Wednesday, October 29, 2008

It's Alive: Knicks vs. Heat

Thoughts on the 4th Quarter

Score: 91-75

-Collins on Wade to start the fourth. He brushes by the Temple product but loses the ball in the paint.

-Crawford-to-Chandler-Lee and David gets the free throw line for two. Without an established PG (like Marbury) these guys seem to have all taken it upon themselves to be conscientious about moving the ball.

-Wade goes right back at Collins and gets the ball all the way this time, scoring two. Crawford and Lee come to Wade to stop the ball next time down the floor before turning him back over to Collins.

-"We Want Steph" continues.

96-77

-Wade is trying to take this game over but it's just not working.

-Every non-point-guard on the floor for the Knicks is a threat to score at any point right now. And, with Nate taking over at the point with a shade under 9 to go, every player is a threat to score. And, not in the way that last year every player wanted to score but didn't.

-Lee's 5th assist sets up a slicing Wilson Chandler for a dunk. He's 8 of 14 with 17 points.

100-81

-Gus just dropped the stat that dropped my jaw. The Knicks have 26 assists with over 7 minutes to play. And, Lee has six of them.

-Lee just got consecutive offensive boards before laying the ball in, causing Gus to blurt out "Moses Malone" without providing any further explanation.

-Even on a bad night Wade just scored his 22nd and 23rd points on a jumper.

-There we go. We just got a good ol' fashioned Knicks possession where Crawford dribbled most of the clock down. Two passes later Randolph was taking a contested three as the shot clock was about to expire. Been there. Done that. Then we departed from the 2007-2008 script as a livid D'Antoni called a timeout. You see, he's a coach. This is what coaches are supposed to do.

-Well-founded anger on the coach's part, though, doesn't alter the fact that the Heat are coming back. It's happening.

107-97

-Interestingly, D'Antoni's stop the bleeding substitution is Wilson Chandler for David Lee. When in doubt, add more scorers.

-Wade wants to go coast to coast every time he touches the ball. He misses (again) but Marion gets the putback. The Heat are coming back. It's still happening.

107-99

-As Walt notes that Big Men are "vanishing from the NBA," Gus reveals that Curry isn't even on the bench at this point. Apparently, he's back in the locker room icing his knee.

-Daquan Cook hits a big bucket. The Heat are coming back. Oh, wait. They're here.

108-102

-Crawford cans a HUGE three. As silly as it sounds that is arguably the biggest shot he's hit as a Knick.

111-102

-As the Knicks play with the franticness of team unaccustomed to defending a lead, Wade fouls Crawford behind the arc and is done for the night with six fouls. Crawford hits just 1 of 3 as the game is just on the long side of one minute to play.

112-105

-Nate hits drops a floater through from the lane. Hopefully to ice this.

117-107

-Or not.

116-112

-As D'Antoni paces the sideline, hand on hip and shaking his head in frustration the camera catches a great shot of Herb Williams nodding knowingly with a wry smile on his face.

-Another Daquan Cook three-pointer. Ugh. My beer tastes like Lunesta.

118-115

-Crawford hits two free throws with about 12 ticks to go.

FINAL SCORE: 120-115

It's Alive: Knicks vs. Heat

Thoughts on the 3rd Quarter

Score: 60-45

-Free-flowing slop to start off the second half. Gus credits the Heat with "energy." I credit both teams with knowing that there are many minutes left and the game that it is unlikely to be decided in this particular group of minutes. It's easier to watch this sort of aimless, one-for-one ball when my team is up.

66-56

-Nice steal by Lee in passing lane leads to break and strong dunk by Q. He got up. The guy looks like one we thought we traded for way back when.

-Randolph just kicked the ball back out. He actually gave it back to a guard after he started to back someone down. Duhon, having not played with Zach enough to be surprised, hits the open shot.

76-61

-Wade throws it out of bounds and looks frustrated.

-Lee's telegraphed post moves work for two more and then he gets his hands on the ball again on the defensive again. He still can't stop Haslem in the post but he is compensating for this by being as active as he can before the ball gets to the spots on the floor where he is in trouble.

-Crawford is rolling. Inside. Outside. Inside on the break. And outside after the break catches up and flies past him.

82-61

-The Heat are struggling. Marion and Beasley are off from 12-and-in while Wade is just off everywhere. Still TBD how much credit for this the Knicks deserve. After all, Miami was awful last year. Like, even worse than the Knicks.

-Gus and Clyde sum up how the results thus far conflict with what we all suffered through last year:
Walt: "I think the crowd is stunned, Gus, by what has happened here tonight."
Gus: "I'm stunned there playing so well. It's almost too easy"
Walt: "It's that word surreal."

