Knicks 99, Pistons 91

The Knicks aren’t dead yet. Behind a very solid game from Nate Robinson, the Knicks were able to topple the Pistons in a rematch of Saturday’s debacle. This time though it was the Knicks that jumped out to a big first half lead only to have the Pistons stage a furious comeback. By the start of the fourth quarter, the Knicks were faced with a 2 point deficit, having scored just 11 points in the third. The Knicks atoned in the fourth though scoring 31 to the Pistons 21, and finished with the win.

The Knicks built a 57-43 lead in the first half, led by strong play from Wilson Chandler, who attacked the basket aggressively and hit some midrange jumpers. Nate Robinson started his hot streak in the first half and it seemed like one of those games where he might carry the Knicks to victory. I wouldn’t give him all the credit for this win, but he had one of his typical “good” games where it didn’t matter that he missed open teammates at times and took ill advised shots, because today, they went in. He also played decent D. On one play, he even went over a screen (shock!) and drew an offensive foul.

On another night, I might be killing Nate his decision making, which still wasn’t the best, but he didn’t hurt the team today and he deserves some props. He even did a slightly better job sharing the ball today. On one play in the fourth quarter, he came off a nice pick from Al Harrington, turned the corner, and instead of taking a contested lay-up, found a wide open Gallinari for 3. It was a nice play by all three guys involved.

Nate’s good day was a particularly key for the Knicks considering how ineffective Chris Duhon was again. Chris Don’t Du-Nothin’-hon had 0 points in 20 minutes. He did have 5 assists, but also 4 turnovers. If Nate didn’t bring his A-game today the Knicks would have gotten absolutely nothing from their backcourt.

And D’Antoni seems to be noticing that his best players are all forwards. During Saturday’s game, D’Antoni at one point went with a line-up consisting of all forwards. Today, in the fourth quarter, D’Antoni went with four of them plus Nate. It was an interesting look, and why not? Lately Duhon and Hughes have been invisible.

Other game notes:

*David Lee had another all around impressive game, on offense, with 11 points, 15 rebounds and 5 assists, and a +12. For those of you keeping track, over the last 5 games, David Lee has averaged 19.4 points, 13.6 rebounds, and 5.8 assists. However, Ben Wallace had a throwback night against D. Lee. Wallace went wild for 16 points and 14 rebounds. You can understand Ben Wallace getting 14 rebounds but he should never be lighting you up, especially these days, for 16 points.

*Wallace was giving the Knicks such fits on the glass that in the second half, D’Antoni brought in Jordan Hill to try to shake things up inside. It didn’t really work. Hill, who had an impressive and active first half had a nondescript second half that featured one play where, with a clear path to the ball, instead of fighting to secure the rebound, he inexplicably tipped it forward to Austin Daye under the Knicks’ basket for an easy layup. I still think that Hill deserves to see 7-10 minutes a game. I saw enough out of him in the first half – including a nice outside jumper and a tip in, as well as some activity in the paint – that he should be in the game to develop rather than riding the pine.

*Gallinari proved again to be a big time fourth quarter player. He scored seven straight dagger points in less than 2 minutes about halfway through the final frame, including two big jumpers and a psuedo-slam that really catapulted the Knicks to the win. The Knicks’ lead extended from 4 to 9 during that stretch.

*When the Knicks struggled in the third quarter, I had the distinct feeling that this sustained run of success, easily the longest in recent years, was just a mirage. It seemed like the team was ready to fade out of the playoff race like they did last year with bad losses to Nets and Kings teams in March that they needed to beat. Maybe the Knicks will still let their fans down, but that time hasn’t come yet.

The Knicks currently stand 2.5 games behind Chicago for the last playoff spot. I think they can forget about catching up to the Bobcats, who are looking very impressive these days, having won 7 games in January, including against Miami and Cleveland on the road and against Chicago,  Memphis, Houston, San Antonio, Phoenix and Sacramento at home. The Bobcats’ only loss this month? Against the Knicks at MSG.

The Bulls have been playing much better as well of late (7-3 in their last ten, 4 game winning streak). The Knicks’ other main competition, the Bucks, are going in the opposite direction.

12 comments

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  2. Jon

    I actually think you’re selling Jordan Hill a little bit short. I know you were at the game today but on TV I thought he showed a bit better than what you described. I agree that he didn’t do much of anything in the second half but his first half was excellent. He was a big spark in the second quarter and, in addition to canning some shots and being really active on the boards, I thought some his help rotations and screens were pretty savvy, especially for a rookie.

    Every time we get the chance to take a good look at Jordan he’s productive and he flashes some tantalizing talent. He played 15 minutes today and 10-15 minutes is probably the perfect amount to give him for now. If he keeps getting court time, in a month they may really have something.

