Pace: 95 possessions (above average)
Offensive Efficiency: 114.7 points/100 possessions (league best)
Defensive Efficiency: 102.1 points allowed/100 possessions (league best)
Thumbnail: This was a real basketball game for about 27 minutes. After that, it evolved into a nightmare amalgam of every bad Knick game from the last two seasons—bundles of turnovers, threes jacked with little thought and guys moving around on defense and yet guarding no one. The Celtics scored 68 points in the first half to basically put the game away. Only 8 of those points came on two-point jump shots from outside the paint. Kevin Garnett looked as if he were playing against midgets and Paul Pierce scored 29 in (approximately) five minutes of playing time.
Recap: On Monday, the Lakers turned the ball over 24 times and generally looked awful in squeaking past a Warriors team stacked with D-Leaguers. Kobe Bryant said afterward (I’m paraphrasing) that the Warriors played a style so out of line with the rest of the league—and are so bereft of real NBA talent—that there was really nothing the Lakers could take from the game going forward. The game didn’t matter.
In related news, the Knicks put out this line-up early in the 2nd quarter: Bill Walker, J.R. Giddens, Sergio Rodriguez, Chris Duhon, Al Harrington.
To recap: We’ve got two point guards who can’t shoot, two wing players that couldn’t get off Boston’s bench and Al Harrington playing center. Mike Breen and Clyde Frazier burst out laughing when they realized this line-up was on the floor. I am not making that up. They laughed.
With Wilson Chandler out, the Knicks started Bill Walker at power forward and had him take the Jared Jeffries/Kobe role on defense guarding Rajon Rondo. As Jeffries did before him, Walker hung out at the foul line and gave Rondo plenty of space. It’s a nice idea and it’s worked before. But it’s not going to work when all the C’s have to do to counter it is give the ball to the tall guys in green, because they are three inches taller and much stronger than the tall guys with “New York” across their chests. That’s really it.
Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins and Rasheed Wallace combined for 32 points on 13-of-16 shooting in the first half. All but two of those shots—both KG jumpers—came from 12 feet and in, according to the play-by-play. Of the C’s 68 first-half points, 34 came in the paint, 15 came on threes and 11 on free throws. That’s 60 points in a half without a two-point hoop from outside the paint. Tough to lose games that way.
• J.R. Giddens made his first shot of the game, a tough floater from the left baseline (9:03, 2nd Q) with Paul Pierce draped all over him. Giddens woofed at Pierce all the way down the court, and this was aggressive trash talk, not the smiley “hey, remember we did that in practice, man?” trash talk.
Giddens made his second shot at the 7:23 mark of the 2nd quarter—a 22-foot jumper.
In about 9:00 of playing time over the rest of the game, J.R. Giddens scored zero points and pulled down one rebound.
Paul Pierce scored 29 points on 17 shots in 24 minutes of playing time. Paul Pierce will definitely be in the NBA next year.
• Bill Walker didn’t exactly light the world on fire in 24 minutes of play. To hear some Boston fans talk about the Nate Robinson trade, it’s as if the C’s gave up an absolute sure thing to rent Nate Robinson. Let’s take it easy. Walker has scored 20 points four times in 12 games with the Knicks, but did you see this game tonight? This is what every other Knick game looks like. Anyone can score 20 points a few times in disjointed train wrecks like these. Do you think the Knicks actually care if Bill Walker is on their team next season?
Walker’s a nice player, and there is definitely a place for him in the league. He’s a level above Giddens. He’s a dynamite athlete, his jumper has potential and Mike D’Antoni said tonight that he is surprised at Walker’s solid “feel for the game.”
But let’s be reasonable. In any case, a quiet 8-point, 1-rebound night for Walker, who barely had time to say hi to Paul Pierce before he picked up three fouls.
• The play that epitomized this game for me came with about 35 seconds left in the 2nd quarter. Rondo brings the ball up in delayed transition, and KG sets a screen to Rajon’s right just inside the top of the three-point arc. The screen nails Rondo’s guy (Toney Douglas, looking decent), so KG’s man (Lee) switches onto Rondo and Douglas sticks with KG.
