David Lee found out shortly before the game that he was not one of the players chosen by the coaches to be an All-Star this year. He was bummed, but as he realized, it seemed that the coaches only chose players from teams that are .500 or better. The Knicks ain’t. The odd thing was that the Hawks’ center, Al Horford, was chosen. Horford’s been good, but not as good as David Lee, and not even as good as his own teammate, Josh Smith, who was snubbed too. So it was kinda odd. The other unexpected choice for me was Chicago’s Derrick Rose, ‘cuz as I stated yesterday, the dude didn’t seem to realize the season started in October. He only came out to play in January. And while his resurgence has brought the Bulls back into respectability, I think he hasn’t been consistent long enough this season. Sure, he came into the season recovering from injuries & that’s why he started out slow, but I still think Josh Smith should be on the team, followed by Lee.
But onto to the game. First, I actually attended this one in flesh. I probably haven’t seen a game at the Garden in like 7 or 8 years, so that was pretty darn cool. There is a magical quality to the place that seems to be missing from other arenas. I even walked around to the front before going in so I could get the full spectacle. One thing I’d forgotten was the excitement of going up those escalators. It’s a slow build of tension, floor after floor, waiting to burst out onto your level. In LA, at most you go one flight, and the escalators are open so you can see everything, so there’s no build in excitement. I dunno, maybe it was just nostalgia, but the anticipation everyone’s feeling as they’re going up, waiting for their turn to go off, seemed like a palpable thing to me. That said, after the game, waiting forever to get down those escalators was darn painful. Dunno if something happened last night after the game, or if it’s always a 20-minute journey to get downstairs.
On the other hand, once the game started, the excitement level didn’t quite seem the same as before. I mean the last time I went was during the Knicks’ like 15-year sell-out streak, so maybe back then everyone was just so darn excited that they’d gotten a seat, they’d be roaring from the get-go. This time, it took until the game got really close in the end for the Garden to truly come to life. And man, it was something. The kids behind me who’d been chatting about inane junk all night, suddenly they were standing and cheering the team, looking like they actually cared. Sometime over the last however-many-years the Knicks even hired a group of like 4 people to run around the tiers and get fans to cheer. That was never necessary in the past. But when the game was on the line, the crowd came through. The Knicks on the other hand…
The Knicks in-bounded the ball with a little under 8 seconds left, down by two. The plan was to go to Nate Robinson, but Danilo Gallinari couldn’t get it to him, so he through a yucky pass to Al Harrington. Luckily the 6’9″ Harrington was guarded by 6’2″ Jarret Jack, so when they both batted at the ball, making it fly up in the air, Big Al was able to snag it. But it took precious time off the clock. And even worse, now Harrington had it. He drove, head down, and created an offensive foul.
The more I watch Harrington, the more he frustrates me. The dude just puts his head down and drives. Or he just hoists up a jumper as soon as he gets it. And often before putting said head down, he holds the ball for a little bit to make sure that the other team’s whole defense can see him and prepare for his obvious drive. Sometimes he gets fouled and bailed out, but it’s painful basketball. He shot 5 for 16 last night, and only 1 for 6 from three-point land. Granted, that three he hit was a huge one late in the game. However, one thing of note with that three was that he received after someone drove, bringing the defense into the paint, leaving Harrington wide-open. It wasn’t Al’s usual method of catching the ball, seeing his defender is there, and then tossing it up anyway.
One other key thing in the game was that defensive stalwart, Jared Jeffries, got injured in the first half and didn’t return. Once again, beating that dead horse until its’ tongue flops out, it was the D that failed us. The one quarter where we kept Toronto under my magic # of 24 points (meaning we’d keep a team at 96 points or under for a full game), was the first one. Where we outscored them 34 to 20. The subsequent quarters? 29 for them, 19 for us. 30 for them, 28 for us. 27 for them, 23 for us.
If Jeffries is out long-term, things could go downhill fast for us. On the other hand, I heard Al Harrington might take time off to rest his injured knee, so maybe we have some hope after all…