Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Re-Runs: Another Come-From-Ahead-Loss

Knicks lose to Lakers, 109-120

With television writers continuing to strike across Los Angeles, the Knicks had no choice put to re-use the same script from Sunday night's game against the Warriors. The same interesting premise paired with the same predictable and well-worn ending. The Knicks lose. Instead of Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson showing the steely nerve required to win close games late it was Kobe Bryant and Sasha Vujacic. And instead of Biedrins surprisingly coming up big in the paint it was Ronny Turiaf. Other than the different actors, everything else about the episode was the same.

The Knicks came out and played well. They ran and they made shots. They played with fire and were the better team for long periods. Nate was a terror and Jamal showed he is emerging as one of the game's better gunners. Curry was a non-factor and with him tethered to the bench it was a team that was easy to root for. However, at the end they faltered. It was no shock and no great insult. I'm not sure how many almosts I can take before it becomes too frustrating to spin positively but I'm not there yet. Quite simply, the games are worth watching again and for now that is still enough.

Some thoughts:

-At the half, even with the slim lead, I felt like the game was the Lakers to lose. We had managed only a three-point advantage even though Kobe had effectively taken himself out of the LA offense. He wasn't shooting or being aggressive at all. He had clearly decided to have one of his statement halves when he racked up assists and "trusted" his teammates.

-Randolph going at the basket = good.

-Randolph taking set-shot from 15 to 18 feet = bad. I know that he makes these sometimes but he's too tall and too streaky for this to be his first-choice on O.

-If Q Rich could consistently bring the same intensity that he brings whenever he plays the league's best he would be the heart of this team. Unfortunately, he needs to matched up against Kobe, Lebron or Paul Pierce to bring his A-game.

-Balkman still gets lost on the bench for too long. He barely played more minutes than Mardy Collins. Isiah really doesn't know how to construct this lineup and substitute over the course of a game. Well, except when it comes to Curry. He has learned how to substitute for him.

-Whenever the Knicks switched to a zone defense it was painfully apparent that Eddy still doesn't know what he's doing. After allowing a dunk FROM A ZONE the Knicks called a timeout and every single player and coach individually asked Curry, "What the f&#k?"

-If the Knicks push the ball down the floor then David Lee will score points in bunches. He didn't do anything special last night like develop a jumper, rather he just kept getting the ball and getting it to the rim.

-The 4th quarter plan of one-player dribbling out the shot-clock while everyone else stands still below the foul line is not something I would recommend. I know that Jamal has shown a penchant for late-scores but we can't have that be "the plan."

-The offensive execution got so bad down the stretch that I actually said, "they really need to put Curry back in." As bad as he is, his presence does force our offense into some sort of cohesion.

-Kobe is a strange fella. Watching the first half, I knew that the game was his for the taking. The only real question was when was he going to takeover. Early on he seemed far more interested in bickering with referees than with game itself. Eventually he did get angry enough (with refs who were giving him the star-treatment in spite of his petulance) to start looking for his shot and attacking the basket. This is about when the game tilted the Lakers way. I assume that he knows what he is doing and that he is taking a page from Phil Jackson's book by messing with his teammates. Sort of like when Phil refuses to call timeouts during bad runs of play (during the regular season) so that the team will learn to play through it (for the playoffs). Maybe it was like that?

-DJ Mbenga is hilarious. If he knew the rules of the game he could be someone to watch. On the other hand, he may only be worth watching since he doesn't know what he is doing

Wednesday's Starting Five

1. Johan Santana. I saw Johan pitch at Shea last season, against the Mets. He tossed an effortless complete game shutout. You could tell it was easy for him. In fact, the game was almost as easy for the Mets. Early on they knew they were beaten. Totally comfortable and confident that the spacious Shea outfield could keep most everything in play, Johan threw strike after strike in the later innings trying to hit bats and get outs. He did both. All the friends of friends of friends of his say that he wanted to get to Mets all along and that he has always wanted to be in the NL. So that he can bat. Because coming out of Venezuela he was a hard-hitting centerfielder compared (by his fans) to Griffey.

2. Mets fans. No fan base needed such an infusion more. Red Sox fans didn't need it. They've won two titles in the past four years. Yankees fans are too arrogant to admit they need anything and deep down just didn't want the Red Sox to get him. Nothing else could have turned the page on last year's epic collapse like this. Now, we're heading into 2008 and the storylines will be: the last hurrah at Shea, the beginning of the Santana era and the 35th anniversary of Tug McGraw's "You Gotta Beleive" team.

3. Yao Ming. Hitting 14 out of 15 free throws at the center position is impressive. Doing so in a game decided by four-points is clutch. The secret weapon of the Red Army ended up with 36 points altogether and 19 rebounds as the Rockets beat the Warriors.

4. Kevin Durant. The anointed Rookie of the Year hit the go-ahead jumper as the Sonics upended the Spurs last night, halting a 14-game skid.

5. Andy Pettitte. A man who seems to have learned from the travails of Barry Bonds and Marion Jones, Pettitte will reportedly back up McNamee's claims when he testifies in DC this week, revealing that he "discussed" HGH with Clemens before he ever used it.

Benched: Peter Gammons. The baseball institution let slip an uncharacteristic show of homerism when giving his take on the Santana trade last night. Obviously shaken that neither the Red Sox nor Yankees acquired Santana, he spun the story as being about his dearest teams holding on to the Ellsbury and Hughes respectively rather than about any of the players actually involved. It was a disapointing display by someone who I do respect very much.