Knicks-Lakers Pre-Game Bonanza

Kobe Bryant is suspended for tonight’s game.

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2007/basketball/nba/01/30/kobe.suspension.ap/index.html

Kobe Bryant was suspended one game without pay by the NBA on Tuesday for striking San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili in the face.

With his Los Angeles Lakers in New York to play the Knicks, Bryant requested an “immediate hearing” with the league office to appeal the suspension. But his request was denied because it would have deviated from standard procedure, and Bryant was still slated to miss the game Tuesday night.

Kurt from FB&G does a good write up of the game.

On Tap: The New York Knicks

Things to look for. If the Lakers are going to win this one, it may be because they win the turnover battle in a big way, Not only do the Knicks not create turnovers, they cough the ball up a lot ? 18.4% of their possessions end in a turnover, one of the highest rates in the NBA. If the Lakers win the turnover by 5 or more, that?s a lot of possessions in what should be a high-scoring game.

With Kobe out, the Lakers need some people to step up, and because he?ll be matched up on Eddy Curry this is a night Bynum can have a big game. Opposing centers are averaging 19.7 points and 12.7 boards per game on the Knicks, shooting 53%. Drew is capable of that kind of night.

The Knicks struggle to defend just about every position, the Lakers just need to keep passing the ball and making their shots tonight.

As for defending the Knicks ? make them jump shooters. As a team they shoot just 40.1% (eFG%) on jumpers but get the ball inside and they shoot 57.9%. Curry has good offensive moves in the post and Lee gets offensive rebounds and putbacks. Maybe we?ll see some zone, but the Lakers need to pack it in a little tonight and make the Knicks a perimeter team.

All Star “Snubs” – An Exercise in Intellectual Laziness

With the starters being named, and the reserves all set to be named Thursday, there has been a lot of discussion (as there is every year) about who should make the team, and when the rosters are announced, you will of course hear about players being “snubbed.”

The problem is that, with the notable exception of a few journalists (Hollinger, for one, does a very nice job in this area), they never acknowledge the fact that to be “snubbed,” someone must have been picked over you that you deserved a spot over. Instead, they just pick the most prominent player not to be on the team, and say that those players were “snubbed.”

To wit, Josh Howard will most likely not make the team, and as a result, many people will say that he was “snubbed.” And heck, you could even make an argument that he deserves to be there over the other Western forwards, but that won’t be the argument that will be made come All-Star time, it will be “Josh Howard didn’t make the team? But he’s having a great year! What a snub!”

Steve Kerr has already developed this argument last week, in a column where he stated, conclusively, that Howard “deserves to go,” but besides MENTIONING the other star forwards in the West (Dirk Nowitzki, Carmelo Anthony, Shawn Marion, Elton Brand, Carlos Boozer and Zach Randolph), Kerr does not even bother to argue why Howard should beat out four of those six players.

And that is just intellectual laziness.

And we get it every year.

Take That Heat!

Jamal was incredible against the Heat; the rim must have looked like a hoola hoop. The most impressive aspect of his performance is that he opened up his entire arsenal. He shot well from 3pt. range but took them mostly in the flow of the offense. He used his bounce to attack high percentage areas of the floor, keeping defenders off-balance. But then he also ran tight off screens and ran the floor. When Crawford is in constant motion like that, rather than engrossed in his intricate choreography of crossover and between-the-leg-dribbles, he is a tough, tough cover.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of last night’s win is that Miami never really put together a run that cut significantly into NY’s lead despite an impressive game from Dwyane Wade and decent bench production from ‘Toine.

Although Crawford’s night is the main story here, a few other facets of this game are noteworthy as the Knicks go forward. First, Marbury was excellent in the first half but sat much of the second half. His tendinitis is going to be a problem all year long. Second, Channing Frye had a nice bounce-back game with 16 points, 6 boards, 2 steals and a block in pre-garbage minutes, following a pretty worthless effort at Miami last week. In his last 10 games Frye has averaged 11 points, 5.4 boards, 0.8 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.4 blocks. After getting off to such a rocky start Frye may be starting to find his place. The Knicks are going to need both he and David Lee to play well if a run at the playoffs is in this team’s future. Third, the team got another almost ho-hum double-double from David Lee, excellent energy from Balkman off the bench, and even decent minutes from “Big Snacks” in Eddy Curry’s absence.