-Off the bench, Nate and Wilson Chandler connect for a layup on the pick and roll.

86-64

-Coming out of a timeout, we catch another climpse of the huddle (setting up Gus to again comment on the openess of the new regime). Marbury and Curry are not even in the frame.

-Walt notes this group's lack of a killer instinct just before Wade hits a shot to shave the lead down to 15. You just know that the Heat are coming back. It's just a matter of how far.

-Wade throws himself into a crowd of four Knickerbockers in the lane and misses the shot and loses the ball. Although he had a fine Olympic showing you just figure it's one thing to go hard into the paint against some dudes from Angola for a few weeks then it is to do it in the Association for 82 games.

-"We Want Steph" chant is resounding through the Garden so loudly that Walt and Gus start talking about it. A smile crosses Marbury's face against an obvious attempt to stifle it on the bench. No matter what D'Antoni's plans for him, you just got to love, or at least I do, that the crowd is behind Marbury again. He needs it.

91-75

It's Alive: Knicks vs. Heat

Thoughts On the 2nd Quarter

Score: 28-27

-Mardy Collins checks back in. Before Stephon even takes off his warmups. Yipes. Gus keeps talking about how D'Antoni is "sending a message."

-Gallinari shows a little something with a nice behind-the-back dribble when his defender overpursues his ball hand.

-According to Gus: "Mardy Collins has a habit of dribbling very high and losing the ball." Yet, this guy is in his second stint on the floor while Marbury, a guy who had a stretch of putting up PG stats that we've only ever seen from Oscar Robertson is further from the floor than Anthony Roberson. Look, I'm all for messages. And for trying something a little extreme to get Steph's attention - after all, you gotta fight crazy with crazy - but I'm less than enthused about Collins and Duhon handling the ball so much for a squad that I root for.

-Q comes back in and replaces Gallinari. You've got to think that the rook's PT shows that Gus is on-point by saying that D'Antoni is sending messages to his team, to fans and to the media tonight. I mean, Gallinari hasn't played in 3 months due to a back injury and here is running up and down on opening night. And, 3 months ago he played just one game. Marbury, on the other hand, started last week against the Celtics.

-The Knicks just got three possessions on one trip down the floor and all of them looked like something that was cut from a bad sports movie.

-A phenomenal put-pack dunk by Wilson Chandler gets Gus hollering. The camera cuts to the Knicks bench were Z-Bo, Lee and Crawford are up on their feets, cheering Chandler. It's clear that these three guys are invested in this team's success right now. They're psyched. They know that they're going to get the chance to make or break this season. Their sitting-down colleagues on the bench cannot say the same. Not yet.

34-31

-Following Chandler's rim-rocker, Beasley gets the ball on the right-top of the three-point line from Wade. He drives all the way across the lane and gets up a shot. Good. You can tell that Beasley just knew he had to silence the crowd after the Chandler dunk. He got the ball. Forgot about his teammates. And got two to quiet 20,000.

37-40

-Chandler's got 8 points and 5 rebounds early and he's got Jared Jeffries' attention. Mine too.

-Randolph rattles down his second field goal. It's another 17-footer. He's not getting into the paint at all on offense.

-Well, apparently Chris Duhon isn't the only Knickerbocker getting WWOD? updates from the bench. Randolph finally starts attacking the painted area, leading Gus to chime in "that's where you want him." Well, either there or back in Portland...

-Randolph is back inside. He's attacking. Or as Walt says, "Nice posting and toasting by Z-Bo. Now, he doesn't jump off the ground folks. But he has such an uncanny move when he's like 5 or 6 feet from the hoop."

43-40

-Miami Heat timeout.

-Coming back from the commercial break MSG shows us 30 seconds or so from the huddle that just occurred. Gus remarks that "we've been granted unbelievable access by this team." This is reason No. 3,454 why the Walsh/D'Antoni Era will be better than the Isiah Thomas Era.

-Crawford's back. He hits another for his 16th and 17th points.

-Q draws a charge on the Matrix on the defensive end and is also on the trigger-end of Wade's 3-12 start from the floor.

-Randolph is still going at the hoop. He's too quick for Haslem. Which felt weird to type. OK, Zach's back outside soon enough. But he dropped in another meteor from 17.

-Q three-pointer set up by some nice ball movement.

52-42

-At no point last year, at least that I can recall, did I hear such glowing play-by-play on back-to-back plays:
Gus: "Great help defense by the Knicks."
Walt: "[The Knicks are the] consumate team on both ends of the floor."
That just happened.

56-42

-As we're under 30 seconds to play in the first half D'Antoni is pointing and coaching his team's last possesion. Q hits a shot from the elbow.

