Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Another "Old Fashioned Beating*"

Cavs Rolls Knicks, 82-118

Last night the Knicks managed to stay competitive for three quarters. Heck, they managed to lead after three quarters. Against a sprightly and promising group of Trailblazers. Tonight the Knicks managed to stay competitive for less than ten minutes. Against the Lebronaliers.

Lebron took the floor tonight after his standard chalk-clap entrance, which when watched in its entirety, complete with the subsequent arm raising and crowd pointing and chest pounding is a little overproduced. You sort of assume that he has put that little performance into overdrive ever since the latest Nike commercial aired. Anyways, he took the floor after most players were already milling about around the center circle. He walked by Wilson Chandler and tapped fists with David Lee who was stretching and didn't notice LBJ walk up. And, he shared a few words for the Knicks starting five as the referees got ready to jump the game off. One would imagine that those words uttered by Lebron as he greeted his erstwhile foes were "So which of y'all is still gonna be feeding me the rock in 2010?"

The First Quarter Is Alive:

-Chandler is coming out aggressive tonight, going at the rim and scoring early. You know he can't be pleased with his performance against Portland. Since he's entered the starting lineup that was his first real abymsal start-to-finish showing.

2-2

-Q Richardson is d'ing up Lebron as per usual. This matchup usually brings out the best in him defensively. Of course, he played damn good defense on LBJ last year when he had 50 so I don't know how much it really means.

-Chandler's aggressiveness hasn't produced results in equal measure since that opening bucket. He's off again and pressing.

Walt Frazier: "Chandler has to stop shooting."
Mike Breen: "He is not even close."

2-6

-James misses a dunk. Weird. Jerome James must be awful intimidating from the sidelines because LBJ's missed jam comes right on the heels of Greg Oden's miss-a-thon the other night.

-Al "Named After a Jewish Dry Cleaner from Yonkers" Harrington is coming on strong. He's 3 for 3 and just drained a a corner through over a Z. With this small lineup Harrington forces the center to try to match up with him on the offensive end. This could be good.

11-9

-Of course, the size mismatch also works out for the opponent. Z just grabbed an offensive rebound and scored with a sweeping putback.

11-13

-But then Harrington answers with another deep jump shot.

13-13

-Tim Thomas enters the game for David Lee. Could there be a more drastic change when swapping players close to the same size who could be lining up at the same spot on the floor?

-Thomas is guarding Lebron James at the top of the key when he inexplicably sloughs off LBJ to guard against north/south lob to Z in the paint. Really? I don't think anyone was more surprised than Lebron to be left totally alone at the top of the key fairly early in the shot clock. He was so surprised he missed the wide open three point attempt. Lesson: Tim Thomas defends with guile rather than hustle.

13-15

-Remember that time when the Knicks were playing the Cavs in Cleveland and it become apparent that Al Harrington was the best player on the team? Yeah, me too. Wasn't that sort of weird. Harrington has scored 8 straight points and is the only reason the Knicks are hanging with the Cavs.

20-23

-D'Antoni pulled Harrington with less than two minutes to play in the first quarter. He sent Anthony Roberson on to floor. And, the Knicks went to pieces. The Cavs went on an 8-0 run to end the period. Because, all together now, Al Harrington is the best player on the team.

Walt Frazier: "The Knicks are looking and the Cavaliers are cooking."

20-31

Exhausted, fatigued and possibly with chalk in their eyes, the Knicks never recovered from that Cavs run at the end of the first quarter. The second quarter was a debacle. Coming out of the half Mike Breen cautioned "So, it's gotta be a concerted effort by the Knicks now. And try not to be embarrassed the rest of the way. Richardson got ejected for arguing (idiotic and possibly intentional just because he was exhausted and fed up with getting his butt kicked) and Harrington fouled Lebron pretty hard (not as idiotic/intentional as it seemed). And, that was really all that happened of note the rest of the way.

Just two minutes later Breen proclaimed "This is just one of those good old-fashioned beatings." And it was.

The Post is Prologue: Knicks @ Cavs

Knicks (8-9)
@
Lebronaliers (14-3)
7:00 p.m.
Quicken Loans Arena


With so much flirting between the Knicks and Lebron it's almost awkward when he see each other in public. But here were are again. It's almost like it was destiny. Or just a quirk in the schedule that has us playing again so soon. Either way, the Knicks are visiting a title contender tonight. One who beat them soundly last week. The Cavs are favored to win by 15 points tonight which is three less than they beat us by last time around. So, I guess Vegas must think that we're making progress. Right?

In what will hopefully become a regular thing, I've been emailing with a noted Cavaliers fan today to get ready for the game tonight. Below you'll find a Q&A with one of the founders of Cavs News. We talked about the Cavs hot start to the season, the improvements in Lebron's game and the summer of 2010.

(And, you'll find my answers to their Knicks-related questions over at their shop. Let's just say that the year 2010 comes up...)

WWOD?: The Cavs have won 13 of their last 14, which is the team's best stretch since Hot Rod Williams and Brad Daugherty were in your frontcourt. Is this the best basketball you've ever seen in Cleveland?
Cavs News: It is certainly the best basketball we have seen in a long time. I am not ready to say they are better than the Brad Daugherty, Hot Rod Williams, Mark Price era yet since that team was able to win consistently for several years, but I think the potential is much greater for this team to do just that.

