes, he was almost non existent all night, ending up 4-4 with 11 points and 6 boards in 40 minutes. Way to show the ‘Cats they made a poor decision to salary dump you. Melo poured in 32, which was deceptively impressive, as he dropped 22 in the 4th to simply keep the Knicks within shouting distance. He experienced foul trouble all night, and has had better performances. Still, Melo finished with a line of 32 points, 6 rebs, 5 assists and 3 steals, so it’s hard to point the finger at his performance as the killer here. For his part, Toney had a few decent looks for his teammates, but shot terribly, including 1-6 from deep. Again, some encouraging signs offensively as a whole, but given that the paint was prominently defended by Boris Diaw and DJ White, that should be a given.

Shumpert, in his first game since the season opener, provided a ton of energy and effort on both sides of the ball, and sparked the worst bench in the league so far this season with 18 impressive points. He displayed his world class athleticism on both ends, an impressive shooting stroke and tremendous confidence for a rookie. Best of all, he did exactly what we have been missing all year from our SSOL approach: he pushed the ball relentlessly off misses and changes in possession. That set up opportunities for himself and others, which has been sorely missed in the Knick attack. Additionally, his return relegated the aforeblogged-about Mike Bibby to the bench all game with a DNP – Corpse with a Headband. On a semi related note, I just crammed in the first season of Homeland (tremendous show) over the holidays, and I haven’t been able to look at Bibby without thinking “A Knicks Point Guard has been turned!” and wondering whether he’s actually still assisting the Heat by taking us down from the inside. If you’ve seen the series, you get the reference. If not, keep moving, nothing to read here.

The rest of the bench was terrible, and Landry Fields may be joining them shortly. He once again looked lost, posting a horrendous -21 +/- in 25 minutes. Shump Shump may be hunting that starting spot soon. Cult hero Jorts barely got in the game, which is too bad, because in terms of skill set, he could have learned a lot from the clinic Boris Diaw put on against Amar’e. Balkman and Bully Walker both got a bit of burn with Melo in foul trouble. Bully was ok in limited minutes; Balkman was, well, Balkman… completely forgettable and useless.

Ultimately, while the Bockers played with a lot of heart towards the end of the game to try and climb back in it, they were never able to overcome the 14 point lead the Bobcats got out to in the first half, in part due to the complete inability to get a defensive stop or swing momentum at any point. The Bobcats scored around 30 points like clockwork each quarter, and regardless of what NBA retread was taking the shots, the Knicks had no answer defensively. The effort isn’t there, their schemes are lacking and the entire effort looks disjointed. At this point, maybe Melo can teach the rest of the team the Syracuse zone, because I can’t watch another game where so many pick and rolls resulted in a big trying to defend on the perimeter or a guard getting posted inside.

Now the Knicks must go on the road and right the ship against the 0-6 Wizards. A 4th loss in the first 7 games to a team they have no business losing to would be a huge blow. I mentioned after the Lakers game that the Bockers needed to make some headway in this, the easiest part of their schedule, and thus far, it hasn’t been a great start. After the Wiz they have the Pistons on Saturday, followed by a rematch with the Bobcats on Monday. Hopefully the Knick defense scores an invite to that matchup.

Too Little, Too Late: Raptors 90 Knicks 85

The Knicks lost tonight’s game in the 2nd quarter, getting outscored 29-11 in the period by the Toronto Raptors. Despite making several runs and cutting the lead to one point with less than a minute to play, the Raptors’ 17 point halftime lead proved to be insurmountable for New York.

Leading by one after the 1st quarter, the Knicks were lethargic on offense in the 2nd, failing to score in the first four minutes. The Knicks only mustered 11 points on 3 made field goals in the entire period. As has been their wont this season, the Bockers were content to hoist up ill-advised jump shots. When they didn’t fall, the Raptors were able to capitalize, relying on sharp shooting nights from Rasual Butler (13 points, 5-12 FG, 3-7 3PT) and DeMar DeRozan (21 points 7-13 FG, 2-2 3PT). Overall, the Knicks attempted 19 shots from behind the arc in the first half, making only 5 and shot a dismal 28% from the floor.

