Wednesday, December 31, 2008

WILLLLL - SSUUUUNNNNNN

Chandler Proves Knicks Can Still Have Fun

Over-the-counter nasal spray clears up your stuffed sinus passages. As long as you don't let it all roll down the back of throat. Which tastes gross. But even if the spray does its job, it doesn't do a thing for the cold you've got. It certainly makes you feel much better for a few hours. But, It doesn't mean that you're cured of what ails you. In fact, once you start using that stuff you end up needing it around all the time. Last night's Knicks win was sort of like nasal spray. It cleared up a symptom (losing) but it didn't do anything about the underlying problem.

The Knicks scored 36 points in the first quarter last night against the Bobcats in Charlotte. Shots were falling from midrange and the team got 12 points right at the rim. Even Jared Jeffries hit a 19-footer. All was well in the Queen City. But, then the shots stopped falling and the Knicks didn't score more than 20 points in any of the other three quarters. They tallied just 37 points in the entire second half. That's 36 points in the first quarter and 37 points in the second half. That's not good.

This team is tired. And, they have gotten in the habit of hanging their heads when they get tired. Nate's been dribbling too much. David Lee's been missing layups. Chandler's been pressing on too many possessions and turning the ball over. And, our perimeter shots have become forced rather than open. This team needs more players on the floor. The excuse is too ready made and too obvious. This team needs to start entrusting the end of the bench with some minutes (please, no) or go out and fill the roster spots belonging to Stephon Marbury and Cutino Mobley with ballers who can contribute (please, now!).

Thankfully, Wilson Chandler found some gas in the tank in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter to pull the win from the fire. The Bobcats pulled ahead, 82-83, on a Raymond Felton three-pointer with four minutes to play. And, tucked in that sentence is all the info you need to know about this game: the Knicks had not broken 90 points late in the fourth quarter. Last night the tempo in quarters 2,3 and 4 was orchestrated by Bobcats coach Larry Brown. No one at the Time Warner Cable Arena was experiencing Knicks basketball. If this team isn't breaking 100 points then we're not playing the game that D'Antoni is coaching. Before last night the Knicks had lost every single game that they didn't break the century mark.

And, last night would have been the same had Chandler not followed Felton's three by scoring seven straight for the Knicks. After that outburst the Knicks made free throws to hold on and secure the win. But the problems remain. We may have breathed easier last night but things are not really better. Nasal spray doesn't actually cure anything.

Bad teams use wins the same way people use nasal spray. They just want to momentarily clear up a symptom of a larger problem to keep their day on track. Bad teams just want to manage to win a game once a week to stave off the most noticeable symptom of their badness. Which is the losses. Bad teams just want to score enough points so that a game can be close enough in the last few minutes so that hopefully some player can step up and score a key bucket or get a key stop. They just want to get the immediate result that allows them to sleep through the night they are living in. Good teams, however, want to treat the root cause of the symptoms. They want to get better. They want to develop a style of play and a level of confidence that carries over from game to game and eventually cures their problems all together.