WWOD?: Is the city rallying behind this team or has the 2010 weirdness dampened the enthusiasm?
CN: The city is clearly behind the Cavaliers and LBJ. I think the media are the only ones infatuated with 2010. The fans are enjoying what we have now and will wait and see what 2010 brings.

WWOD?: Which non-Lebron players are key to the Cavs success thus far?
CN: Mo and Delonte are key. But you can't say enough about the way Z has been playing.

WWOD?: Can they keep it up?
CN: Yes. Each player is playing within their potential. This team is for real.

WWOD?: What about Lebron's game/demeanor is better/worse this year as compared to last year or earlier in his career?
CN: They key difference for LeBron this year is his defense. He has stepped up his effort to match his offense.

WWOD?: According to ESPN's John Hollinger they are the most efficient team in the NBA but they play at a slower pace than all but a handful of clubs whereas the Knicks have the highest number of possessions per game. What is the ideal tempo for the Cavs?
CN: The Cavaliers have been a half court, defense first team since coach Mike Brown came here. However, this year they have shown they can play both tempos as they did against the Knicks (119-101) and the Warriors (112-97).

WWOD?: As someone who doesn't get a chance to see the Cavs all that often, who is one non-Lebron player who that I should pay special attention to?
CN: Z - If they get him started early this team is unstoppable. Rookie J.J. Hickson is one to watch out for.

WWOD?: In 12 of the teams 17 games Lebron has led the club in assists. Is this a good thing? Can he keep it up?
CN: Lebron is a pass-first guy and he is good at it. Sometimes the media criticize him for it but that’s his game and that’s why other players love to play with him. Can he keep it up? He did since he came to the league.

WWOD?: What do you hope to turn Wally Szcerbiak's Contract into?
CN: As long as the Cavaliers keep playing this way, I don’t see Danny Ferry making any changes.

WWOD?: At WWOD?, I often refer to the Cavs and the Lebronaliers. Does this bother you?
CN: Does it bother you that we have Lebron and you don’t?
[Ed. Note: Yes. Yes it does.]

WWOD?: What makes the 2008-2009 season a success for the Cavs?
CN: Winning the Championship

WWOD?: What makes it an unqualified failure?
CN: Losing in the first or second round

WWOD?: Obviously the Vanilla Gorilla in the room is 2010. It's sort of awkward for a Knicks and Cavs fan to be chatting so amiably with all that is swirling. In brief, what do you think will happen? If he wins a title for Cleveland than could he leave on good terms? And, given the endless chatter will it bother you more/less/same for Lebron to end up a Knickerbocker?
CN: Fans are fans. You can't blame them for wanting one of the best players in the NBA. I think people get more frustrated with the media to be honest with you. As for LeBron, in the end, I think most Cleveland fans would be more bothered if he ended up going to another team. At least with New York you can somewhat understand the motive as compared to simply another market similar to Cleveland.

Final Thoughts on Zach Randolph

Watching the Knicks/StolenSonics game not too long ago I was mesmerized by Zach Randolph. At the time I described his play as reminding me of "the Halloween episode of the Simpsons when Homer has all the clones to help him around the house and office. There were baby-faced and baby-fatted Zach Randolphs everywhere." Z-Bo scored 29 points and grabbed 19 rebounds that night.

I was planning on unraveling this Z-Bo mystery over the course of the season. But, Randolph's been traded. And, he's still inscrutably effective, scoring 27 points and hauling in 10 rebounds last night for the Clippers.

After much deliberation, I don't think that modern science can yet explain Zach Randolph. He is the basketball equivalent of dark matter. We have observational evidence that allows us to infer what each is capable of but we can't really, really bottle it up or explain what/why it is the way it is. I've spent entire games just watching him and it's uncanny (and bizarre on my part). He manages to be everywhere important on the floor without ever appearing to move with urgency or purpose. Each single act of his looks lumbering and aimless but taken together they somehow add up to Voltron. In spite of the way he moves and all empirical evidence, Randolph is somehow more likely than almost anyone else in the Association right now (other than, maybe, Amare, Garnett, Al Jefferson and Dwight Howard) to end up with 26 and 17 on any given night.

I'm utterly confounded and now he's gone. I guess I'll have to turn my attention to the way in which Cutino Mobley's enlarged heart combines with Tim Thomas's lack of heart to balance them both out and keep them alive. It was no coincidence that they were traded together...

[Ed note: many of these thoughts are culled from my answers to questions posed by Sean Meagher, who blogs about the Blazers.]

Knicks 97 - 104 Blazers

The Portland Trailblazers sole visit to the Garden this season was an uneven affair that was mostly positive for the new Knicks right up until the point when the needle hit empty and they sputtered to a loss in the fourth quarter. At that juncture it was a less than positive experience for the Knicks and the non-Spaniards in the crowd.

“The guys that were playing well I think ran out of steam.”-Coach D'Antoni

(More game notes to follow)

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