After being severely, and historically, whupped by Dallas by 50 points the other day, last night the Knicks came out determined to show their stuff and won by nearly 30 points. Jared Jeffries got the team off on the right note. The first two times Minnesota tried to bring it up court, the 6’11” Jeffries stole it from the Timberwolves’ maybe 6″ point guard, Jonny Flynn, before he even made it across half-court. Both resulted in baskets. Flynn, who played in Syracuse last year and was part of an epic 6-OT extravaganza, was darn psyched to play in NYC for the first time. Unfortunately for him, the Knicks’ gambit of covering him with Jeffries worked wonders. The kid is darn quick, but he clearly doesn’t trust his jumper. Whenever he started to drive, Jeffries would back further and further up, often leaving Flynn open enough to shoot a jumper from as close as the free-throw line. Flynn never stopped and shot it. Instead he had 6 turnovers in just 25 minutes.
The final score was 132-105, matching a Knicks’ high for points in the season, and even though the team shot over 50%, a closer examination reveals that it was our defense that yet again brought the victory. I believe earlier in the season I read some stat somewhere that like the Knicks win a huge amount when they hold an opponent below 95 points in a game. If we make it 96, that divides nicely into keeping yer foe from topping 24 points a quarter. They did that successfully in two quarters. In the first, Minnesota managed a slim 16 points to the Knicks’ 40. In the third, we again did a great job, letting the T-wolves only reach 19 points, while we got 28. In the two quarters that we didn’t hold them below 24, what happened? In the second, Minnie got 29 points, and we got… only 28. In the fourth we let ‘em get a whopping 41 points, and we had… just 36.
Sure, you can argue that the game was well in hand by the fourth quarter so it didn’t count. But I say the same thing I did about the last game: shouldn’t the bench players be using those moments to show off their skills and try to get back into the regular rotation? Al Harrington and Jonathan Bender show so much energy on the offensive end. Whenever either one gets it, you know they’re either gonna instantly hoist up a three, or they’re gonna try to drive past their man. And they ain’t gonna give it up. They’ve put their “scoring” hat on and are going to work. Where’s that determination on D? Where’s that gritty sense of “I don’t care what my guy does, he is NOT going to score”? Oh, and once again everyone on the bench played except for Larry Hughes. And unfortunately I heard Jordan Hill was sick, so he didn’t get to play in the second half.
Now you may say, c’mon, Short White Boy, ain’t you being a little hard? We did win by 27 points. But the SWB is here to tell you that last night’s win was fool’s gold. The Wolves suck. They’ve only won 9 games all year. There were many possessions where they didn’t have a single decent, confident outside shooter, and we intelligently played a few feet off of their men whenever they got it. Instead of having to cover the whole court, we only had to cover up to 20 feet away, enabling us to effectively double their main threat, Al Jefferson, down low on the block. The Wolves did eventually start shooting (& hitting) threes, but they didn’t even attempt a SINGLE one the entire first quarter. The second quarter they attempted and missed one about a minute in, and then didn’t attempt another until there was just 79 seconds left in the half. They made that one, then hit another before the half ended.
So yes, David Lee and Wilson Chandler were the incredibly effective scoring machines that they’ve mostly been as of late (particularly impressive on the Chandler end since he was iffy to play at all with a strained groin). Nate Robinson came back, and he was a huge lift of energy too. Jared Jeffries keyed the defense. Ladies’ man Danillo Gallinari actually started off hot, hitting his first few shots. But before we truly celebrate this win, let’s see what sort of effort we have tomorrow against the Raptors, a team that actually wins some games.
P.S. Unrelated to the specifics of the actual game, Knicks’ legend Bernard King was in attendance last night. Unlike today’s polished-to-a-false-shine, b.s.-spewing superstars, he was honest. They asked him how he felt last year when Kobe beat his scoring record in the Garden (when the Black Mamba laid down 61). He said he was upset. Usually sports guys just say, oh, it was an honor to have it, but so-and-so is a great player and deserves to have the new record, etc, etc. I mean, King’s classy, he did still say that Kobe’s a great player, yet he once again ended it by saying he was bummed he lost the record. And when he said that as a Brooklyn boy he was bummed that the record was no longer held by a New Yorker, I then totally was on his side.
Momma was right: sometimes it is good to tell the truth.