Notes From Knicks 121-79 Victory Over Portland

Tonight’s game just didn’t feel right.

It was weird for me to see the Knicks do well without head coach Mike D’Antoni. Today was a weird day. D’Antoni’s “resignation” seemed like a culmination of years of failure from the Knicks franchise. It was just another example of a coach (Larry Brown, Lenny Wilkens, Isiah Thomas) being run out of Madison Square Garden in a negative light. Many Knicks fans celebrated. I did not. Even if I was a D’Antoni hater, I would not have celebrated. There is nothing to celebrate. A good head coach lost his job today. Despite when you think about D’Antoni, you had to root for him as a Knick fan. His “resignation” symbolized how much of a true failure this season has been for the Knicks. This was a team with championship aspirations. This was a team that was projected by some, including myself, to win 42-46 games. The 2011 season has been a complete failure for the Knicks. They were the 9th seed in the East coming into tonight’s game. I’m not putting a lid on this team’s ceiling for this year. They may make a run, who knows. My point is that this season has been a complete disaster and the “resignation” of Mike D’Antoni just symbolizes continued dysfunction at Madison Square Garden.

Tonight’s game means little in the big picture of these organization. Sure, they destroyed the equally dysfunctional Trail Blazers, who played the second game of a back to back, but it really doesn’t mean much. Teams often play well after a drastic change or trade. Look at Golden State last night, they lost Ellis and blew out the Kings. I don’t quite get why that happens but it happens. I want to see the Knicks play like this against Indiana on Friday.

I’m not going to go into more about my feelings on D’Antoni. I am currently writing a D’Antoni post that will be up tomorrow. 

Here are my notes from the game:

  • The Blazers are just as dysfunctional as the Knicks. They are about to trade Jamal Crawford and coach Nate McMillan has lost the locker room. Portland had no business being on an NBA court tonight. The Knicks should have handled the Blazers and they did. The Knicks were emotional after the loss of their coach. When emotions are high from one team and effort is low from the other, the outcome is pretty much inevitable. I take very little from this game. You shouldn’t read too much into it either.
  • Carmelo Anthony had 7 assists. This man was a huge part of the reason that Mike D’Antoni was fired. What was his biggest gripe with D’Antoni? That D’Antoni wanted him to play within the system. What did Melo do tonight without D’Antoni? He played unselfishly within the system. Unbelievable.
  • The entire team was pretty unselfish tonight. It was nice to see the Knicks play a good style brand of team basketball. This is how D’Antoni wanted the Knicks to play. Sure, they ran a few more isolations, but the team was very unselfish which led to a whooping 35 assists. This is how the Knicks need to play every night offensively. It won’t happen. I expect there to be a lot more isolations to Anthony and Stoudemire and I think the assists will go down. More isolations is not necessarily a bad thing, but my point is that you shouldn’t expect to see this kind of unselfish performance every night. Unfortunately, the Knicks can’t play each of their next 23 games against Portland.
  • Lost in the 42 point victory was the mediocre performances of Jeremy Lin and Landry Fields. Both Lin and Fields were huge beneficiaries of the Mike D’Antoni offense. Mike Woodson will slow this offense down to a slower, isolation-orriented half court style. This is not good news for Landry Fields. Fields struggled in a similar style of offense, led by Chauncey Billups, during the second half of last season. Fields was 0/6 with 1 point in the game. This new offense projects for Jeremy Lin to have less success as well. Baron Davis, supported heavily by Woodson, is going to play more minutes coming off the bench. In addition to that, this slower style offense is going to take the ball out of Lin’s hands more often. The Knicks will still be running a D’Antoni style but Woodson is going to make his tweaks. Woodson has even said that he wants to post up Stoudemire and Anthony more and get the ball in their hands. Lin’s impact was felt when he was able to create and penetrate, dishing to teammates or scoring at the rim. I think with more iso’s, Lin will have to spot up and shoot more often than under D’Antoni. He had only 6 points and 6 assists in 23 minutes of play. This is one game. I’m not saying that Woodson’s new tweaks offensively will bury Lin, but I expect his numbers to decrease a bit. All that being said, this is just one game and I don’t take much from it. Obviously, a 42 point win over the Generals Trailblazers is not going to be the norm. I want to see Lin and Fields play real games, not evening scrimmages, in this adjusted offense before I make any conclusions. I just wanted to point out my concerns about these two players.
  • Steve Novak shot 6/10 from beyond the arc tonight. He is now shooting 47.5% from three-point land this year.
  • It was good to see Jeffries back. He looked pretty good in his 14 minutes of play tonight. I think a big part of the Knicks recent defensive woes were due to Jeffries’ absence. I hope he can keep healthy for the rest of the season because the Knicks desperately need him to be out there.
  • The Knicks sportsmanship was fine up until the last 13 seconds, when Shumpert tried to alley oop it to JR Smith. I thought it was classless on the Knicks part. It’s not a huge deal. I get that Shumpert is a rookie and it was an emotional day for the Knicks. I get it. That being said, it is still not the right thing to do. Anytime you are up by 42 points, there is no excuse to be throwing an alley oop with 13 seconds left in the game. I don’t think Shumpert and JR were trying to rub it in, I think they were just having some fun, but those guys have to know how to be better sports. I’m sure Woodson will point it out to them and it won’t happen again.
  • There are two big things I take from this game.
  • Amar’e is looking pretty good. Over his past 5 games, Stoudemire is averaging 20 points on 57% shooting from the floor. Obviously his defense and rebounding leave much to be desired, but that has always been the case with Stoudemire. I have slightly changed my stance on Stoudemire. I’ve said all along that his biggest problem was his (un)athleticism. He had added too much weight, he couldn’t get his legs under him and he had no explosiveness. Since the all-star break, I think Stoudemire has made significant progress to improve his explosiveness, and as a result his performance has improved. I still have doubts as to whether he will ever reach the level he was at last season. Odds are he doesn’t. However, I think Stoudemire is going to make a strong comeback. He has been an average player at best this season, 16.78 PER (league average is 15.00). I believe that he will continue to improve his play and he’ll get back to being a very good scorer. You’d have to think, playing alongside Tyson Chandler, that Stoudemire’s defense will eventually begin to improve. That remains to be seen, but I truly believe his offense will continue to improve as the Knicks push towards the playoffs.
  • JR Smith got some confidence. I’ve always believed that the number one thing that every athlete needs to succeed is confidence. I am an Oakland Raider fan. They won the Super Bowl in 1980. That was a team projected, before the season, to finish last in its division. Led by quarterback Jim Plunkett, the Raiders went on a magical, cinderella run that resulted in a Super Bowl XV victory over Ron Jaworski and the Philadelphia Eagles. America’s Game on NFL Network is a great show. It chronicles all the Super Bowl champions through the eyes of some of the team’s key contributors. One of the great quotes from Matt Millen, a linebacker on that team, was this. “…it’s something that I pray about now for my Detroit Lions. Because we need confidence. And team (1980 Raiders) found it.” Now why did I just write 5 sentences about the 1980 Oakland Raiders? To demonstrate what confidence can do for a player, or team in that instance. JR Smith can be one of the most electric and dynamic scorers in this league. His three-point shooting, 33.9%, has been horrid so far with the Knicks. Tonight, Smith found his stroke and hit 7/14 from beyond the arc. His body language was totally different. He looked like he was actually enjoying the game and he looked far more confident in his shot than he had previously. If Smith has found his confidence, he could be a huge boost for this Knicks team. The Blazers are horrid, but 7 threes is 7 threes. JR had an excellent shooting night and if he can keep it up, the Knicks will be much better off down the stretch.

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