Friday, February 5, 2010

It's Alive: Bucks @ Knicks

Pregame:
We've got Walt "Clyde" Frazier and Mike Breen calling the game on MSG on a Friday night. Snow is in the forecast and Nate Robinson is in the starting lineup. Let's get this started. Both Clyde and Breen talk about how Nate played his way into the starting lineup with hardly a mention of the ignominious manner in which Duhon played himself out of it. They also mention that the key for Nate is his passing rather than his scoring. Can he run the offense? Can he get his teammates involved while also asserting himself? I'm not sure. I'm even a litle nervous. For the sake of this season and all the minutes I've already spent and will spend watching this team, I hope that Nate is up to it. Breen and Clyde also discuss Bucks rookie PG Brandon Jennings in the open. We might have an ol' fashioned NYC point guard face off on our hands.

The Beastie Boys are the featured artist on tonight's edition of Friday Night Knicks on MSG. "Root Down" plays over some highlights as we get back from commercial. I dig this more than the random Pearl Jam last week.

First Quarter:
-As the starters come out to the court Clyde describes Nate as "not a starting guard." Uh oh. This leads Breen to explain that Duhon played himself out of the lineup as much as Nate played himself into it during his up and down campaign.

-Robinson gets the ball to Lee at the top of the arc just as Duhon would have in the Knicks first possession. The base offensive scheme seems to be the same.

-Nate penetrates ever slightly, sucking the defense in enough for Chandler to drive baseline and dunk. That's a corner jump shot if Duhon is on the floor.

2-5

-"Ding dong the Bell" Clyde pronounces as Charlie Bell drops in another early 3. The double teams on Bucks center Andrew Bogut are leading to open looks from the outside. Bogut looks every bit his listed 7 feet. Well, except for the eighth-grade beard.

-Lee and Nate work great a back-door play. The pair used to have great chemisty when they were both coming off the bench together early in their careers. Lee saw Nate as he eluded Jennings, who fouled Nate.

5-8

-Bogut is a lot taller than Lee. And a lot stronger. The double team keeps coming, leading to open men. And an illegal defense violation.

-Lee has to be a little more active with Nate out there. He can get better/closer shots with Nate fluttering around and penetrating. He doesn't have to be the release valve at 18 feet.

-"A very precocious neophyte," according to Clyde, Jennings aggressively dribbles north-south dribble and feeds to a teammate who draws a foul at the rim. New York would have fallen in love with this kid. Hard. Like, midtown deli owners and high school math teachers in the Bronx would have been doodling his initials on receipt pads and lunch-bag covered text books if he'd been a Knick. But, he's not. We've got Jordan Hill. On the bench. Per usual.

9-17

-Kurt Thomas checks in for Bogut and gets a warm welcome from the fans. I totally forgot he was on this squad. He greets Lee with a few words. The Knicks gotta close the gap with Bogut out.

-Jennings' shimmy, hard-jab step into a fall away is his shot. It's nice. And good to see that he's got something that he's comfortable with already.

-Slick move from Lee to get around Thomas and then flip a ball in along the baseline. The shot prompts Breen to refer to the "offensive arsenal" that Lee has developed.

11-19

-Fast break, Jeffries to Lee. Dunk!

13-19

-Nate hits. And one! Coming out of a timeout, coming off a Jeffries' steal, the Knicks are coming hard with Bogut off the floor.

16-19

-Offensive three seconds on Bucks. The tide has turned since Bogut left. With Harrington on the floor and Nate getting to the rim, this Knicks lineup is putting pressure on the defense.

-That Carlos Delfino is a nice little player. He's opportunistic and has good court awareness. He'll punish you for a missed rotation or assignment.

-Just as Clyde and Breen are saying that Duhon runs the offense better, Robinson gets to the rim in a flash and gets fouled. And while Nate hits the second, Larry Hughes checks in. First guard off the bench. Noted.

-We learn that Bogut is not coming back. The Knicks have got to win this game. There is no one on this team aside from a rookie point guard to fear. No Michael Redd. No Andrew Bogut. The Knicks have just got to win this game. Or, at least, the Knicks really should win this game.

-Ridnour checks in. He's a guy that I'd love to have instead of Duhon. He's steady and a good facilitator. He has a fine college pedigree and can create is own offense Nice move to finish in the lane.

17-23

-Lee hits the pick and roll over Thomas. That was Thomas' shot for so many years with Marbury. The teacher has now become the master.

-How are the Knicks down by 10? Al Harrington needs to get it going.

19-29

-Nate's already got 6 free throws in first quarter. With so little penetration and such a reliance on jumpshsots, We're usually we're the team on the wrong end of the free-throw disparity. I'd say this is a great early indicator if the team wasn't still trailing.

-Not for long. Great assist to Al. 3!

26-29

Second Quarter
-Duhon is on the floor to start second. Lee goes right at former Syracuse standout Hakim Warrick. I watched him play a lot in college. You just got muscle this guy - like BC’s wide-bodied Craig Smith used to back in the Big East. Lee finds Duhon, who cuts backdoor. I wonder if he picked that up from watching Nate run the same route. Hopefully, he’ll bring a greater urgency coming off the bench than he does as a starter.

