Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Man of Steal

Super-Hero Nate Steals Inbound Pass, Seals Win

In the moment that mattered most, it didn't matter how we'd gotten there. It didn't matter that the Knicks had blown a lead. It didn't matter that the Knicks had allowed even more middling Pacers get off for huge nights in our building. All that mattered was thirty seconds and the ball. All that mattered was getting the ball back from the other team and scoring more points than they did before the buzzer sounded to end the game. That's all that mattered.

Jeff Foster had already tried once to inbound the ball for the Indiana Pacers. He'd failed to find an open teammate while standing underneath the basket the Knicks were defending. The F/C had a called a timeout for fear of turning the ball over with a five-second violation. Foster and teammate Jarret Jack were visibly arguing as they headed to the opposite end of the floor to hear what inbounds play their coach was going to call for the next attempt to put the ball in play.

When both teams returned to the floor, Foster was again handed the ball underneath the basket. He looked and pumped and he couldn't find anyone to throw it to. Finally, he tried to lob it out to the wing on the near sideline. Over the first row of defense along the baseline and towards the guard at the top of the key. Faster than a locomotive, Nate Robinson speeds in (knowing where Foster's outlet was and baiting him into throwing just like he learned lining up in the secondary as a football player). He grabs the ball and speeds down court, crossing the equator and burning for the right side of the rim. He lays it in. Two points. Knicks lead.

Flying down court before a raucous Garden crowd, Nate slaps five with comedian Will Ferrell for yet another time. Shake and bake. That just happened.

Other Thoughts, Observations and Things Better Left Unsaid:
-Nate was awesome. Nate, apparently, is awesome. There are no two ways about it at this point. He's playing great. He topped 40 points against the Pacers. He topped 30 in the second half. Although he didn't have a nice game on Sunday in Toronto, he was very good on Friday night and had three 30-point games on the bounce before that. He is playing at a very high level and as good as anyone not named Lebron, Dwyane or Kobe. I'm not even sure how to process this information. He's a restricted free agent at the end of the season and I don't know what's going to happen. I don't what should happen. I think he's a sixth man. A very good sixth man and great back-up guard who can take over a game. But, how much can you pay for a sixth man when you don't have your 1st man yet?
-On the flip side, Chris Duhon is not right. I'm hoping that he's injured. Because he was scuffling again last night. He had four points, five assists and SIX turnovers in 36 minutes. Before the All-Star Break he had sat out a game because of an ankle injury and I'm hoping that's what's happening here. Otherwise, you've got think that the minutes he's been playing per game (38.7) has taken its toll on him. D'Antoni's been running him out there 10 minutes more than he's averaged during his career. The team's best lineup right now definitely has Duhon on the bench and Nate on the floor. Even when they were both on the floor in the second half last night, Duhon was anonymously hanging on the wing while Nate ran the team.
-David Lee missed two clutch free throws late in the game. I know that it's foolhardy to really pin blame for a win or a loss on any single play. I know that a final score is the totality of every play during the 48 minutes and that first quarter points count as much as fourth quarter points. I know those things. But if the Knicks would have lost then I would have blamed it on those missed free throws.
-Larry Hughes looks rustier than an 1980s Oldsmobile that's been parked on a lawn in Louisiana for six years.
-This game was ugly for long stretches. The Knicks should have pulled away but couldn't.
-Will Ferrell was sitting courtside. And, Nate does love him.

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