Thursday, January 31, 2008

Skeleton Crew Can't Dance With Jazz

Knicks lose to Jazz, 89-100

Quentin Richardson only made it through six minutes. He had the flu.
Eddy Curry only made it through the first four minutes. He had the flu.
Fred Jones returned and got a little run. He still has the flu.
There was no Renaldo Balkman. He had the elbow-to-foreigner's-head-suspension.

The team never fully recovered from starting the game with Q and Curry in the lineup. Sluggish and discombobulated, the Knicks borrowed this first quarter from mid December. They were down quickly and didn't have any of the spark they showed the against the Warriors or Lakers. Maybe those two losses in games they could have won, demoralized the team. Or maybe it was just that two-fifths of the starting rotation was a running a fever. I don't know. All I know is that I was far more interested in the second half of the Kansas State v. Kansas game than the first half of the Knicks game.

Other things I do know:

1. David Lee was the only player to have +point differential during his minutes on the floor. And, having played over 37 minutes (third most behind Crawford and Randolph) this is no insignificant stat.

2. Mardy Collins needs to continue to play. And, improve. Fred Jones is a filler. Yes, he'll try hard and hustle but he is not the answer at the point. While Collins may not be either, now is the time to find out. Let him keep the 1 seat warm for Nate in the first few minutes and occassionally spell Crawford, shifting Nate to the 2. I'm fine with letting him struggle a bit if it will help the team sort out what they're doing at that position in '09.

3. Without Curry in the paint, this team works from the free throw line and out. Nate drives and kicks to Crawford or Crawford drives and kicks to Nate. Randolph takes flat-footed mid-range shots when the ball hits his hands. Without Curry in the paint the only high-percentage buckets we ever get are on coast-to-coast drives by Nate and dunks by Lee. At least, when Lee isn't getting his shot-blocked.

3. With Curry in the paint, we're not much better. But some of the perimeter shots are open.

4. There is no one on our team who can play like Deron Wiliams. Even when Nate or Jamal end up with double-digit assists it doesn't happen like when Deron does it. He manages a game when he is playing well, setting the tempo and changing it when necessary. To make matters worse (for the Knicks), the Jazz were able to sub Williams for Ronnie Brewer and not miss a beat. Meanwhile, our four-headed point guard monster (Nate, Jamal, Mardy, Fred) is haphazard and can only "control" a game when Nate is fast-forwarding past everyone, including his teammates.

5. The main structural flaw with the post-Marbury, post-dominant-Curry era is that our best two players are also are biggest problem. Nate and Jamal are far and away the driving force of the team, but their uneven play and poorly defined roles at the point is what keeps us from being able to execute our offense down the stretch.

6. There isn't too much to make of the almost comeback. It's the NBA. It's Fantastic. And, everyone makes a run.

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