Rough game last night. Anytime you miss an opportunity to get a win against a lifeless, 8-31 team it’s difficult to draw anything positive from it. But the Knicks had a chance to win this game, and they should’ve won it, so I’m going to try:
- The Knicks outrebounded the Wizards…er, Zephyrs 49-42 (and at certain points during the game that margin was even more pronounced). They pounded the defensive and offensive glass and mostly did a very good job of holding the Wiz to one shot. As ever, David Lee was the standout here (21 rebounds, 4 offensive).
- The defense was outstanding. Two days after getting torched by Nick Young, the Knicks did a much better job of holding him in check. That baseline fadeaway is nice, but last night that’s pretty much all Young could get, and as a result he shot 6-14 for just 13 points. Likewise, the Knicks held Caron Butler completely in check for 47 minutes. Granted, he knocked down the top-of-the-key dagger to put the game out of reach (gotta love Tough Juice), but for most of the game he was not a factor. The Knicks obliterated the Wiz defensively in the 3rd quarter as they played themselves back into the game, and then out in front. They just couldn’t finish the job.
- Jared Jeffries. We’re all finally seeing the value of Jared Jeffries (8 pts, 11 rebs, 3 blks). In fact, there’s a pattern forming. In games the Knicks have won (or played well in) Jeffries has played a crucial role at the defensive end and on the boards. D’Antoni (the no D label is getting ridiculous) realizes he has a defensive weapon in Jeffries and each night he seems to come up with a game plan to deploy him with maximum effectiveness (Check out Peter Vescey’s column in yesterday’s NY Post for more on this). Jeffries was indispensable in the wins against Boston and New Orleans and a big reason why the Knicks had a chance to win the game last night despite atrocious shooting (more on that in a minute).
- The Knicks ran the offense. Even in the first half, when it appeared the wheels might come off completely as the Wizards built their lead, the Knicks stayed true to D’Antoni’s system. And it produced an endless supply of good looks. Even though the Wizards were far more effective defending the pick and roll last night than they were on Wednesday, the Knicks exploited their aggressiveness showing on the pick and roll to find wide open 3’s. In the second half, the Knicks came out of the tunnel with great energy and unselfishness and slapped the Wizards around during a 35-21 3rd quarter that put them in position to win the game. The system works. With better players, it will work even better.
So, why’d we lose? Well, even when they’re open most of the Knicks aren’t great shooters and sometimes the shots just don’t fall (Nate’s slump is really hurting). The team left about 10 assists out on the floor last night. The Knicks shot 37% from the field and 31% from 3. It’s really tough to win games shooting those kind of percentages, even for the very best defensive clubs. As we’ve known for a while, on the nights when the Knicks go cold from outside, they’re going to struggle to win games. And after a very impressive 3rd quarter, the Knicks failed to sustain that effort and execution in the 4th.
But they should have won the game last night. If they’d knocked down a couple more shots, they would have. And if they keep playing defense and finding the open man the way they did last night, they’re going to win a lot more games in the future. Someday, maybe even more than they lose.