-Of course, the Knicks then let Mario Chalmers fly down the length of the floor before fouling him as he shoots with less than 2 seconds left. Just when you thought...

-Just when I thought you couldn't do anything more stupid.....you go and do something like this....and totally redeem yourself. With 1.4 ticks to go, Rose throws a baseball pass to Q, who snuck out early after Chalmers' second free thow. He gets fouled as the buzzer sounds and hits both free throws.

HALF

It's Alive: Knicks vs. Heat

Thoughts on the 1st Quarter

We're off. Ticketless tonight, I'm watching the first game of the 2008-2009 Knickerbockers campaign from the comfort of WWOD? HQ. The beer is certainly cheaper here. And, I have the pleasure of hearing Gus Johnson and Walt Clyde Frazier calling the game on MSG.

The Knicks Starting Lineup
PG: Chris Duhon
SG: Jamal Crawford
SF: Quentin Richardson
PF: David Lee
C: Zach Randolph

Score: 0-0

As advertised, Eddy Curry and Stephon Marbury are not out on the floor when the opening tip is lofted into the air. Lee is jumping for the Knicks. He whiffs.

-No. 1 draft pick Michael Beasley opens the scoring with a nifty slice and hoop through the paint. On the other end, Crawford comes off a curl and hits a nice-looking jump shoot. I don't know who needed that more, him or us.

-Mere minutes into this the new Curry-less universe you can already see how the Knicks are going to have trouble matching up against longer/taller teams. Exhibit A: Crawford is guarding Shawn Marion.

-Dwayne Wade is being d'ed up Q, which I like. I know he was hurt last season but I think that the Knicks have to get more on-court leadership out of him. And even though he can be a heck of shooter, that leadership starts with this willingness to defend the other team's best player. Whether it's Wade or Lebron, who Q has battled (not stopped, but battled) in the past.

9-3

-The Knicks are shooting after one pass. Gus gives us the first of many "seven seconds or less" references. And Crawford is warming up, hitting shots. He's officially hot when he drops in a high-arching fadeaway three with Marion, arm-extended all over him. Leading Gus to comment, "So much for the preseason."

-On defense the Knicks have fouled a few guys in the paint, Wade and Marion, rather than give up layups. Obviously I'd like it if we could actually stop folks but I'll take a foul-before-layup policy. It's certainly better than the previous fouls-and-layups policy from last year.

-Duhon isn't showing me anything early on. He's getting lost on defense, forcing his teammates to switch off on the perimeter and setting up David Lee/Mario Chalmers mismatches.

-Duhon apparently also didn't get the memo about the abandonment of the "fouls-and-layups" strategy. He doe the classic arms-down, lean-in, body-foul on Wade as he cruises by for an easy two.

-Wilson Chandler and Nate Robinson are the first two players off the Knicks bench. They replace Randolph and Q.

-Nate gets a shot on his first offensive possession (miss), and we are treated to first "rise and fire" of the regular season from Gus Johnson. The NBA is fantastic.

16-16

-The Knicks score when they hit jump shots. They don't score when they don't. Thus far this is all I can tell from the offense. Duhon isn't working them toward reliable, easy-to-make buckets. And, yes, I am not extending him the benefit of the doubt in the first eight minutes of the season.

-Since he must have heard that I'm down on him, Duhon cans an open 3 from the corner. These shots will make or break the Knicks if Duhon is the starter all year. The Heat left him entirely alone on defense. Since they have no respect for his game. If he hits enough of these open looks then maybe the other four on the floor will get a fair shake.

24-23

-Danilo Gallinari and Malik Rose check in. The Italian Stallion looks approximately 9 years old. He also looks serious as hell, talking to Rose and Chandler and trying to figure out what his responsibilities are.

-Just like a ninth-inning defensive replacement, the ball finds Gallinari on offense immediately. He catches. Thinks. Takes a step in. Bounces a shot off the back rim. He aimed that ball with his mind and didn't shoot it with his body. But, then again he is just 9. So, he does get the benefit of the doubt.

-Chandler is a shot-taker. Pure. Simple. Good? That remains to be seen. But, unlike Gallinari, he's not thinking when he gets the ball. He is all action and tunnelvision. He scored six points in the last six minutes of the first quarter on 3 of 5 shooting.

I'd Like to Thank the Academy...


WWOD? Wins Top Knicks Blog Honors in La Ball Talk Contest

We won. Me. You. Oakley. We. Frankly, I'm shocked. I was psyched just to be invited to participate along with the other well-written and far more established blogs that were nominated.

Now, the season is about to get underway and I'm planning on doing my best to justify the half dozens of votes cast.

Thank you.