28-29

-Who the hell is this lanky Turk? And why does he already have seven points since coming off the bench?

28-32

-Ridnour lofts a tear drop runner. Splash. Every point guard should have that in their repertoire. Our longtime starter does note.

30-34

-Hughes flashes to the rim. I have zero stats to support this, but I just feel like this team gets to the rim a lot more when Hughes is in the game.

32-34

-Al to rim. Miss! Lee puts it back! And we have a TIE! Without Bogut in the paint the Knicks are crashing through the area. It's officially their game to lose.

34-34

-Great long outlet from Hughes to DUHON, who broke down the floor once he saw Hughes had the rebound. Layup. The tempo is set to HIGH. Duhon is playing looser without the burden of being the No. 1 guard.

36-34

-Harringotn is coming on up. Good from three.

39-36

-The Beasties’ "Gratitude" plays as the broadcast comes back from commercial.

-Clyde informs us home viewrs that Al is officially "percolating" after he knocks down another three.

42-38

-Who is this guy? Ilyasova? The 6-10 wing is 5 for 5 12 points in 7 minutes. Looks like another career high courtesy of your friendly New York Knickerbockers defense.

42-41

-Wilson Chandler block a shot. Gallo blocked one a few minutes ago. We’re staying with guys even if they got a step off the dribble. Usually once they’ve got a shoulder passed our defenders then they’re free and clear. Now we’re sticking with them and bothering shots.

-Illegal defense on the Bucks. Nate cans the tech. The tide has turned. Jennings has “Gardenitis.” And a young local ref is also making his Garden debut. He’s faring better than the rook.

47-43

-Jennings couldn’t stay in front of Nate. But Duhon can’t shake him. Just saying.

-Bucks are jumping at head fakes. We gotta get ‘em up in the air and then move around them. Lee's got it. Gallo don't.

51-47

-Seriously, who is this guy? Ilyasova has single-handedly kept this game close heading into the half. For all the feeling of domination the Knicks only lead by 5 at the break.

59-54

-HALF-
-Great shot at Jennings by Lee during interview with Al Trautwig before he heads into the locker room. “Well he's got to do a better job in the second half.” Odd remark about Bucks being “like charlotte,” though. You mean, like the team that has all but ensured a playoff spot. WHAT is your team like then?

-A quick Google search for Ilyasova tells me he played for Barcelona and the Turkish national team. He’s the second-coming of Hedo Turkoglu with a better three and a little less handle.

Third Quarter

-The mysterious Ilyasova and UCLA’s very own Mbah a Moute are out hustling the home team. Scotty Skiles must have gotten into these guys during the break. Perhaps literally. They are playing with fear.

61-58

-Jennings cans a straightaway three. He seems to have taken Lee's words to heart. I wonder if they've got the tv tuned to MSG in the visitors' lockeroom. Timeout, New York. D'antoni is really giving it to Nate. Usually he walks away with the assistants at the start of timeout but he is chewing Nate out like he just found out he wrecked the family minivan while sneaking out to meet a girl on a school night.

64-64
-And from the ashes of victory, we’ve got a ballgame. Chandler and Jennings are going back and forth. Jennings is getting to the rack. This switch-every-screen defense and/or zone look with Jeffries on top is not working against a north-south guard like Jennings. Somebody has to just stick him. He’s so quick that he slips through the seams of the zone and the windows between switches.

-The tide has turned again. And the Bucks are riding the wave.

67-68

-Oh, the double pin! Gallo and Jeffries team up to block Bell at the rim. Do they each get a half a block? Gallo got it. Nice play.

-Jeffries cans a three to put the Knicks back out in front. The grip is slipping, though.

70-69

-Jennings has taken over the game. He’s driving and kicking. And driving. Three layups already in the third.

73-76

-Nate penetrates, slightly wild, and kicks to Jeffries for another 3. Good! That was a HUGE shot. And, if your team needs timely threes from JJ to stay in a game then you’ve got a prognosis negative on your hands.

76-77

-Nate gets to the rim again. Le follows. He used to get these put-back points all the time when he played closer to the rim. And he will get a few of these if the Knicks start to get to the rim again with Nate out there.

78-79

-Al looks fatigued. He’s making lazy perimeter fouls. Missing shots. The Bucks are doing neither of those things. And they look energized. They’re closing out the third with a flourish.

78-83

-Duhon gets back on the floor. And promptly gets toasted. Jeffries is on Jennings, who finds Ilyasova (guarded by Duhon) for a driving dunk.

78-86

-And the wheels are off the Knicks. Cinder block tires and the squad is parked on the front lawn. Turnovers and missed layups for us. Easy Warrick buckets for them.

81-90

Fourth Quarter

-This is brutal. Frustrating. Dispiriting. I just want to turn it off. But there is a lot of time left. And everyone’s got a fourth quarter run. Even us. I think. Right? Anyone? Tommy? Can you hear me?

84-94

-And when Jerry Stackhouse, recently rescued from the halfway retired scrap heap, has one more made three-point field goal then your sharpshooting Italian sniper then the route is officially on. Timeout. New York.

