Updated With Game Observations at 12:36pm
“It went from 15 to seven in about 30 seconds and then we got tight and didn’t play well and they beat us. Somehow our spirit is all messed up.” — Mike D’Antoni
“Having a double-digit lead late in the fourth quarter, it’s definitely going to hurt and stick with you. It comes to a point, guys are looking at the time hoping it runs out quick instead of trying to go out and finish them.” — Chris Duhon
“We just kept on believing and we knew it was just a matter of time. The Knicks keep on attacking the basket and they let you back in the game, and that’s what our game plan was in the last six minutes of the game and overtime.” – Kevin Martin
“They just weren’t doing a good job of getting back. Every time I got the rebound I pushed it and, when I saw an open lane, I attacked it or kicked it out to an open guy.” — Tyreke Evans
NOTES FROM THE OBSERVATION DECK:
According to Coach D’Antoni, “Somehow our spirit is all messed up.” Duh. No shyte Sherlock.
Could the Knicks spirit be a direct result of how the team has been managed since training camp? Fifty-one games into the season and the players have no idea what their roles on this team are. The defense is practically non-existent and teams know exactly what to do to out-play the Knicks: put pressure on the transition non-defense and pound the interior in the half-court sets. The Kings added a new key: play zone defense and dare the Knicks to shoot themselves into a victory, a tall order for a team that has a problem establishing any type of rhythm that lasts for more than 12 minutes.
The key for this game was how the Knicks handled the 4th quarter.
D’Antoni started the quarter with, Robinson, Chandler, Harrington, Jeffries and Duhon, a unit that built the lead up to 15 with over seven minutes to play. After a Kings’ timeout, and within forty-five (45} seconds, the Kings cut the lead to seven in a sequence that included a Duhon air-ball, two tres by Donte Green and a killer drive to the basket by Evans foreshadowing the end of the quarter. After Nate, who was playing point, called his own number three times and missed badly, D’Antoni replaced him with Duhon at the 3:02 mark. The Knicks were barely able to hold the Kings off as Evans abused Jeffries and a defensively befuddled Harrington on scoring drives to the basket. Harrington ended a sloppy series with a pass to Jeffries who dunked it home to bring the lead back to four with 59 seconds remaining.
Out of the timeout, Evans went directly to the basket and drove into Jeffries chest to cut the lead to two. After a Harrington miss, Evans again drove to the right on Jeffries and when Lee half-heartily stepped into the driving lane (below the circle) Evans passed to Jason Thompson under the basket for a dunk. Amazingly there was no defensive adjustment, by the coach or Jeffries, to deal with Evans. Evans was clearly too fast and strong for Jeffries to handle alone. The quarter ended tied at 105 after a Duhon air-ball and a Jeffries steal at the buzzer forcing the game into overtime, where the Kings continued to dominate and win.
D’Antoni’s major error at the end of this game was failing to make the necessary defensive adjustment to deal with Evans. This is a point where his choices were obviously limited. Jeffries is usually his best and most technically sound defender, however this is one time when Hughes might have been better one-on-one or even Toney Douglas who handled Evans during the summer league. Still, Mike might have done better if he had established good team defense in the first instance. Defensively, it makes little sense to have both Harrington and Lee on the floor simultaneously since they mirror each other’s defensive deficiencies.
But the Knicks did have a bright spot: Wilson Chandler.
Chandler may not be a go-to player, but he plays the game like a stud at times. Walt Frazier noted that Wilson seemed to be in a place beyond the zone. Chandler, 35 pts on 15 for 23 shooting, seemed to be playing the game, on the offensive end, at another level. He was smooth, hitting jumpers from every angle from 6′ to 16′ and showing his strength and agility under the basket. He added 5 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 steals in 47 minutes. Wilson, who will only cost about 5 million over the next two years, is without question an asset the Knicks will not want to trade this off season, although teams may ask about him.
Obviously, the Knicks at 19-32 are sinking away from the 8th seed; presently the Knicks are 5 1/2 games out of the last playoff spot in the 11th position, 1/2 game ahead of Detroit.
Finally, both Tyreke and Casspi are the real deal. They have both progressed significantly since the summer league and pre-season. Casspi is very impressive in that he now uses his brain more than his considerable athleticism. He is not over-energized and takes the game at the games pace. All Tyreke Evans needs is an array of jump shots and he will become one of the most dangerous players in the game. The Kings have a solid youthful nucleus. They are building the team from youth up, the right way.
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Kudos to DLT, Prince and O&B for spicing up the Knicks-Kings LBE with witty repartee. . . . The Knicks dropped behind Philadelphia in the playoff race falling to the 11th spot. The Sixers are on a five game winning streak. . . .It was hard to tell, but supposedly there is dissension between Kevin Martin and Tyreke Evans as Evans becomes the team’s new star. See SacTown Royalty, a SacTo Kings blog for the low down.