"I was very unhappy with the way I played in the first half. I just tried to come out and turn up my intensity and try to lead the team in the second half, and I thought our team played a lot better defense in the second half overall." -- David Lee
"I thought our effort in the second half was unbelievable. David Lee, I thought his second half was incredible. He really had a super, super second half for sure." -- Mike D'Antoni
"It felt good. I was real excited. Had a lot of adrenaline going out, just wanted to get out there and do good, definitely make my first shot. And after I got that off my back, I felt pretty good from there." -- Jonathan Bender
In the beginning of last night's thrilling victory against the Clippers, when the first quarter ended with the Knicks down 31-16 after a 16-0 run by LA, it seemed that D'Antoni's decision to play his five starters over 36 minutes each the previous evening would come back to haunt him. D'Antoni's Knicks were slow and lethargic as the Clippers took advantage of their own length with Kaman and Camby in the post. The Knicks seemed over-matched as the Clippers kept them on their heels with an added succession of fast breaks often led by Eric Gordon.
After being abused in the first half, which ended with the Knicks down by 16, David Lee (11 rebounds and 25 points on 12-18 shooting) awakened offensively and scored 17 of his points in the second half. But before the Lee and Chris Duhon (17 points, 10 assists, 8 rebounds) "PNR (pick and roll) Show" took over, the Knicks cut the lead down to 9 as they took advantage of better defense and a much less coordinated Clipper offense as the opponent missed chippies and perimeter jumpers. The Clippers also became very lax on defense allowing open tre-shots. Additionally, the Clippers were disrupted by D'Antoni's smart decision to double Kaman.
The Knicks who shot 47 three-pointers the previous night, smartly only shot 14 at a 30% clip against the Clippers. Again it makes one wonder why D'Antoni allows such incompetent play. It is fairly obvious that Chandler's best game is mid-range and that he needs to use his body on a variety of drives and post moves to maximize his effectiveness. Similarly, Harrington is at his most dangerous off the drive -- he is practically unstoppable going to the basket against one defender. As Steady often writes, when will the culprits sit. They did not against the Bulls. They did not need to against the Clippers.
The fourth quarter started even at 72, after the third ended with a Lee layup. Bender gave the Knicks there first lead of the game in the 4th on two freebies, but it was Duhon's persistent, poorly defended drives to the basket near the end that kept the Knicks aggressive enough to win. On the other hand, the Clippers resorted to one man ball movement destroying any offensive cohesion they showed previously. Although with less than five minutes in the game the team traded baskets, the Knicks seemed in better rhythm with a series of right to left driving layups by Gallo and Duhon than the Clippers who relied on awkward acrobatic shots from Al Thornton. For the Knicks win it was an off-balanced Lee tip-in of a Harrington miss, after Baron Davis buried a dagger tre (music to John Lucas who was dancing like an old man in front of the Clipper bench), that gave the Knicks the lead for good and for a good win.
PLAYER PLAYER NOTES:
Danilo Gallinari (14 points on 5 of 14 shooting, 6 boards, 3 steals 0 assists, and 3 turnovers) started the game but seems somewhat an enigma that doesn't quite match the shooting hype. No one talks about it, but his shot is often far off, coming up short or hitting construction other than the rim. Yet, in this game he looked very promising when was more aggressive in driving to the basket and attempting to make his own shot. He is lanky and a bit awkward to the basket but he is very tough to guard without fouling on his move to the rim.
Jonathan Bender (9 points in 14 minutes), recently acquired by Donnie Walsh, seemed to give the Knicks an energy boost in the first quarter as he played in his first game since November 2005. Despite being nervous, he played well and even added some physicality to the team as demonstrated on a defensive play called as a flagrant foul when Eric Gordon tried to draw contact on the drive and was bounced off Bender's body. Bender, for at least a minute, looked like the dimension the Knicks may need to patch up that interior defense with some height and skill. But will D'Antoni use the big man for those purposes or eventually give up on him like he has Hill, Curry and Milicic.
D'Antoni persists with his artistic, touchy-feely (as opposed to logical) coaching style as he continues to sit Nate Robinson apparently because he has a feel that his team will develop a winning chemistry without inserting the dynamic, speedy gunner into the rotation. Yet, D'Antoni continues to search for a larger player for his rotation ostensibly to help defend the paint: Curry, Darko and Hill have clearly not played satisfactorily as evidenced by the insertion of Bender who hasn't played NBA ball in almost four years.
Mardy Collins is still in the league. He played 9 minutes and scored four points on 2-3 shooting. He played some nice defense on the taller Harrington.
Enjoyable victory. Chicago again, next.