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“We had no energy from the start. With these early games, sometimes it happens that way,” said Stoudemire, who had 10 rebounds for his sixth 20-10 effort of the season. “We can’t make excuses. We have to be mentally ready for these early games and we were not.”“Guys took off for Thanksgiving, we were feeling good about ourselves and we weren’t quite ready for a 1 p.m. game,” D’Antoni said. “It was like the first 10 games. [We] probably weren’t [as] mentally engaged as we should have played.”
“Everybody has slipups and we had a slipup. We are not satisfied with it but it happens,” Felton said.
Did the turkey eat the Knicks or were the Knicks eaten by the turkey. This is the second afternoon game loss the Knicks suffered through this season and both times the team captains cited the earliness of the games as an excuse. Apparently only one professional team has to disrupt its routine and get up early to play a ballgame. Needless to say it’s an annoying excuse for losing a basketball game.
The truth is probably more painful and takes fewer words than “We had too much turkey.” The truth is that “The Hawks are better.” When the Hawks play with ZaZa Pachulia on the bench, they are too long, quick, smart and too disruptive for the Knicks. In previous games the Knicks were able to beat their opponents in transition, penetrate to the basket and open up the perimeter. The Knicks were also able to cheat in lanes, block shots and rebound. The Hawks were simply too active and quick with their feet. They tend to cover a lot of ground on the defensive end. With six turnovers and allowing only three steals, the Hawks are also less careless with the ball than previous opponents on the other end.
For most of the game, the Hawks at least had a hand in the face of a Knicks shooter, as a result, the Knicks shot 26.7% from the arc. Toney Douglas (0-4 from three and 0 steals in 28 minutes) and Danilo Gallinari (4 points in 23 minutes) seemed to have particular trouble with the length and speed of the Hawks. The Hawks are the type of team where Gallo needs to be at his sharpest because the Hawks have so many long and quick players on the floor at the same time that he needs to think about how to use his weaponry, if he actually can. On the drives, he could draw doubles and pass out even though he is likely to find an opponent in his path on switches. On the perimeter he could fake the shot and drive. He could have been in motion without the ball freeing himself up. Gallo still gives up and loses focus too easily. Perhaps it was the turkey.
Raymond Felton was awake. He’s simply too small to beat these guys by himself. He was tough though with 18 points on 50% shooting from the field and 4 assists in 37 minutes. The problem was that he had 4 turnovers and Bibby scored 14 points himself. Now how in the hell Bibby scored 14 points is beyond my analytical capabilities. Bibby (he who averages 10 points at 32 years old going on 50)? Perhaps it was the turkey.
Stoudemire (24 points, 10 boards and 3 assists) was still STAT in that he will always generate some stats when he is on the floor. The problem is how he generates those stats. He was not playing within the flow of the Knicks usual uptempo game. He was trying to do too much as exemplified by the four turnovers. The issue later may be if he is on the floor, as he gave us a little scare after he twisted his ankle again and remained on the Garden floor for a Hotlanta minute.
Perhaps the biggest story is about Rony Turiaf’s knees. He was only able to give us 10 minutes and there is no doubt that his energy on the defensive end and under the boards is essential for this team to perform well consistently. At some point he may need to rest that knee or risk aggravating it further. Even athletic bodies need healing time and conditions. His availability against the Pistons is uncertain. That’s bad.
Jamal Crawford is not a Knick but he was in the house and he knows how to win in the Garden. Discarded to create cap space so that Walsh could create this team, Crawford has contemplated returning here as a free agent. however until that time he was content to treat us to a shooting display that made you wonder why folks insisted that Gallo would be better than Craw. That hasn’t happened yet as Crawford played point scoring 21 points and adding three assists and 2 steals. It was fun watching Craw try to guard Gallo as the New Knick (relatively that is) posted him up. Gallo probably would have scored if he wasn’t doubled so fast.
The bottom line is that the Knicks are what they are with this squad and coach. They can beat teams that won’t play defense, won’t control the tempo and won’t hold onto the ball, but the Knicks cannot win without constant and persistent hustle and aggression. Against a team playing like the Hawks the last two games, the Knicks can’t afford to let the turkey sit for too long.