94-97

And, Gallo finally comes through with a much-needed three from the wing. Breen and Clyde are yapping about his penchant for fourth quarter explosions in games that he’s started slowly.

89-98

-They’re still getting too many easy looks. Mbah a Moute gets another layup.

91-102

-But another three, this one from Harrington has us back in the game. Is this the run? From here on out this game is about stops. We can make up six points in six and a half minutes of we can gets stops.

96-102

-Now, when I just mentioned “stops,” what I didn’t mean was “surrender layups.” I meant holding the opposition without any points during a series of possessions.

96-104

-Nor did I mean “surrender three pointers” when I talked about “stops.” I know these are common mistakes so I won’t get too worked about the communications breakdown. It’s probably my fault.

96-107

-We’re gunning to close the gap. And misfiring badly. The Bucks, meanwhile are taking their antlers to our zone. Jennings is shredding it. And they’re cutting to the rim or spotting up and waiting for the kickout.

96-109

-Finally out of the zone. Finally. With their small lineup this wasn’t working at all. They've got the shooters and the cutters to kill us. And Jennings needs to be defending by someone who is going to keep him out of the paint. As Clyde keeps saying, you’ll let him have the outside shot if you can block his entry to the paint.

-Lee is still coming. And coming. He’s got gaudy numbers again. In a loss. Again. It’s going to take a minor miracle to pull off a 7-point comeback in a minute and a half.

105-111

-And, any chance of that miracle is cleaned off the glass by Ilyasova when he grabs the game-killing offensive rebound. Lee just watched. And then fouled him. I guess it’s fitting that the heretofore unknown man from Turkey scores the game’s last point. This is an incredibly disheartening loss. Just gutting. The Bucks were without their two best players. They went into half time without the lead and without any momentum. Yet, they outplayed the Knicks in the second half from wire to wire.

107-114

The Post is Prologue: Bucks @ Knicks

Milwaukee Bucks
@
Knicks
7:30 P.M. EST
Madison Square Garden


There are two noteworthy things about this game tonight:
1) The Knicks want you to come down to the Garden so badly that they are giving away longsleeve DECLARE t-shirts and $20 worth of food & merchandise vouchers with certain ticket purchase. And that's if you didn't take them up on the "Guys Night Out" deal that netted 2 tickets, 2 popcorns, 2 shirts, and 2 beers for just $79. That second deal is the first time I ever remember seeing alcohol being involved in a Knicks ticket promotion. Finally! We're breaking ground every day.

2) Nate Robinson may start in place of Chris Duhon. Hmmmm..... I wonder if there is any connection between the benching of the previous starter at the point and the fact that the team is literally giving away stuff to lure fans. I wonder.

Both the Knickerbockers and the Bucks are on the outside looking in right now. They're cheeks flush from cold and their noses leaking snot as they press to the window to watch the Eastern Conference playoff teams. The Bucks are in the ninth spot right now and the Knicks are two and a half game back of them in tenth. This is a marquee Underworld matchup. The Bucks won the first meeting between these clubs and the Knicks need to win tonight if they hope to win the three-game season series and hold a tiebreaker over a team they're battling.

Coming off a win, fueled by a lineup change and playing at home, the Knicks are getting three points from Vegas. This means that the oddmakers pretty much thing this is a pick 'em and are giving the home team the benefit of one Gallo three-pointer. ESPN.com's Accuscore leans more definitively toward the home side, quote a 62% chance of success. I'm too focused on Super Bowl prop bets to worry about this line too much. Let's just say, that the Knicks should win this game if they come out with a solid effort in each quarter.

The story of this game is point guard play. Can Bucks rookie Brandon Jennings rebound from another poor outing? After a tremendously hot start, that had everyone piling on the Knicks for passing on Jennings, the none-and-done rookie has come back down to earth. On the other bench, this will be a telling game for Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni. He's indicated that Nate Robinson has earned a spot in the starting lineup (or, at least that, Chris Duhon has earned himself a spot on the bench) after his play in the second half on Wednesday night against Washington. How much leeway does Nate get? Is he going to be expected to turn the ball over to David Lee at the top of the arc on most possessions? Is Larry Hughes the backup point guard? What is Duhon's role? After all, he can't score and he generally doesn't defend his own position. The depth of Duhon's slump and his lack of a quantifiable off-the-bench skill makes me wonder if he'll be dropped from the rotation altogether.

Another key figure in this drama is actually Al Harrington. With Nate in the starting lineup, Harrington is the only gun coming off the bench. If the starters get off to a slow start then Al has to be the one to ignite them since Nate will already be out there. After defending Duhon for so long (at the expense of acquiring potential replacements like Ramon Sessions, who the Bucks let walk this offseason) it is a big deal that D'Antoni has demoted him. But, Robinson, Hughes and Harrington need to step up and play to their potential. Hughes needs to stay aggressive on defense and opportunistic on offense while Robinson and Harrington need to stay under control on offense. By staying relatively disciplined on the offensive end they can keep D'Antoni from feeling that he needs Duhon on the floor to keep the game from turning into a series of one-on-one forays.