The New York-based chapter of Celtics Hub had a friend visiting from Toronto this weekend, so we snapped up two tickets to Friday night’s Knicks-Raptors game at Madison Square Garden. (Side note: There were about 1,000 tickets available on Stub Hub the day before the game, and who knows how many more on Craigslist–and for face value, or, in a couple of cases, even less. Wow, the Knicks have fallen).
The game was awful (a 127-97 Knicks win that was over after they put up 42 points in the first quarter), but it held about five minutes of drama in the fourth quarter for a diehard Celtics fan. With 5:25 to go, the Raps inserted Patrick O’Bryant for his Toronto debut. Even more exciting: Bryant’s point guard for garbage time would be another failed former Celtic, Marcus Banks. You could feel the buzz in the arena.
The duo wasted no time asserting their dominance. On their first possession together, Banks fed O’Bryant on the left block. I didn’t see who was guarding him. I was too excited, and really, we all know that the identity of the player guarding PO’B is irrelevant. O’Bryant didn’t even dribble–why make any unnecessary movements? He held the ball out in his right hand as the Knicks defense decided what to do with this new problem. The man guarding Banks (again, too excited to take note of who it was) finally came to the inevitable conclusion that, yes, he would have to slide down to double-team O’Bryant. Great scouting by the Knicks staff.
And what did O’Bryant do? He dished a one-handed bullet back out to Banks, who sank a three-pointer to pull Toronto within 24. Assist to O’Bryant–the 22nd of his career.
Is it too soon to declare that Toronto may have found their Stockton-to-Malone of the 2010s? I don’t think so.
O’Bryant blocked on a shot on the other end (I think it was Gallinari). The only drama left, then, was whether PO’B would score.
And it is there, folks, that his teammates failed him. For most of eight straight possessions, O’Bryant stationed himself deep on the right block with his defender on his back. And for eight straight possessions, the Raptors ignored him. O’Bryant could sense it slipping away. With about 1:10 to go, the Raps were passing the ball around the left side of the court–the opposite side from where O’Bryant was waiting in the post. Without about 12 on the shot clock, O’Bryant had finally had enough. He began hopping and waving his arm to signal the perimeter players to swing the ball over to a guard on his side, who could slip him an entry pass.
The ball never got there. It was Banks, the recipient of O’Bryant’s assist just minutes earlier, who decided that rather than return the favor, he would toss up a 23-footer. A brick.
P’OB’s final line: zero points, zero shot attempts, one rebound, one assist and one block. I recorded two blocks, but the Raps were defending the rim on the other side of the court from our seats, so perhaps he altered a second shot but didn’t touch it.
In all seriousness, he looked decent on defense. A couple of quick observations after the jump. • The Knicks are not a bad team, and I say that as someone who generally roots against the franchise and watches them a lot on local TV. When they (mercifully) lift Jared Jeffries in the middle of the first- and third-quarters, they have a line-up of Chandler, Harrington, Robinson, Lee and Duhon. At times, Richardson will take the place of Chandler in that group. It’s a lineup with three decent-to-good shooters, one guy who can beat anybody in the league off the dribble (Robinson), a big who moves beautifully without the ball (Lee) and a good distributor (Duhon). They can score against anyone.
• The Knicks slogan for the season should be: “Please remember: Isiah Thomas is not running the team.” Their entire pre-game Jumbotron production is a reminder to fans that Thomas is no longer in charge. In between highlights, they flash quotes from Donnie Walsh and Mike D’Antoni that say things like (I’m paraphrasing; I didn’t take notes), “We want to earn your respect back, one win at a time,” and, “We’re building a team you can be proud of.” It’s hysterical how openly they are just destroying Thomas.
The last Jumbotron quote was Lee referring to the team’s win over the Spurs in the first game after the All-Star break. It was something like: “A win was exactly what we needed to start the second half.” Yeah! Get excited! That was followed by this statement (not a quote, just a statement from nobody): “Now, let’s go for two in a row!”
The 2008-09 Knicks: celebrating the possibility of two straight wins. Do other teams use the pre-game Jumbotron to give inspirational messages specific to an individual game? Like: “Now, let’s beat the Raptors for the fourth time in six games!” Or: “Now, let’s end this five-game losing streak!”
The Knicks have fallen so, so far. But the team is onto something with this group, and, more importantly, this coach.