Friday, February 3, 2012

Bulls 105, Knicks 102 - Recap

Sorry for the belated recap, I had quite a bit of work to do over the past few hours. Last night with the gut-wrenching loss to the Chicago Bulls, the Knicks fell to 8-14. However, this one did not come easily to the Bulls by any means. New York battled until the final buzzer, particularly giving Chicago some scares in the second half.

There were some positive signs in this game, most notably Amar'e Stoudemire's performance. Stat looked like his December 2010 self, dropping 34 points on 59% shooting, with 11 rebounds. Likewise, Landry Fields continued to display his newly found/returned confidence, scoring 17 points on 10 shots, and dishing out 4 assists.

As a team, New York looked like they had a gameplan, which was encouraging. The ball moved around, the guards found Tyson Chandler and Amar'e rolling to the hoop, and on defense we saw some brilliant traps and a committed to hustle to fighting over screens instead of switching.

Take the jump for some notes, and comment and tell me if you like the format I'm trying!

That Was Great!

 - Amar'e Stoudemire needs to be the first point on here, as he was dominant last night. As mentioned, he dropped 34 points on 16-27 shooting, and somehow only managed four free throws (more on that later). On offense, Amar'e was pretty routinely able to finagle his way around defenders and into the paint for easy buckets. His jumpshot seems to be coming around as well as he made some in-rhythm catches and knocked down that 15-17-footer that's been missing this season. His lowpoints came, however, when he failed to boxout Carlos Boozer in the final two minutes, when Booz came right up and got a tip-in to push the Bulls' lead to 7. Likewise, down 3, the Knicks drew up that play where Amar'e breaks free for an open 3-pointer. This one looked on the mark until it was just inches too far right and rimmed out.

 - Also mentioned before was Landry Fields. The man has seemed to break that slump that lasted from last March, through most of January. Landry's shot is coming around as evidenced by his 7-10 shooting, 3-5 from downtown. He also hit a sweet pull-up jumper from the FT line, and made a nice baseline drive for a layup during key possessions in the 4th quarter. The Knicks are a much better team when Landry is contributing in the mid-teens, as Mike D'Antoni noted at some point during the broadcast last night.

 - The ball movement and passing made me quite happy last night. Though Melo's shot was a little off (10-26, 0-4 from range), he acted as decoy on many plays and hit open shooters and cutters, and likewise made the right decisions in the pick-and-roll. He made one gorgeous alley-oop feed to Chandler in the 3rd quarter for a MONSTROUS slam too. Shumpert also had 8 assists, and he, Fields, Douglas (his only assist), and even Bill Walker (I think), all executed the PnR at one point.

That Wasn't So Good

 - The refereeing last night was awful, and if Mike D'Antoni won't say it then I will! But really, the Bulls shot 15 more FTs than the Knicks (29 to 14), and routinely bullied people under the rim with no whistle, meanwhile if the Knicks touched a Bull around the hoop, it was a foul. The free throw and foul disparity definitely made a difference in the outcome of the game.

 - Taj Gibson and Derrick Rose both went 1-2 from the FT line in the final seconds of the game, and gave the Knicks an opening. Down three, with six seconds left, and no timeouts, Melo got the ball and sort of jogged his way up the court and then launched a brick from about 32 feet away. The buzzer didn't sound until the rainbow shot clanged off the side of the rim. When Melo released the ball, there was still 1.7 seconds left, which to me, seems like enough time to have gotten a little closer. Melo played a good game, but I wasn't thrilled with his shot choice. That said, I still always want him taking that shot.

Odds and Ends

 - Listening to Reggie Miller play the role of the color commentator on the TNT broadcast was painful. The worst part was when he gave the Knicks his early season report card, which gave them a C- in offense and a D- in defense. This clearly reflected a lack of watching the Knicks, especially when they have the 9th best defense in the league. But whatever.

 - Derrick Rose's speed and ability to score is inhuman. Anybody who watched last night understands.

 - Iman Shumpert was aggressive on offense, takign Rose off the dribble for some pull-up Js a couple of times. He also picked his pocket at one point and when end-to-end for a nice layup.

 - The Knicks bench is abysmal, and watching them last night made me really hope they sign J.R. Smith who'd provide a nice scoring punch.

The Knicks take on the Celtics tonight at 8 in another nationally televised game (this time on ESPN). I'd consider this a must-win because they need to gain some confidence and prove they can play with the top dogs - although Boston currently isn't one of those. Preview coming later. Go Knicks!

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