In the second half, the Knicks were able to chip away at the lead by picking up their defensive intensity, making the Raptors look completely out of sorts on offense. Toney Douglas (22 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists) began to pressure Jose Calderon, who struggles with more athletic guards, and Tyson Chandler (11 points, 10 rebounds, 5 personal fouls) started trapping the Spaniard just over the half court line. This led to two turnovers from Calderon and forced the Raptors to get into their sets much later in the shot clock, leading to several disjointed possessions. Spurred by his excellent defensive work, Douglas’ offense picked up in the 3rd period, where he scored 12 points by knocking down 3 shots from deep, including an electrifying 4-point play. The last 3-pointer from Douglas cut the lead to 5 with 4:24 left to play, and the Knicks whittled the difference down to 3 when Josh Harrellson sunk two free throws a few possessions later.

With 1:59 left in the period and the Knicks down 6, Mike Bibby and Bill Walker checked in and the Knicks’ momentum screeched to a halt. Unable to stay in front of a one-legged toddler at this point in his career, on back-to-back plays Bibby fouled Leandro Barbosa to set up a three point play and sent Jose Calderon to the line, a man who once made 151 of 154 free throw attempts for an NBA single-season record of 98%. Bibby also bricked a three to close out the quarter and was utterly incapable of achieving any semblance of penetration, meaning the Knicks offense degenerated into half-assed high pick and rolls and lazily passing the ball around the perimeter until someone jacked up a jumper like a game with the middle-aged lawyers at your local YMCA. In related news, Mike Bibby found a nice warm seat on the bench for the rest of the game.

In the final period, the Knicks hung tough, cutting the lead to 3 several times and then to 1 after a Carmelo Anthony (31 inefficient points on 13-31 FG) basket with 1:04 left in the game. However, the Knicks were unable to get over the hump, plagued by some inopportune misses at the charity stripe (Douglas, Chandler and Fields were the culprits) and an inability to recapture the defensive success that held the Raptors to 16 points in the 3rd quarter. For some reason, Mike D’Antoni abandoned the game plan that had allowed the Knicks scrape their way back into the game, putting Fields on Calderon and Douglas on Butler for most of the period. Butler was able to convert a key jumper over the much shorter Douglas with 3:18 left in the game and Fields struggled to defend the pick and roll between Calderon and Andrea Bargnani, with the former first-round pick tallying a 17-foot jumper over Fields on the switch with 45 seconds remaining and then drawing a foul with 17 seconds on the ensuing possession, crucially extending the Raptors’ lead to 3 on both plays.

This was a disappointing loss for the Knicks who hoped to get above .500, even without star Power Forward Amar’e Stoudemire. This season’s Raptors return many of the same players from a disastrous 22-win 2010-2011 campaign and the Knicks simply should not be losing to teams like this at home. The blame for this loss can be squarely placed on poor shooting, a terrible bench and the injury bug. As with their other losses this season, the Knicks couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a boat, shooting 28% (10-35) from deep and 36% (28-78) from the field. This is going to be a recurring theme all year, as the Knicks seem to live and die with the three-ball, but lack the consistent shooters to maintain any semblance of regular success doing so. The bench played an extremely weak game, scoring only 10 points and getting trodden upon by the Raptors every time Steve Novak (-10 +/-), Bill Walker (-13 +/-) and Mike Bibby (-18 +/-) stepped foot on the floor. However, part of this can be explained by the string of injuries the Bockers have suffered in this young season. A healthy Stoudemire means Jorts goes back to the bench and Steve Novak assumes the Inaugural Andy Rautins Business Casual Shooter Who Can’t Do Anything Else role. Shump Shump’s return and Baron Davis’ debut probably mean we never have to watching the shambling undead that is Mike Bibby for more than the most sparing minutes (please God, let that be soon). Finally, when Jared Jeffries comes back we will no longer be exposed to Jerome Jordan’s impression of a person who has never played basketball before.

Until the Knicks are healthy though, it’s probably best to avoid getting too overwrought about losing to crappy teams like this. This is going to be a topsy-turvy lockout-shortened season. Making the playoffs is paramount, but once a spot in the postseason is secured it’s going to be crapshoot. Knicks fans don’t need to be reminded that the 1999 vintage of the Bockers made the NBA Finals as an 8 seed. Up next, the Knicks will host the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday night and hope to bounce back from tonight’s loss against another unimpressive opponent.