Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Spurs 118, Knicks 105 - Recap

Photo by AP
It's beginning to feel a bit like mid-January right now, as the energy and spark of Linsanity, the depth, and all-around togetherness from that fabulous February have really worn off. Absent of their two defensive cogs, the Knicks floundered through most of the game, unable to get more than a few stops in a row, and unable to play good, efficient offense when it mattered.

What's alarming is the discombobulation on both ends of the floor. The two superstars have been less than impressive, the bench is inconsistent, and the driving force for those three beautiful weeks, Jeremy Lin, has seemed to lost "it". Things are so bad that I'm quoting somebody saying "it", and I don't even know who they are.

Take the jump for the nitty gritty shitty details.

That Was Good!

- The 3-point shooting was better than it has been for most of the season. 35.7% isn't something to go running outside, butt-naked, screaming in joy about, but if the Knicks can shoot that with regularity, as opposed to their typical 30.8%, it could open up the floor more for the offense. Lin, Anthony, J.R. Smith, and Steve Novak combined to shoot 10-20 from beyond the arc, and while 50% is not an attainable number going forward, those guys are key to spreading the floor. However, combining the word "regularity" and the Knicks this season is about as discordant as you can get.

 -Amar'e Stoudemire and Anthony showed some life tonight. Some stat padding went on in the second half (the outcome was all but determined by midway through the 3rd quarter) as the Knicks managed to drop 64 points, but let's recognize their contributions nonetheless. Carmelo ran hot and cold, starting out hot, going cold in the 2nd quarter, starting the 3rd quarter hot, and balancing out the rest of the game. 27 points on 12-24 shooting with only 1 FT (a technical) is much more Melo-like than what we've seen recently. Taking seven 3-pointers is too much for Melo, especially since some of them were so early in the shot clock, but he was feeling it, I guess. Stoudemire was about average for himself this season, but was still somewhat effective. He got beat up on defense, and was often overwhelmed on the boards, as no one else besides Josh Harrellson made any effort to help. But on offense, Stat put up 18 points on 6-12 shooting, 6-7 from the FT line. 11 boards too. Signs of life are good, but again, take them with a grain of salt, or two, or ten, or however much salt you'd like. I won't judge.

Honestly, that's where the good ends, and even the above points were slight stretches.

That Wasn't So Good
- The Knicks actually aren't good at defense. If we didn't know Tyson Chandler's and Jared Jeffries's gigs at this point, we know them now: they take disasters and make them miracles. Chandler's defense has been deservedly raved about this season, and Jared Jeffries's contributions have become appreciated and valued by the team and fans alike. Without the two of them, the Knicks defense was nonexistent as Tony Parker carved up the defense in whichever way suited him, Manu Ginobili danced and pranced as he always does, Gary Neal stirred the pot from beyond the arc, and guys like Tim Duncan, DeJuan Blair, and Kawhi Leonard (who is totally awesome) slipped to the hoop with the greatest of ease.
  • Of course the Knicks defense was going to suffer without two of their three best defensive players (Shumpert being the other - he did play, by the way), but the team didn't seem to have any identity. There were sloppy switches, late rotations, failed box-outs, and seemingly no communication or dedication. The lack of accountability was alarming, and it seems that the Knicks only have some good defensive players, not actual sturdy defensive schemes.
- Look, criticizing Jeremy Lin at this juncture of his career (his 15th career start) is exactly what it sounds like: being critical. But given the way he raised expectations and hopes, and the role he's been thrust into, I think it's fair to have doubts and judge him a little more sharply. Excluding the Cleveland game, Lin has shot 18-55 (32.7%) from the field in his last four games. Though he was 7-15 tonight and had just one turnover, it was still not the Lin that we saw before the All-Star break. Perhaps it's fatigue, or tougher defenses, or lack of comfort with the ever-revolving lineup, or all of the above, but he doesn't have that same "it". He's over-thinking, finishing less effectively around the basket - on drives and on set-ups - and strangest of all, attacking less. This isn't so much a critique or a call-out as much as it is a statement that Lin hasn't been as good, or for that matter, hasn't been the same Linsanity. And that was when the team won seven in a row.
  • Looking and reading back over this, Lin deserves a little more credit. He didn't pass or orchestrate the offense particularly well, but he did have some tough, strong-willed drives to the basket and some nice finishes. And honestly, I just feel bad saying anything negative about Jeremy.
 - The lack of leadership. I'll probably make a post about this sometime soon, but Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire are the captains. They get paid the big bucks. They're the superstars. They are supposed to be the leaders. Tyson Chandler and Jared Jeffries both play roles in that too, but the attempts Stoudemire and Melo made to the right the ship tonight (if any) were half-hearted and disengaging. Even if the two aren't at the top of their games (and they aren't), leadership shouldn't be something that comes and goes.

Odds and Ends
 - Landry Fields wasn't half bad off the bench tonight. 8 points, 4-8 shooting, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists. Not sure if it's something D'Antoni will stick with, but Fields ran a pretty steady course tonight.

 - Josh Harrellson's wrist is probably still bothering him, thus his jumpshot looks terrible. Otherwise Harrellson did what he could against one of the great power forwards of all time in Tim Duncan - 8 points, 4-10 shooting, 8 rebounds, and a block. And for what it's worth, Harrellson is a great post defender, but not good at guarding mobile big men like Duncan, who was totally like, "A young pup, eh? I'm takin' him to school!" And to school Josh was taken on a number of possessions.

 - Manu Ginobili is the fucking coolest, and I can't dislike him even when he's making fools out of the Knicks.

 - I had the Spurs broadcast tonight, so I missed the joys of Clyde and Breen. But Sean Elliot and the play-by-play guy for the Spurs, whose name I missed, sure do loooovvveeee the Spurs!

That's kind of it, guys. I wish I had more things to add - preferably good things for the "Good" section and funny things for the "Odds and Ends" section, but I don't. The Knicks have a day off and then play Milwaukee on Friday. I expect/hope there will be lots of talking and discussing and learning on the Knicks end during this day off.

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