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Game 19 Preview: Blazers vs. Knicks

A Look at the Knicks

 

You want to know what’s going on with the Knicks?  It’s simple.  They’re now the new Phoenix Suns (the old Phoenix Suns having abdicated their post).  They put up an enormous number of shots.  They score an enormous number of points.  They don’t bother much with defense and get outrebounded every night.  They shoot from everywhere on the floor without prejudice.  It’s Mike D’Antoni ball all over the place.

 

There are a few differences between the new Knicks and the old Suns, though.  First and foremost, they have neither the talent nor the togetherness that Phoenix did.  Chris Duhon isn’t Steve Nash.  Al Harrington isn’t Amare Stoudemire.  Wilson Chandler isn’t Shawn Marion.  We could go on.  All of these guys are putting up decent numbers because the system practically forces you to.  (Anybody close to their next contract signing should pray to get traded to New York.  Forget agents, all Knicks players should be giving D’Antoni a 10% cut of their take.)  But a quick look past individual stats tells you there are holes in the plan.  Phoenix was always at or near the top of the league in field goal percentage.  The Knicks are 21st.  Phoenix was the best three-point shooting team in the league too.  New York is a respectable 8th, but if you’re going to play this way you need more.  The Knicks don’t draw fouls either.  Wrap it all together and you get a team that scores 106 per game but gives up 109.  At the very least those numbers need to be reversed.  Not going to happen though.

 

The underlying subplot to New York’s season is their attempt to clear cap space for a desperate run at the free agent market in 2010.  It’s hard to fault them for dumping salary.  In fact it would be hard to characterize any major New York trade as anything else but dumping salary considering how bloated the contracts became under Isiah “No, No, I Really Do Know What I’m Doing” Thomas.  So far they’ve traded away Zach Randolph, Jamaal Crawford, and Mardy Collins.  Plus they just told Stephon Marbury to go home and write a 5,000 word essay on where he can stick his attitude.  Unless he’s a proctologist on the side I doubt he’ll be able to come up with more than three of those words.   Considering the level of turnover the Knicks’ 8-8 record is actually impressive.

 

The two main beneficiaries of the wheeling and dealing have been forward Al Harrington and guard Chris Duhon.  Harrington has played three games so far, scoring 13, 25, and 36.  If that progression continues he should go for 46 tonight.  He’s also averaging 9.3 rebounds for them.  Meanwhile Duhon has exploded all over a backcourt suddenly devoid of stars.  He’s scored in double digits in 9 of his last 11 games and gone into double-digit assists 3 times as well, including racking up 22 dimes against the Warriors in the Knicks’ last outing.

 

As far as other key players, forward David Lee is a solid post and rebounding threat.  He doesn’t shoot much but everything he takes goes in.  In the Warriors game he broke that “doesn’t shoot much” rule and busted out with 37 points plus 21 rebounds.  Speedy guard Nate Robinson is having a fine season so far, scoring 14.5 per game with 4.2 assists and 4.5 rebounds (those from a 5’9” guy).  Second-year forward Wilson Chandler can also score the ball.  Lee, Robinson, and Chandler at 55%, 47%, and 45% field goal shooting respectively, are the only Knicks who are hitting anything besides the three-pointer right now.

 

Quentin Richardson, Anthony Roberson, and Malik Rose round out the rotation.  They haven’t been anything to crow about so far.

 

The Knicks are struggling to field players at the moment.  Cuttino Mobley, acquired in the Clippers trade, has not played for them yet.  Nate Robinson has been sidelined with a groin injury.  Quentin Richardson is playing through an arm injury.  Neither Eddy Curry nor Jerome James have played this season.  Tim Thomas is too out of shape to play.  Marbury is gone.  That’s left their roster in the single digits.  We’ll have to see who suits up tonight.

 

Keys to the Game

 

1.  The Knicks shoot a ton of three-pointers.  And by a ton I mean literally six dump trucks full.  This is also the one area of the court from which they convert shots at a reasonable percentage.  Portland should be able to depend on their interior defenders to handle any threat the Knicks might pose in the paint (which is minimal in any case).  Portland’s perimeter players need to stay home and watch the Knick shooters.  Cripple the distance shooting and you take away enough points to win.

 

2.  Getting back in transition is key against any D’Antoni team.  The Blazers did a good job of this against the Pistons.  Repeat that performance here and you take away enough points to win.

 

3.  The Knicks are lousy shot blockers.  We’re not just talking run-of-the-mill lousy here.  We’re talking porno-plot lousy.  We’re talking Tim Donaghy’s integrity lousy.  We’re talking “The Three Tenors cannot perform tonight so their places will be taken by Henry Abbott, Casey Holdahl, and Dwight Jaynes” lousy.  We might even be talking Jason Quick: Chippendale Dancer lousy.  (I’m not sure about that last one.  I mean they are still an NBA team.)  In any case, with no shot blocking and without any true big bodies, there is ZERO reason for the Blazers to avoid slamming the ball down into the paint tonight.  Drive it.  Post it.  Dunk it.  They’re going to have to put five people down there to stop one Greg Oden or Brandon Roy.  That’s where your open threes come from.  This is not the night for mid-range jumpers and soft dipsy-doodles.

 

4.  One of the necessary cautions when playing against a D’Antoni-coached team is to avoid getting caught up in the YMCA-like offensive rhythm.  When the shots are coming free and fast the temptation is to get yours and get it quick.  I doubt the Knicks are capable of containing the first option on any given Portland play.  There’s no doubt they’ll be lost if the Blazers look for the second option.  This is one of those games where two passes get you any shot you want.  Don’t be selfish.  Don’t get rushed.  Just play your game.

 

5.  If you miss, they can’t stop you from offensive rebounding.  Watch out for Blazer putbacks tonight.

 

6.  On a related note, foul trouble is Portland’s ally with New York so short-handed.

 

Final Thoughts

 

The Knicks are 6-1 when scoring over 110 points, 2-7 when failing to reach 110.  The Blazers are going to have to play one heck of a poor game to give up 110 to them.  Style will be everything here.  You should be able to tell easily whether Portland is headed for a win.

 

Check out the Knicks point of view at PostingandToasting.

 

Don’t forget to enter Game 1 of the December Jersey Contest here.

 

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)