Suns 112 Knicks 107

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. Last night’s basketball game was a tale of two cities. Or better yet two halves.

The Suns came into the game as the second best team in the league (or the first, depending on how you rank them). Although the Knicks beat Phoenix in a thrilling triple overtime earlier this year, talent wise they’re not on the Suns level. When talking about the Suns’ streak on Pardon The Interruption, the announcers assumed Phoenix would win tonight.

From the start of the game, it appeared the Knicks wouldn’t be much of a challenge to the Suns. On the first Knick possession Jared Jeffries nearly walked before turning over the ball with an errant pass. In the first 5 minutes the swingman would turn the ball over again, force a post up shot, and commit 2 fouls. Despite the poor start, New York held their own against Phoenix and more. Balkman had a dunk with almost 9 minutes to go to give the Knicks a 10 point lead. The Suns rallied back, but had a meager 3 point lead at halftime.

The Knicks were toe to toe in the first half with one of the best teams in the league due to an odd set of circumstances. With Marbury unavailable due to injury and Jeffries unavailable due to a lack of talent, Isiah Thomas had to improvise with the rotation. Lee, Robinson, & Balkman saw more time than they normally would, and it paid off. As usual Lee rebounded well (4 REB in the first half) and chipped in 6 points. The diminutive Robinson didn’t shoot well (1-7), but pulled down an astounding 6 rebounds and got Steve Nash into foul trouble. Balkman played defense well in Jeffries’ stead, and provided a spark off the bench. As a team, the Knicks held the Suns to a halftime offensive efficiency of 94.1, well below their yearly average of 116.6.

Additionally the Suns had no answer to Eddy Curry in the first half. The Knick center led all scorers with an 21 points, and did so in a highly efficient manner. Curry hit 7 of 9 from the field, and 7 of 10 from the stripe. Exiting the first half, it appeared New York was going to give Phoenix a fight to the wire.

But the wheels came off the bus in the second half for New York. Phoenix went to a zone defense that stymied the Knick offense. By playing zone they were able to nullify Eddy Curry’s low post dominance and forced the Knicks to beat them from the outside. Following games that the Knicks use a zone defense we usually end up writing something like “Detroit feasted on the outside shot” or “Pacers worked the ball to get any shot they wanted against the zone.” However the Knicks were unable to capitalize from the outside. Nate Robinson shot 4 of 12 in the second half, and Jamal Crawford was only 2 of 7 from downtown. The Knicks futility from outside combined with Curry’s impotence (only 4 second half points) gave the Suns a 13 point lead by the final quarter.

At that point, New York still had a final chance at a victory, but Isiah’s rotation would be his undoing. Curry left early in the fourth quarter with an injury, and Thomas chose Malik Rose to play the final 12 minutes. The veteran was largely a non-factor. Rose hit only 1 shot and had only 1 rebound to go with 2 fouls and a turnover. Renaldo Balkman, who helped stabilize the defense in the first half, played only 5 minutes in the second half. Instead of Balkman, Thomas inserted seldom used rookie Mardy Collins for the final quarter. Granted Frye was in foul trouble, Richardson looked hurt, and Jeffries still sucked, so Isiah’s options were limited. But Balkman had played well earlier, and has about 400 more minutes on experience over Collins. Predictably Collins was a non-factor (0 pts 2 ast).

Seeing Curry dominate was promising. Watching the Knicks unable to break the zone was disheartening. Having Renaldo Balkman provide a spark on defense was uplifting. Seeing Malik Rose close the game was dismaying. In the end the Knicks turned an encouraging first half into a disappointing second half.

More Painful Than A Blowout?

The Knicks are only down three points at the half to the team that is most likely the best team in the NBA. They’re playing without Stephon Marbury. I should be happy. Instead, I am pretty aggravated, as the Knicks were up TEN with eight minutes to go in the half, and proceeded to completely change the game plan that worked so well earlier in the game.

Remember last game? The terrible loss to the Heat? In the middle of the Heat’s big run, the Knicks could not keep from stopping the run because they kept rushing jumpers – refusing to slow the game down and just pound the ball down low. And the big difference is that in that game, they didn’t ESTABLISH their down low prescence in the game – which the Knicks did, with 21 points from Eddy Curry, with about 6 minutes left in the half. Curry would not score again in the half.

