Monday, November 30, 2009

Monday Mudita

Just One Joker Up Our Sleeve

When I was in grade school, I got a magic set for Christmas or Hanukkah or my birthday or some such gift-receiving day of the year. I thought it was pretty badass, even though it may have even come from one of those educational "toy" stores. I poured over the guide book to learn how to learn how to trick people older than me. For all my practicing, I was only able to pull off one of the card tricks convincingly enough that I was convinced that assembled grandparents and uncles and aunts weren't just humoring me with their oohs and aahs.

My one trick, though, did not make me a magician. To be a magician would necessitate many tricks. A deep reservoir of precise movements and clever repartee from which could be drawn an entire routine. My lone skill of usually guessing your card was not going to me a magician any more than Nate Robinson's one-man fourth quarter performance on Sunday night was going to push the Knicks past the Orlando Magic at the Garden. One trick ain't cutting it either way. And, like me the Knicks tend to have just one trick on most nights. The Orlando Magic, who boast the best record in the Eastern Conference, however, have many tricks up their sleeves and on their bench. Not just a joker who makes headlines for shooting at the wrong basket.

So, yeah, the Knicks lost again last night. To a team that is undoubtedly better. Again. Maybe it was the exhaustion-induced calm brought on by spending all day at the Jets game or maybe this losing is starting to sap my enthusiasm but this defeat didn't get me too riled up. I mean, this Knicks roster will have a hard time matching up against the leagues better teams.

Against Orlando, the Knicks did a lot of the things that so many fans pine for. For starters, they started the game well. They attacked the paint aggressively early on using our frontcourt speed to compensate for our lack of height. The Knicks held leads in the first and second quarters. They didn't totally forget about Gallo in the second half third quarter. They never lost the plot entirely on the defensive end. And they did get one player to get hot and they rode that guy. Hard. Nate Robinson dropped 22 points in the fourth quarter.

Yet, the Knicks actually lost ground during that quarter, as the Magic' lead grew from 9 to 12. This happened for two reasons. First, they out-rebounded the Knicks by 10 and 8 of those extra caroms came on the offensive end, leading to a huge difference in second-chance points. Second, they didn't have just one player get hot but they had multiple players to lean on throughout the game, with Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis putting up 10+ point quarters along the way. With Dwight Howard in the paint, Rashard, Pietrus and VC on the wings, and Matt Barnes, Ryan Andeson and JJ Redick contributing off the bench the Magic have too much for a team like the Knicks.