Sunday, March 4, 2012

Celtics 115, Knicks 111 - Recap

So, the Knicks lost by four points in excruciating, overtime style to the Boston Celtics. A team that loves nothing more than tearing out the Knicks' hearts and eating them in front of the fans, Indiana Jones style. With the back and forth nature of the game - both teams held double-digit leads at one point - somebody was going to "steal" the game. The Knicks more or less just opened their pockets more than the Celtics.

There were some incredibly positive signs in this game. While neither Carmelo Anthony nor Amar'e Stoudemire had great games, there were signs of life from the both of them. Iman Shumpert looked like the rookie we all dreamt of and were enamored with all lockout long. The Knicks bench looked potent in the first half. But there were some big, costly problems too, that cost the Knicks the game.

Take the jump, ya'll.

After falling down by double-digits in the first quarter, the Knicks simply out-executed and took whatever they wanted from the Celtics. Jeremy Lin had foul woes through the first half, so Baron Davis mostly led the crisp, efficient Knicks offense that posted a 56-point first half. But as I noted in the preview, the Knicks-Celtics games follow a script and the Celtics dominated most of the second half.

Again, after falling down by double-digits, the Knicks scrapped their way back behind some big shots from Jeremy Lin and Carmelo Anthony. However, Paul Pierce hit a ridiculous 3-pointer to tie the game, and in overtime, the Knicks defense gave up some silly/lazy baskets and couldn't convert when they needed it most.

That Was Good!
 - Truthfully, Iman Shumpert was the Knicks' best player. Shumpert entered the game after some of the other second unit bros, but remained on the court during all of the biggest stretches. His on-ball defense wasn't as spectacular as some games as Rajon Rondo (more on him later) routinely got to the basket, and his switches on Paul Pierce (fuck that guy) usually resulted in successful isolations or post-ups for the Celtics. But Shump still had some active hands, made some great passes, including a nice skip pass to a Steve Novak 3, and he dunked in Kevin Garnett's grill. He got T'd up for taunting Garnett, but it was totally worth it because he, and every Knicks fan around the world collectively, metaphorically, spritually spat in KG's face.

 - I'll lump Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire together, because while they weren't stand-out good, they did some nice things. Combined, they had 41 points on 15-37 shooting (that's kind of icky) with 20 rebounds. Amar'e got stuffed under the rim a few times (and missed the dumbest, most crucial jam-follow like, ever in OT), but his jumpshot looked sooo much better, and he took his time in the paint and made a few tough twisty layps.
  • Melo's jumpshot was off meanwhile, but he was a bulldog in the lane, pretty much converting all layups he got, or at least collecting the offensive rebound and drawing contact. In one sequence, Melo missed a layup, came back down with it, missed another layup, tipped his own shot, missed, got the offensive board after practically ripping it from Stat's hands, then going back up, missing, but getting fouled. Likewise, the ball didn't stick in his hands for too long, and down the stretch he took over the way he should and hit some clutch shots to put the Knicks ahead.
 - The Knicks shot 44% from 3-point range, which is so unusual for them these days. Steve Novak and Baron Davis were a combined 6-10. Jeremy Lin also hit the biggest 3 for the Knicks that brought them within 1 point in the 4th quarter with a little over a minute remaining. But he and Melo both missed crucial treys in OT, so even the good shooting in this one wasn't that good.

That Wasn't So Good
 - Butterfingers! Whoopsies! If the Knicks won this game, the turnovers would have been cutesy ones, like Tyson Chandler just dropping the ball out of bounds on a wide open feed from Lin. Or Jeremy Lin driving with nowhere to go and then just falling and losing the ball. Or Landry Fields jumping in the air and giving a perfect chest pass... to Paul Pierce. But the Knicks lost and the turnovers are pretty much why because the team was decent in almost every other aspect. Hey, 22 turnovers means the Knicks lost 22 possessions. If they had even cut that down by a quarter (5 less/17 turnovers in all (for the math inept)), with their 44% shooting for the night, statistically speaking, they would have scored on two of those five possessions and either tied or won the game. Statistically speaking. 22 turnovers.

 - In the preview I mentioned that closing out on the 3-point line would be key for this game. I remember three critical 3-pointers that really hurt the Knicks. One was on a Rondo fastbreak to a trailing Paul Pierce in the 3rd quarter, that put the Celtics up 15. The biggest one was Paul Pierce's heartbreaking game-tying 3 with four seconds left, which Iman Shumpert called bullshit on (good for you, Shump). And the last was a corner 3 in transition from Ray Allen which gave the Celtics the lead for good in overtime. I'm a firm believer that if one course of action in a game was changed, other things would change because of it. But from statistical standpoint, take away two of those 3-pointers and the Knicks would have won.

  - Jeremy Lin was pretty bad in this one. He scored 5 big points in the final two minutes of the 4th quarter, but otherwise he was ineffective in the pick-and-roll (credit to Boston's D), turnover prone in transition, and  was stifled in the paint. He closed out the game for the Knicks, but I'd have preferred Davis to be on the floor. 14 points, 6-16 shooting, 5 assists, and 6 turnovers for Lin.

Odds and Ends
 - Rajon Rondo played out of his mind. 18 points, 20 assists, and 17 rebounds is just absurd. He missed half a dozen layups too, which is the surprising part - he could have finished with 30 points if he wanted to. That guy is such a little creep. I hope he gets traded to the Bobcats.

 - Now that I think about it, with trade rumors swirling around the Celtics, I hope Rondo, Allen, Pierce, and Garnett get sent to the Bobcats, Wizards, Hornets, and Raptors, respectively.

 - J.R. Smith can't shoot jumpshots anymore which is annoying. Dude lit it up in China and has been back for, what, 3 weeks now? It seems like he should be adjusted by now.

 - Mike D'Antoni doesn't like to foul when his teams are up in the waning moments of the game, and I understand that. But goddamn I wish they fouled before Pierce could have launched that 3. Hindsight is 20-20 as they say.

Man, fuckin' Boston. The Knicks head to Texas for a back-to-back against Dallas and San Antonio, so they don't have any time to hang their heads. Time to rebound and try to get back to .500. Go Knicks!

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