Pacers 119, Knicks 117

Danny Granger with the dagger

Things we learned tonight:

  • The Knicks do not come motivated to every game.
  • Against less than elite opposition, the Knicks’ best motivation seems to be a desire not to be lambasted in the media for lack of effort.  They approach these games by shrugging their shoulders and saying, “Oh, fine, we’ll try tonight.”
  • Nobody outside the league’s elite puts a run together like the Knicks, and as quickly.
  • The Knicks have a switch they can flip to increase the defensive intensity and move the ball on offense.  Fans have to trust that they will flip that switch during the playoffs.
  • Their poor defense is alternately a problem of poor effort and poor communication, and of course, sometimes both.
  • They are as scary in crunch time as any team in the league.
  • Just based on the way the game ended, I feel obligated to point out that Shawne Williams can’t defend anyone.  Good team defender, and obviously an incredible shot by Granger, but after seeing Williams foul Hansbrough about seven times, you had that sinking feeling seeing him out there against Granger.

In other words, we didn’t learn anything tonight that we didn’t already know.  Honestly, I don’t know where we go with this team for the rest of the regular season.  We know the intensity switch exists and we’ve seen it flipped.  We know, frustrating as it is, that this is very likely not the team we will see in the playoffs.  We know that these games are more about a process of cohesion than they are about winning games to improve seeding.  What we don’t know is whether the process is going well enough to make us think we have a chance in the playoffs.

The way the game ended…I don’t think we can be too bothered with it.  Granger made a great shot and ripped our hearts out – it happens.  I don’t even think he’s a good enough player that you necessarily have to force the ball out of his hands.  How we got there, of course, bothers all of us to no end.  I’m always of the opinion that you can’t lose both games of a home-and-home without some serious chemistry and effort problems – remember, the Bobcats lost a back-to-back with the Knicks before Larry Brown got fired – and the Knicks showed both in spades tonight.  After mailing one in Sunday night (and even Indiana’s announcers said they gave a poor effort, where usually home announcers are falling all over themselves to praise their own guys), they blatantly mailed in the first half and most of the third quarter, as evidenced by a second straight career-high for Tyler Hansbrough.

Under normal circumstances, I’d say that’s a fatal flaw for a team; you’d never see the Lakers, Celtics, Mavericks, etc. losing like that.  But after what we’ve seen from this team, we have to assume that at the very least they’re what everyone says they are: the team nobody wants to play.  The problem with that role, of course, is that eventually someone plays the team nobody wants to play, and usually beats them.  No matter how bad things get in the next month, we’re still going to be the team nobody wants to play.  They just don’t need any more games like tonight to convince me they won’t be anything more than that.

A few quick hitters before we all go sleep this one off:

  • I don’t believe anyone who is top five in the league in blocks can be considered a “poor” defender (although “mediocre” is definitely in the conversation), but Amar’e Stoudemire needs to challenge a player like Tyler Hansbrough to beat him straight-up, instead of busting his head on the roof for every ball fake.  When you have a relatively untalented offensive player, your advantage is precisely in that you don’t need to take those kinds of risks to prevent scoring.  These Knicks take those risks far too often.
  • I like that Mike D’Antoni has engineered his rotation so that every second quarter we get a lineup of five guys who don’t want to shoot.
  • I hate griping about the referees because they’re equally terrible for every team in the league, but I thought the Knicks, and particularly Amar’e, were the victims of some very poor officiating over this home-and-home.
  • Shawne Williams got the start over Jared Jeffries tonight, and celebrated by immediately: a) not stepping up to Hansbrough, who shot over him uncontested; b) fouling Hansbrough on an entry pass; and c) fouling Hansbrough in the act of jump-shooting.  Not killing the decision to start Williams, but after a career night from Hansbrough on Sunday, I have more trust in J-Double not to let it happen again.
  • In the Toney Douglas point guard watch, tonight he ran a pick and roll…with Jared Jeffries…and fed Jeffries on the roll.  Not a good sign for Toney’s future as a decision-maker.  Try and stay seated for this next part: Jeffries turned the ball over.  It all happened so fast, Phil Weber didn’t have time to get out the lasso and hogtie him.  I know, the room is spinning.  It’ll go away, I promise.