"We win four in a row and we had a chance to win five. I think that's probably the most important thing in the world at that point,. We didn't play like it was." -- Mike D'Antoni
"Coach has put me in a position to succeed. He's put me in a position where I can go out and do what I do best. That's all I've ever asked since I've been here." -- Jared Jeffries
"We feel like we're better than (the Knicks). We feel we're a playoff team that will get to the playoffs." -- Stephen Jackson
After losing Jared Jeffries, who was having a superb all-around game, the Knicks collapsed on themselves defensively and allowed the Bobcats to escape with a victory after a 15-2 run. Last night's affair, in Charlotte, was very sloppy throughout as the teams combined for 43 turnovers against 37 assists, but until the fourth quarter the Knicks played like the better team. To the surprise of fans who don't pay attention to the details and delight of those who want him traded for more cap space, Jared Jeffries led the charge on both ends of the floor as he filled the game stat sheet with 11 points, 6 steals, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks, 3 assists and 0 turnovers in 37 minutes. Unfortunately, when Jeffries picked up his sixth foul at the 2:32 mark, with the Knicks ahead by four, no one else picked up the slack defensively as Raymond Felton knived through the paint for lay ups and the Bobcats converted New York errors into points.
Throughout much of the game, into the fourth quarter, Stephen Jackson, who scored 24 points (with 4 boards, 4 assists, 3 steals in 44 minutes), seemed content with the Knicks extending their four game winning streak to five as he played careless ball resulting in five turnovers. However, to end the fourth, Jackson was extremely active as he forced Jeffries into his sixth foul and converted a turnover into an And1 dunk to give the Bobcats a five point lead with 25 seconds left in the game.
Once again the Knicks were done in by leadership at the point as Chris Duhon (18 points and six assists) and Larry Hughes (8 points and 2 assists) had trouble keeping Raymond Felton from whizzing by them for 18 points and 6 assists. Hughes and Duhon also combined for 11 of the Knicks 21 turnovers. However, the disparity in the fourth quarter was most acute on the defensive end as the Hornets buckled down to shut down the pick and roll and switched with quick regularity. It was the sign of a beautifully coached team.
With Jeffries, who has also become the master at drawing a charge, the Knicks held their own (and the game) defensively as they seemed to out-hustle the Bobcats despite being out-rebounded 42-35. Somewhat surprisingly, with Larry Hughes replacing Jeffries, the defensive drop-off was a free fall.
Nate Robinson sat on the bench and received his sixth straight DNP as D'Antoni continued to ride a short rotation which had been successful in the previous four wins. Toney Douglas and Jared Hill also rode the bench, as Gallo (5 points on 2-7 shooting, 0-4 from arc) looked bad offensively.
Still, the Knicks played competitively which distinguishes them from their non-efforts earlier in the season. The Knicks certainly had an opportunity to extend their winning streak which could have taken on a life of its own as they face the suffering Bulls tomorrow night. Now they'll just have to start a new one.