Why?

Because Jamal “1-5” Crawford, Nate “1-7” Robinson and Quentin “0-4” Richardson kept taking outside jumpers and bricking, allowing the Suns to start their break, and quickly come back and take a three-point halftime lead. I don’t mind jumpers mixed in, but when you go to it TOTALLY and when you’re clearly NOT FEELING it….man, is it painful.

There’s 24 minutes to play, and with the way the Suns cannot seem to stop Eddy Curry, the Knicks are VERY much in this game (especially with Amare having three personals). However, if they do not play a smart second half, they do not have a chance. Yes, Curry is being doubled, but that does not mean you have to take a jumper every time when they aren’t going in.

Please, Knicks, play smart in the second half.

I would greatly appreciate it.

Ugh

Sound off here after the Knicks’ loss to the injured coachless starless geriatric Miami Heat. Courtesy of the NBA.com, here is the play-by-play of the memorable first quarter.

New York KnicksMiami Heat
Start of 1st Quarter
(12:00) Jump Ball Mourning vs Curry
  11:42 Mourning Hook Shot: Missed Block: Curry (1 BLK)
  11:41 Team Rebound
  11:34
[MIA 2-0]
Payton Running Hook Shot: Made (2 PTS)
Richardson Jump Shot: 3pt Made (3 PTS)
Assist: Marbury (1 AST)
11:19
[NYK 3-2]
 
  11:00
[MIA 4-3]
Haslem Jump Shot: Made (2 PTS)
Assist: Williams (1 AST)
Richardson Jump Shot: Missed 10:40  
  10:38 Mourning Rebound (Off: Def:1)
  10:28
[MIA 6-3]
Mourning Jump Shot: Made (2 PTS)
Assist: Williams (2 AST)
Frye Foul: Shooting (1 PF) 10:28  
  10:28 Mourning Free Throw 1 of 1 missed
  10:27 Mourning Rebound (Off:1 Def:1)
  10:20
[MIA 8-3]
Kapono Fade Away: Made (2 PTS)
Curry Turnover: 3 Second Violation (1 TO) 10:09  
  9:57 Kapono Jump Shot: Missed
  9:55 Mourning Rebound (Off:2 Def:1)
  9:37 Williams Jump Shot: Missed
Richardson Rebound (Off: Def:1) 9:35  
Richardson Turnover: Bad Pass (1 TO) Steal: Williams (1 ST) 9:24  
  9:20 Williams Jump Shot: Missed
  9:18 Payton Rebound (Off:1 Def:)
  9:15
[MIA 11-3]
Kapono Jump Shot: 3pt Made (5 PTS)
Assist: Payton (1 AST)
Team Timeout: Short 9:09  
Richardson Jump Shot: Missed 8:54  
  8:52 Payton Rebound (Off:1 Def:1)
Richardson Foul: Personal (1 PF) 8:40  
  8:33
[MIA 13-3]
Kapono Jump Shot: Made (7 PTS)
Assist: Payton (2 AST)
Curry Foul: Offensive (1 PF) 8:17  
Curry Turnover: Foul (2 TO) 8:17  
Jeffries Substitution replaced by Crawford 8:17  
Curry Substitution replaced by Lee 8:17  
  7:59 Mourning Jump Shot: Missed
Frye Rebound (Off: Def:1) 7:57  
  7:57 Mourning Foul: Personal (1 PF)
Marbury Layup Shot: Missed 7:40  
  7:39 Mourning Rebound (Off:2 Def:2)
  7:33 Payton Running Hook Shot: Missed
  7:31 Haslem Rebound (Off:1 Def:)
  7:20
[MIA 15-3]
Williams Driving Finger Roll: Made (2 PTS)
Lee Layup Shot: Missed Block: Mourning (1 BLK) 6:57  
Lee Rebound (Off:1 Def:) 6:55  
Lee Jump Shot: Missed Block: Mourning (2 BLK) 6:53  
  6:51 Kapono Rebound (Off: Def:1)
  6:37
[MIA 18-3]
Kapono Jump Shot: 3pt Made (10 PTS)
Assist: Payton (3 AST)
Team Timeout: Regular 6:31  
Frye Substitution replaced by Rose 6:31  
Marbury Substitution replaced by Robinson 6:31  
  6:31 Mourning Substitution replaced by Doleac
Rose Turnover: Bad Pass (1 TO) Steal: Williams (2 ST) 6:13  
  5:54
[MIA 21-3]
Kapono Jump Shot: 3pt Made (13 PTS)
Assist: Payton (4 AST)
  5:37 Kapono Foul: Personal (1 PF)
Robinson Jump Shot: Missed 5:28  
  5:27 Haslem Rebound (Off:1 Def:1)
Rose Foul: Loose Ball (1 PF) 5:27  
  5:12 Kapono Turnover: Traveling (1 TO)
Richardson Jump Shot: Missed 4:57  
  4:55 Kapono Rebound (Off: Def:2)
  4:49
[MIA 23-3]
Haslem Layup Shot: Made (4 PTS)
Assist: Williams (3 AST)
Robinson Jump Shot: Missed 4:29  
  4:27 Doleac Rebound (Off: Def:1)
  4:23
[MIA 25-3]
Haslem Layup Shot: Made (6 PTS)
Assist: Payton (5 AST)
Crawford Jump Shot: Missed 4:08  
  4:06 Haslem Rebound (Off:1 Def:2)
  4:01
[MIA 27-3]
Williams Driving Layup: Made (4 PTS)
Rose Turnaround Jump: Missed 3:38  
  3:36 Doleac Rebound (Off: Def:2)
  3:26
[MIA 29-3]
Haslem Jump Shot: Made (8 PTS)
Assist: Payton (6 AST)
Team Timeout: Regular 3:20  
Richardson Substitution replaced by Marbury 3:20  
Robinson Substitution replaced by Curry 3:20  
Curry Driving Layup: Made (2 PTS)
Assist: Marbury (2 AST)
3:05
[NYK 5-29]
 