Rondo turns the corner on Lee and throws what appears to be almost a blind lob in the direction of the rim. I’m not even sure if Rajon knew Al Harrington was diving down on the left wing to help Douglas on KG in the paint. Rondo just figured, “Hey, the Knicks have no tall guys, so I’ll just throw the ball up in the air and KG will probably catch it and lay it in.” KG caught it and laid it in.
• When you play the Knicks, you know some guys are going to beat you off the dribble. They play small, they run a decent screen/roll with Lee and they spread the floor with shooters. You’re going to be doing a lot of aggressive closing out, and the shooters (especially Gallinari and Harrington) are going to see those close-outs and put the ball on the floor. What happens next is the key.
And I thought the Celtics did that next thing very well tonight. In the first half, KG rushed out to crowd Gallo at the three-point line, and when Gallo drove, KG stayed on Gallo’s hip and shaded him toward the baseline. Gallo could drive to the hoop (and into more help) or launch a floater while leaning away from the hoop. He was 0-of-4 in the first half.
When help duty fell to Perk, he managed to contest shots without fouling by giving the driver a path to one side of the hoop and staying between that player and the basket. Sure, Al Harrington got slight inside position a few times, but Perk’s long reach forced Al to aim his shots a few inches higher than normal. Harrington did some damage from deep but not from in the lane.
Good stuff, at least when the game was in the balance. I think David Lee dunked the ball about 10 times in the 4th quarter.
• If you want to see what I mean about Rondo trying for the spectacular when the easy play will do, watch the back-to-back Boston possessions starting at the 4:40 mark of the 2nd quarter. On the first, Rondo and KG find themselves on a 2-on-2 fast break with McGrady (on KG) and Harrington (back-pedaling near Rondo). The two Celtics are maybe three feet apart and almost exactly parallel (i.e. not in good position to do anything) when Rondo tries a lefty behind the back pass to a well-guarded KG at the foul line.
KG fumbles the ball, recovers it on the left block and tries to thread a soft pass to Rondo, who is about two feet away under the hoop. The Knicks knock it way. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen are standing on either side of the three-point arc, wide open.
On the next possession (another fast break), Rondo tries to a lob to Ray Allen for a contested alley-oop. It fails. The simple play: Hitting the trailer (Paul Pierce) for a pull-up three.
Two totally unnecessary turnovers. In Rajon’s defense, the game was beginning to devolve by this point into a run-and-gun highlight reel of transition ball and pull-up threes. But the fact remains: Rajon should take the simple play more often than he does.
• With about 8:00 to go in the 2nd quarter, T-Mac got the ball behind the top of the arc with KG guarding him one-on-one. This would have been amazing in 2003.
• As a fan of a Knicks opponent, no shot makes me happier than a McGrady three. Does Tracy know he’s a 34 percent career three-point shooter?
• Actually, there is something that makes me happier: When Mike Breen prefaces a Knick shot by saying, “And here’s an open look for Duhon!”
• Rasheed Wallace’s first four shots were either lay-ups or short jumpers from the post. He made three of them. His next two were long jump shots, including a three-pointer. They were air balls.
• One thing that bugs me about (some) Knick fans and David Lee: They’ll call him a center when it’s convenient for them but otherwise remind you he’s playing out of position at center. When you point out to this sort of Knick fan that David Lee’s defense ain’t exactly the bees knees, they’ll say, “Yeah, we’ll, he’s a power forward forced to guard centers! What’s he supposed to do?”
And then tonight, we got a long narrative from Mike Breen (a good announcer!) listing David Lee’s very high rankings among centers in various categories. He’s leads all centers in points and assists per game and he’s 2nd to Dwight Howard in rebounds per game! Wow!
But where would he rank in those categories among power forwards?
That’s it for me. I’ve already given this game more attention than it deserves. A nice win, sure, but now the games get tough.