Preamble: It's a Friday night. It's the start of the holiday break for students and white collar workers alike. And, I'm sitting at my desk with the television on ready to live-blog the Knicks/Bobcats tilt getting set to tip off in Charlotte.
The Knicks are coming off their most impressive win of the season (it is more impressive than the home win against Denver because of all that has transpired since then) against the reigning EC champs, the Cavs. David Lee was dominant. He put up 17 in the first half off the bench and finished with 22/11. Q actually made all those shots that he is force fed in the early going. Nate actually saw some playing time and comported himself well. And, of course Jamal scored some points. Win or lose, that kid will score some points. Waking up the morning after that game the questions abounded for both teams. Was this a significant win for the Knicks? Was this a significant loss for the Cavs? Or was this just a largely meaningless regular season NBA game? For their part, the Cavs assuaged some concerns last night be beating the Lakers in a game where Lebron contained Kobe in the fourth quarter.
Now, it's the Knicks turn. This team hasn't won a game more than 20 miles from the Garden. They are 1-9 on the road with their only road victory coming at the Nets in NJ.
Tip-Off: And, we're off. Bobcats control.
The B'cats are all springs and speed and the Knicks are all cotton balls and bricks so far. It is amazing how complacent this team can look in the early going of games. Whether after the big loss against the Celtics a few weeks back or after the big win against the Cavs the other night, both games were followed up with sluggish first quarters. They are clearly not mentally prepared when they take the floor.
And, yes, David Lee is on the bench. Nazr Mohammed and Okafor each have offensive rebounds already.
Jamal Crawford has gotten the Knicks to the first timeout with a one-point lead thanks to 9 quick points in the early going.
The teams are just trading baskets right now. Defense amounts to defensive rebounding, which the Knicks aren't doing. I probably feel good about a just trading buckets because we've got better shot-makers. But they are getting too many offensive boards for that to really work out in our favor. We are trading buckets but they're getting two shots for our one per trip.
Ah, David Lee finally checks in with about 3 to go in the quarter.
And, the Bobcats counter by bringing in their white guy, Matt Carroll of Notre Dame.
Okafor is calling for the ball inside. The B'cats have several straight buckets in the paint and lead 22-30. In other words, things are going right to script. It's so frustrating watching teams attack us this way so consistently. It's like being a fan of the Major League version of the Indians and watching pitchers just throw curve after curve to Cerrano. Or, actually it is like watching the Cardinals throw curves to the 2006 Mets in the playoffs.
Jared Dudley checks in, finally, with about 30 seconds left in the 1st!
Dudley, the rookie out of Boston College who looks soft but plays harder than most, starts the second and hits a bucket to give the B'cats a 24-36 lead.
Yup, it's happening again. One-dimensional jump shooters (Matt Carroll) are killing us because the Knicks can't seem to rotate on defense or cover the open man. Meanwhile, the B'cats bigs are 8-12 and Gerald Wallace and Jason Richardson are quietly working towards their averages.
Jeff McInnis is popping (and hitting) jumpshots early, early in the shot clock. Jason Richardson is trying to posterize Curry (who thankfully fouled him) and Isiah is subbing 4 at a time. Thankfully he went with the pull everyone but Lee strategy.
There is house-bottle of "Christmas" whiskey downstairs and a reason to drink up here. This "live-blog" could be short-lived.
Insult/Injury = Knicks missing easy shots/Nazr cleaning up the glass with 8 early boards.
Salt in wound (from previous overstylized metaphor) = Nazr quick turnaround jump shot over Curry. Nazr has 8 and 8.
With about 3 left in the half the only important question is whether or not the Knicks fall behind by 20. There are such things as moral victories.
There are also actual, literal losses. The Knicks already have many of these.
So, Isiah predictably calls a timeout after the lead balloons to 22. And, then the best part of the night occurred. MSG goes to commercial and their is Alien versus Predator commercial that has David Lee offering some commentary. His money is on the Predator.
Gus Johnson informs me (and the other seventeen folks watching) that this is the worst defensive half of the Knicks very, very bad defensive season. They gave up 67 points. I guess I'm taking Alien. Sorry. David.
"That's the advantage he has in the matchup. Nazr can face the basket and hit a bucket. Eddy can't do that."
-John Andriese on the ways in which "The Franchise" pales in comparison to a journeyman center.
Q just got pulled from the game and started jawing at Isiah as he walked over to the bench. He was clearly angry and letting his coach hear it. In a less than respectful manner. Isiah got up to walk down to Q at the end of the bench and Herb was quickly up to stay between them lest this encounter get any friskier.
And, with the Knicks in Nate Robinson and Fred Jones Survival Mode (NRFJSM is where these guys just try to keep scoring to keep the route from being too embarrassing) there is no sign of David Lee and we're about halfway through the third quarter. Isiah seems bent on alienating every single one of his players but Jamal Crawford and Zach Randolph.
There was a time a few seasons back when I was campaigning hard for Nazr to be a reserve on the All-Star team. His knifing-through-the-lane finger roll makes me remember that. He's got a double-double already.
David Lee finally checks in with less than four to play in the third. He's in for Zach Randolph who just picked up another foul. Would he have come in at all if Randolph had stayed foul free? Why are we even conserving fouls at this point?
Lee has a putback dunk that gets the score under 20. It's Lee's first bucket. Of course, the Bobcats score immediately to put them back above the twenty-point threshold.
The Knicks are down 19 to start the fourth. They real question is whether they lose by 27 or by 9? They third unit, lead by Nate, has brought some life to the squad. Losing by 9 is actually a possibility!
OK. They're two buckets and two stops from being right back in this game. 4 plays. They're also four plays from being down and out in another laugher.
The Bobcats make two plays. Their lead is comfortable again considering there is less than five to play yet they've got the starters on the floor. The Knicks have Malik Rose on the floor.
But the Knicks do have Nate Robinson out there with Malik. He grabs a defensive rebound, flies down the floor and hits a three. It's a ten point game. With three and a half to play.
Nate flies down the floor and gets fouled going to the hole. He's got the team on his shoulders right now. He misses both free throws and we're all reminded that Nate's shoulders aren't that wide. He's actually kind of small. Still, he's the best we've got right now. He's got 20 points in 26 minutes. Meanwhile, Curry, Randolph and Q are all on the bench.
Whenever a team is trying to come back late in a game I always remember something I heard Reggie Miller say many years ago when he was the best endgame player around not named MJ. He said that if a team could just cut the deficit to six points at the two-minute mark that they were on pace to come all the way back. For whatever reason I have always believed this.
The Knicks are down by 11 with 2:45 to go.
The Knicks are down by 13 when the game goes under 2 minutes remaining.
The Knicks do cut the lead to 10 and Nate is pinballing around the floor with the sort of energy that some of his teammates seem impervious to.
And, they're right on target for my "losing by 9" call of about an hour ago! This is a good thing. Remember moral victories?
Gus and John are impressed by the unit on the floor (Nate, Lee, Crawford, Chandler and Jones) and with good reason. They've brought the team within 9 and even if that is meaningless they've played with heart and passion and intensity.
Argh! Lee just missed two free throws when he could have sewn up my 9 point prediction!
Final Score: 95-105
The Budweiser Play of the Game involves Nazr Mohammed. Of course it does.