Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Knicks 121, Blazers 79 - Recap

And so begins the Mike Woodson interim era with a bittersweet blowout win over an opponent that slept-walked for 48 minutes tonight. Really though, the Knicks played pretty great basketball, but the Blazers looked like they'd rather be mulching their gardens or getting their cars inspected at the DMV than playing basketball. I sure am glad my team isn't dysfunctional!
Photo by Associated Press

I've said it before, but I was a fan of Mike D'Antoni as a coach and as a person, so it felt a little hard to celebrate a dominant win given that just hours previous Mike was practically exiled from the team. But this one was filled with highlights. Carmelo Anthony (who I found myself sticking my tongue out at semi-disdainfully for most of the night) threw some tremendous passes; Amar'e Stoudemire was 8-10, scoring almost all of his points on dunks; Steve Novak and J.R. Smith accurately hoisted 3-pointers like they were going out of style; the whole team got by giving like 75% on both ends of the floor. It came that easily. And perhaps that's a glimpse at how dominant this team can be, regardless of how lowly the opponent.

This one was never really in question. After the game was back-and-forth for the first few minutes, Portland started playing hot potato with the ball and the Knicks took advantage, scoring at the expense of Portland's butterfingers and executing in the halfcourt. By the 2nd quarter the Knicks were on cruise control and road it out the rest of the game.

Take the jump for some more details!

That Was Great!

 - Just because I liked Mike D'Antoni, it doesn't mean his decision to leave was necessarily bad for the team. Even for the players that like him (and there are many), it may have very well been some weight off their shoulders to hear a new voice from the sidelines and be rid of the constant drama surrounding D'Antoni and the team. Tonight their body language looked good and they played with cohesion and passion. I said in the preview that the way they started tonight could be a signal of what's to come in the proceeding weeks, and it looked like a good start. Of course, Portland hardly resisted in any manner, but it was still good nonetheless to see the Knicks function as a team and seem genuinely excited for every play that went right. As Mike Breen noted several times, this game was exactly what the doctor ordered.

 - The team played as selflessly and potently as they could on offense, if that makes sense. Passes were on target all night, whether it was finding dunkers or cutters or kick-outs to open shooters, the ball almost always found the person in best position to score. Jeremy Lin had 6 assists (and 6 turnovers) in just 22 minutes, and Baron Davis dished 10 while playing 18 minutes off the bench. Melo chipped in with 7 assists of his own and the team had 35 total while shooting 53% FG and 50% 3FG. Again, Portland may have played the game with one hand in their pockets (if their shorts came with pockets, which they totally should) and a thing of cotton candy in the other. But those offensive numbers are niiiicce. The 20 turnovers are a bit of a blemish, but when a team wins by 42 points, it hardly matters.

 - This is sort of an extension to the above point, but the scoring distribution tonight was very good. Anthony and Stoudemire led the starters with 18 and 17 points, respectively, while shooting 14-22. The shooting off the bench was just plain silly. Steve Novak made almost everything he threw up in the air, while J.R. Smith got untracked in a big way. After missing his first few attempts, J.R. got suddenly hot and made three 3s in a row in the 3rd quarter and went on a make-one-miss-one pattern for about the rest of the game. Shumpert's shot was falling too, either at the rim or unusually accurate from beyond the arc. All the above said, Novak, Smith, and Shumpert went 15-27 from beyond the arc.

That Wasn't So Good
 - If Novak, Smith, and Shumpert ever shoot 27 3-pointers in anything other than a complete blowout, I will kill them. The offense in the second half mostly consisted of Baron Davis bringing the ball up the court, and one of those three shooting an elbow 3-pointer in the first ten second of the clock. It was a spectacle, but my goodness, it was getting carried away.

 - As Breen and Clyde discussed for much of the second half, it began to feel like the Knicks were show-boating against a team whose hearts and confidence were already in the abyss. Clyde did point out that most of the 3-point barrage came with the starters on the bench, and that's what you do in a big game - put in your bench. So nothing wrong there. Then with a few minutes left, Shumpert got a steal at halfcourt and was left completely alone, so he threw down a sweet windmill. No harm, no foul. Nobody on Portland ran back. But then, with the shot clock off, the Knicks got a steal and J.R. Smith and Shumpert raced down the court and Smith threw an alley-oop while Shump attempted to throw it down in ridiculous fashion. And that angered Breen and Clyde and pretty much any basketball fans. That shit was just disrespectful and unnecessary.

I mean, the Knicks won by 42 points and only allowed 79 points. Not much went wrong.

Odds and Ends
 - Can't be said enough, but Portland really looked like they'd rather be eating jalapenos and watching reruns of Lopez Tonight. They had just 29 first half points (which has to be a season-low in the NBA) and turned the ball over 27 times.

 - Marcus Camby fouled Landry Fields HARD on a fastbreak. As Fields went up for the layup/dunk, Camby shoved him and sent Fields flying parallel to the ground, at least five or six feet into the cameraman alley. He got a flagrant one for it as the replay showed Camby did go for the ball with one hand, but shoved Fields with his other forearm. My feed was a little jumpy so I'm not sure, but I didn't even see any Knicks get in Camby's face about it afterwards which was kind of strange and disappointing.

 - Jeremy Lin wasn't bad, but he was just pretty much silent out there. He played 22 minutes and took only four shots (made two), had 4 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, and 6 turnovers. I guess it doesn't matter much in games like this, but my fear (and many others') is that with D'Antoni gone, Lin won't thrive the same way.

 - Raymond Felton was as bad as advertised this season. It's sad because as Breen noted, Felton competes as hard as anybody and was so great for the Knicks last year. But he was super sloppy with the ball, often just misdirecting passes, dribbling it carelessly, or just not grabbing passes thrown to him. His shot was equally as off. Poor Raymond.

 - Mike Breen and Clyde talking about Clyde's new restaurant, Wine and Dine (not necessarily exact quotations):
  • Clyde: "You can come in whenever you want!"
  • Breen: "Really? You won't make me thrown on an apron and scrub dishes?"
  • Clyde: "Hmm... no, not the first time. This one is on me!"

 - More Breen and Clyde, this time after a shot of John Lithgow sitting courtside:
  • Breen: "John Lithgow is one of my favorite actors. So versatile!"
  • Clyde: "Oh yeah!"
  • Breen: "Now you're not a big movie guy, right?"
  • Clyde: "No, I buy them but then I always fall asleep during them! I haven't seen a full movie in years!"

 - "Babbitt and Rabbits" - Luke Babbitt's post-NBA bunny farm or possibly his touring magic show.

Well, again, that was fun if not a little bittersweet. Life once again gets difficult though later this week as the Knicks play a home-and-home Friday and Saturday night against the red hot Indiana Pacers. I'll be at Friday's game! That should be a bigger test as to what this team is made of, no?

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