Thursday, April 8, 2010

Gallo Versus the C's

In Boston, the Celtics are affectionately reffered to as the "C's" and the NHL's Bruins as the "B's." The nicknames, in each case, are clearly derived from the first letter of each franchise's team name. There may be a lot of prestigious universities for book learnin' in the Hub but nobody has ever accused the locals of being particularly clever or level-headed up there when it comes to sports.

But, I digress. While watching the Knicks take on the Celtics this season (and last), the petulant antics of Kevin Garnett have made me think of another C-word. Not Celtics. But another C-word. With four not six letters. And, last night was no different.

The Big Ticket kept on and keeping on with his tired, highly-orchestrated and generally-in-the-direction-of-a-TV-camera demonstrations of "intensity" while counter intuitively appearing genuinely angered by anyone who attempted to play the game with similar measures of violence and energy. How dare you play assign a foe to guard me! Zounds! What nerve of another man to mix sweat with mine. Apparently scowling and hand checking are his toys. Not yours. Or Danilo Gallinari's.

I hate harping on this (aside from the fact that I don't want to seem petty for taking non-hoops digs at a better team) because I rooted for Garnett in Minny all those years. When Sprewell landed in the Twin Cities I was following the T-Wolves through the myriad twists and turns of that above-ground skyway they got out there. But he's really become both a caricature and a whiner. And a Cunt. There, I said it. I feel better.

Garnett repeatedly tried to intimidate Gallo and sent a few cheap shots his way after plays were over. Thankfully, like he has shown a penchant for doing for the past few months, Gallo was fired up and not felled by the grandstanding. He chirped back. And he got aggressive on offense, scoring 19 of his 31 points in the third quarter.

Particularly impressive was his game-winning bucket in the final minute. Boston foiled (quite easily) the Knicks' attempt to run a pick and roll for David Lee, forcing Billy Walker into a poor three-point shot. Clang. Lee industriously grabbed the offensive board and kicked it to Gallo. Unselfishly, the young Italian looked to get the ball back into Lee. But Lee slowed him up and came to the top of the key to set a screen. Bank. Game. It wasn't the prettiest shot. Or what the coach drew up. But Lee and Gallo made it work. Both showed their selflessness on the play.

Although everyone has known for some time that Gallo could bank in knock down buckets from deep, he's been trying to amp up his rep on the other side of the ball down the stretch. The last stop of the game provides a glimpse of his desire and attention if not his skill at defending. Just like Boston knew the Knicks were going to try to get the ball from Toney Douglas to Lee on a PNR on their last play, New York knows that the ball is looking for Ray Allen as Boston tries to prolong the game. Gallo denies the ball nicely and Rasheed Wallace ends up taking a bad-looking three at the buzzer.

Putting aside the fact that the buzzer was sounding, the Celtics likely wouldn't have come down with the board like the Knicks just had when forced into a bad three of their own. The Celtics hadn't been getting to many of the key boards or loose balls for some time. This was largely thanks to Lee and D-League call-up Earl Barron. When asked about Barron after the game, Gallo reveals just how his stature and comfort level have grown. He lights up like a proud father when Tina broaches the subject of his teammate's performance and even jokes that Barron's time overseas helped prepare him. The way that he carries himself off the court and goes right back at veteran bullies like Garnett shows that Gallo thinks of himself as a superstar.

Goose Vs. Gander

Knicks and Pacers Don't Know What's Good For Them

Last night the Knicks strange on-and-off-and-on-again road trip took them to a sparsely-populated Canseco Field House in Indianapolis for the second game in two nights. Both the Pacers and the Knicks came into the contest, and the final stretch of the regular season, within hailing distance of 30 wins.

The Knicks should want to reach that plateau. The Pacers should not. Because the Knicks do not have possession of their draft pick in the upcoming draft. The Pacers do. The Knicks "core" players are looking to prove themselves as the team goes into an uncertain offseason. The Pacers "core" will likely remain intact for at least another year.

What was good for the goose Knicks was not necessarily helpful for the ganderPacers . But nobody seemed to inform the teams of the circumstances in which they were playing. Perhaps had their been a few more fans in attendance then someone might have passed along the message.

The Pacers, winners of 7 of their last 9 heading into the game, came out like gangbusters. Which, I guess, would mean the Knicks came out like gangsters. Insofar as they were being busted. The Pacers stormed out to a 26-12 lead thanks to Danny Granger's sharpshooting and Roy Hibbert's interior presence. They would stretch that lead to as many 20 points before the half. The only positive that the Knicks had early was the fact that it didn't look like Mike Dunleavy was going to set a new career high. Granger or Hibbert, though, looked to have a shot.

Coming off Tuesday night's exciting win over the Celtics, that took place at the Garden and was followed up by a late flight, Knicks' early lack of focus early on was understandable. Or, at least, it was easily rationalized.

But was the Pacers diving-into-the-stands intensity? This season is a lost one for them, yet they are playing their best ball right now. Each day they cede another ping pong ball to the Utah Jazz.

Other Thoughts, Observations and Things Left Unsaid:
-Despite their sluggish start, the Knicks could have won this game late. It was all tied up well into the fourth, but the Knicks couldn't close the deal.
-Part of the reason that they couldn't close the deal is that Bill Walker and Toney Douglas combined for more fourth quarter shots than David Lee and Danilo Gallinari. I don't know whether to credit Walker for being so energetic given the team's grueling travel schedule or to lambast him for not knowing his role. And, as far as Douglas, he showed that he hasn't sacrificed his big shot ambitions(which served him well in college and at every other stage of his hoops life) in order to more effectively get a team of professionals through a key possession.