Crawford Foul: Shooting (1 PF) 2:50  
  2:50
[MIA 30-5]
Doleac Free Throw 1 of 2 (1 PTS)
  2:50
[MIA 31-5]
Doleac Free Throw 2 of 2 (2 PTS)
Rose Layup Shot: Missed 2:35  
Lee Rebound (Off:2 Def:) 2:34  
  2:34 Doleac Foul: Shooting (1 PF)
Lee Free Throw 1 of 2 (1 PTS) 2:34
[NYK 6-31]
 
  2:34 Doleac Substitution replaced by Mourning
Lee Free Throw 2 of 2 missed 2:34  
  2:33 Payton Rebound (Off:1 Def:2)
  2:15
[MIA 33-6]
Payton Driving Layup: Made (4 PTS)
Assist: Haslem (1 AST)
Curry Violation: Defensive Goaltending 2:15  
Curry Jump Shot: Made (4 PTS) 1:56
[NYK 8-33]
 
  1:56 Mourning Foul: Shooting (2 PF)
Crawford Substitution replaced by Richardson 1:56  
  1:56 Mourning Substitution replaced by Doleac
Curry Free Throw 1 of 1 (5 PTS) 1:56
[NYK 9-33]
 
  1:48
[MIA 35-9]
Haslem Jump Shot: Made (10 PTS)
Assist: Kapono (1 AST)
Richardson Jump Shot: 3pt Made (6 PTS)
Assist: Rose (1 AST)
1:29
[NYK 12-35]
 
  1:12 Kapono Jump Shot: Missed
Curry Rebound (Off: Def:1) 1:10  
Lee Jump Shot: Missed 1:01  
Curry Rebound (Off:1 Def:1) 0:59  
  0:58 Kapono Foul: Shooting (2 PF)
Curry Free Throw 1 of 2 missed 0:58  
Team Rebound 0:58  
  0:58 Kapono Substitution replaced by Posey
Curry Free Throw 2 of 2 missed 0:58  
  0:57 Posey Rebound (Off: Def:1)
  0:37
[MIA 37-12]
Haslem Jump Shot: Made (12 PTS)
Assist: Payton (7 AST)
Rose Driving Layup: Missed Block: Posey (1 BLK) 0:19  
Team Rebound 0:18  
Rose Substitution replaced by Crawford 0:18  
Lee Hook Shot: Missed 0:14  
  0:12 Posey Rebound (Off: Def:2)
  0:02
[MIA 40-12]
Williams Jump Shot: 3pt Made (7 PTS)
Assist: Payton (8 AST)
End of 1st Quarter