  3. Italian Stallion

    So far I am satisfied with Hill, but I’m becoming more pessimistic about our chances to make the playoffs. It just seems that the Raptors, Bobcats and Bulls are all a little more talented than us. I don’t think we are going to catch any of them UNLESS we get a spike in productivity/efficiency from Gallo and Hill similar to what we saw from Chandler starting in December.

    Duhon is a such a dead weight and drag, we need someone else to be “really good” to make up for him.

    Hughes shows flashes of being OK but he’s never been consistent and he can’t give us what we need. He’s an average player at best.

    Nate plays a very volatile style. He can win “or lose” you a game. That’s not what we need.

    IMO Harrington is a terrible PF despite flashes of brilliance as a scorer. In fact, Harrington has me back on Nexium. lol

    Jeffries is a little better than I thought, but he’s too much of a drag on offense if we have Duhon in the lineup at the same time. He would be a good role player on a team with a high octane offense.

    The teams we are chasing have holes also, but they don’t seem as big as ours. It’s going to be up to Gallo and Hill to step up.

  4. Italian Stallion

    Oh, I should add that I like what I’ve seen from Toney Douglas also, but he’s not the answer yet either.

    • Jon

      Agreed. It’s becoming more and more clear that the Knicks probably don’t have the firepower to make the playoffs, especially with the Bulls playing so much better recently (they did lay an egg against the Warriors today, though). The Knicks can give it a few more weeks before they concede but if they get the chance to pull the trigger on a Jeffries trade and simultaneously pull the plug on the season, they’d be stupid to pass it up.

      While this season has produced many positive signs, over and over our guards have shown that they just aren’t good enough to consistently compete.

      • Dan L

        I have to disagree with you guys. I think it is very possible that the Knicks do not make the playoffs but I look at it like this:

        After their first ten games the Knicks were 1-9. In the 31 games since they are exactly 1 game over .500 at 16-15. I think the latter trend is the real team. The sample size is certainly bigger.

        In that time, they’ve lost to some bad teams and they’ve beat some good teams. They’ve had good and bad stretches. That’s basically the character of a .500 team.

        Obviously, the Knicks need to make up some ground to make the playoffs, so they’ll have to play above .500 but they have another full half season to try to do it. The Bulls are a similarly mediocre team. They’re on a good stretch now but I think it isn’t out of the question to hope that the Knicks can make up 2 games in their next 41.

        Especially when you consider the trends (Hollinger, Insider):

        http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/insider/columns/story?columnist=hollinger_john&page=PERDiem-100114

        If you don’t have Insider, here is the key language:

        “We should talk about these trends in the East as well, because they’re important in the race for the conference’s final few playoff spots. Currently, Chicago holds the No. 8 spot in the East and is tied with Toronto in the loss column for No 7; based on this information, you might conclude the Bulls are in great shape for a playoff run.

        Not so fast. Chicago has played only 16 road games and has one of the league’s worst road records at 3-13; only Indiana, New Jersey and Minnesota are worse. Not only do the Bulls still have 25 road games to go, they’re the only team facing two negative evening-out trends at once. Chicago’s average scoring margin of minus-3.7 per game is nowhere close to what we’d expect for a 16-20 team; the Bulls should be more like 12-24.”

        • Jon

          Hollinger wrote that, though, during the day on Friday before the Bulls spanked the Celtics by 13 points in Boston. No KG but still.

          I recognize that it’s only one game, but the Bulls have elevated their play over the past several weeks and it’s not a given that they’ll continue to perform so poorly on the road. Their roster is superior to the Knicks’ (deeper and more balanced) and they have better chips to offer in a trade at the deadline if they want to improve their roster (whereas realistically the Knicks can only either stand pat or make trades that gut the roster).

          As of today, Hollinger’s playoff odds give the Bulls a 56.7% of making the playoffs and give the Knicks only a 30.3% chance. http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/hollinger/playoffodds

          The Knicks don’t need to shut it down right this minute. They can wait until closer to the deadline to see where they are. But they’re probably going to miss the playoffs. And we’ll be cursing DW if the Knicks fall out on the race but he passed on a chance to dump JJ in an unrealistic last gasp to make the playoffs.

          • Dan L

            Nothing is a given, but like I said, teams play well and poorly in stretches. We’ll see what happens, particularly closer to the deadline. The Knicks almost beat the Celts with KG and they also almost beat the Nuggets. And they beat the Hawks twice and the Bobcats twice and the Suns and Portland and New Orleans twice and the Bulls twice.

            That said, depending on the deal, the Knicks should trade Jeffries if they can, for sure.

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