Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Cavaliers 91, Knicks 81 - Recap

Photo by David Liam Kyle

Well, that was fun. The Knicks came out flat-footed and succumbed to launching ill-advised shots on offense and hoping somebody else would step up on defense. In the process, their momentous 1-game win streak was halted by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

This team is just a mystery to me. Truthfully, after the Denver loss, I thought this team was going to turn a corner. I thought they'd be motivated to pick it up after coming so close against a very good team. With Baron Davis set to return, that seemed to have give them motivation, and while the game in Charlotte was against mostly marginal NBA talent, the Knicks played the game right. But against the Cavs, there seemed to be lack of energy, interest, and overall skill.

Take the jump for some disappointing notes.

As I mentioned in my game preview, I missed the beginning of this game because I was doing some school work that had me away from the computer. However, I turned on the game in the 2nd quarter to see the Knicks up by two, and make a surge to go up by nine. The Cavs then took a timeout to regroup, and for some reason everything the Knicks had been doing well to that point stopped. I'll start the notes from there.

 - I've said it before, but Mike D'Antoni is awful at managing runs and momentum swings. After that Cavs timeout the Knicks were up nine, and within three minutes they had tied the game back up. Granted, there wasn't a lot of time left in the half, but he should have taken a timeout immediately when the Knicks lost their groove. Regardless of the opponent or the time remaining, there was a noticeable difference in energy and execution and he should have taken a time to call out the guys and let them know it's unacceptable to try and coast. By the way, I'm pretty sure that would be the Knicks last lead of the game.

 - Amar'e Stoudemire is slowly starting to regain his offensive form, but there's definite work still to be done. Amar'e continues to accumulate charges and turn the ball over at an astounding rate. I'll take his 19 points and 14 rebounds, but the man looks like he's playing at the NBA level for the first time. To anyone watching, you can see his charges coming from a mile away because he's hell-bent to get to the hoop, even when a defender has been stiff as a statue, idly waiting in the paint for Amar'e to come barrelling in.

 - Tyson Chandler and Iman Shumpert, the Knicks two best defenders, looked uninterested tonight. For the second night in the row, Shump looks like he's got something else on his mind, perhaps something going on off the court. There isn't any of that normal swagger and pep in his step that we're used to seeing. Chandler, meanwhile, got taken to school by Anderson Varejao who posted 10 points and 16 rebounds. What doesn't show up is the possessions that Varejao kept alive for Cleveland, by scrapping for loose balls. Likewise, Chandler looked lazy on switches and generally didn't step up when somebody drove the lane.

 - Landry Fields might have played the best game of the bunch, which isn't saying much (so close to rhyming there. Do you mind if I say "which isn't saying munch"? Yes, you do mind? Okay, back to the point). Fields's shot selection seems to be much better and decisive, and his confidence is clearly up from the beginning of the season. 13 points on 5-7 shooting, with 5 rebounds for the Landry man. The problem with Fields is that he plays best in an up-tempo system, and in the halfcourt, can only score on wide open 3-pointers, or cuts to the basket. In the second halves of games, defenses usually don't have breakdowns like that because everyone is more focused, so it's rare for Landry to really score when the team needs it, unless there is a rare lapse in the defense.

 - Melo was Melo and really didn't do anything that noteworthy. His shot is still off, and I'm convinced that his wrist will eventually look like Will Smith's arm in iRobot. Now that people have seen me reference iRobot, a lot of people will probably stop reading.

 - Still don't know why Steve Novak doesn't get time. He'd provide much-needed floor spacing.

 - When did Bill Walker learn how to pass? Bully had 4 assists, some of which were nice feeds to cutters in the paint, and others on kickouts on some dribble drives.

 - With Melo hurt and Amar'e still shaking off the rust, I guess, the Knicks really don't have any reliable source of offense. It didn't help that the Knicks coudn't secure rebounds when they made stops on defense, but on offense there really just wasn't anything there. Usually that's when it turns to iso-Melo, which I'd have been fine with considering the lack of lockdown guards on the Cavs, but his shooting is still pretty off. The Knicks couldn't create anything, and for awhile it turned into Amar'e and Toney Douglas forcing jumpers late in the shot clock. They even ran a pick-and-roll with Jared Jeffries, so you know things must be really bad.

Odds and Ends
 - I view games as a subscriber to League Pass Broadband, which is a delightful, high-quality way to view games. However, sometimes those games are shown from the opponent's broadcast, which can be the equivalent on Chinese water torture. In the case of Cleveland, their version of Walt Frazier is Austin Carr, whose color commentating is insufferable. I could list the number of obnoxious things he said, but it would make this recap too long. Truly though, avoid him if you can. I bet his breath smells bad too.

 - There was one play where the ball was poked out to about 30 feet from the hoop, with the shot clock running down. Landry Fields retrieved it, with Omri Cassipi hot on his tail. Recognizing the little time left, he threw up a pump fake - mind you, from 30 feet away - and got Cassipi off of his feet. Fields jumped into him and drew the foul as time expired. If I was Cavs fan, I would have been thoroughly annoyed, but it was otherwise a clever move by Landry.

 - Kyrie Irving is pretty slick and has already defied my pre-Draft expectations. Truthfully, I thought it was stupid to draft a guy who only played like, 7 college games. But he looks like the real deal.

 - I guess Anthony Parker trained with Kobe Bryant or his sister (Candace Parker of the WNBA, for those who were unaware) during the lockout, because he hit a few ridonkulous fadeaway jumpers tonight. He'd have been a nice acquisition for the Knicks.

 - Obviously, there was no Baron Davis tonight, who decided to rehabilitate a little more. Personally, I'd rather he sit out against Miami and debut against Houston on Saturday night. That way he can get some court time and then have two days to rest afterwards.

Well, that's all I got. It was pretty damn ugly, but not completely unexpected. The Knicks tend to have that look about them when they head into a 4th quarter trailing by more than a basket. The minimal amount of resolve these guys have is pretty upsetting. Next game is against Miami on Friday.

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