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New York Knicks 128, Washington Wizards 122: I'm dizzy

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Highest Plus/Minus: Nick Young and Darius Songaila (0 in 33:12 and 6:36, respectively)
Lowest Plus/Minus: Antawn Jamison, Javaris Crittenton and JaVale McGee (-8 each)
Best Five Man Unit: Mike James, Nick Young, Caron Butler, Dominic McGuire, Antawn Jamison (+9 to end the 2nd quarter)
Worst Five Man Unit: Mike James, Nick Young, Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison, Andray Blatche (-8 in 3:19 stretch in third quarter)

Four Factors:

Team Pace Off Eff eFG% FT/FG OREB% TOr
Washington 87 140.2 66.3% 29.8% 46.1% 14.9
New York
147.7 62.5% 40% 52.7% 11.4

Photo of the game:

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(AP Photo)

Game Thread comment of the game: "How many times do I have to see Knicks -- Offensive rebound on the ESPN gamecast" by hibachi.

Before we start, let's just sit back and look at those Four Factors for a second.  That's no typo.  Both teams scored more than 140 points per 100 possessions, both teams had an effective field goal percentage over 62 percent and both teams grabbed over 45% of their missed shots.  To provide some perspective, Kevin Broom e-mailed me earlier today to say that he checked with a friend who said there was only one game since 2000 where a team had an offensive rating above the Knicks' tally in this game.  It was the Utah Jazz in a game in March 2008.  The opponent?  You guessed it

So in a lot of ways, you can throw this game completely out the window as far as analysis goes.  Nobody was missing anything, and when they did, the offensive team usually grabbed the rebound.  How can you possibly analyze such a flukey game?  Sure, neither team is particularly strong defensively, but no team ever gives up over 140 points per 100 possessions.  That's so incredibly rare.  So much so that I doubt we've ever seen an NBA game like that one.

This Knicks loss was nothing like the previous two, even though the score was the same.  In a sense, we didn't succumb to Seven Seconds or Less, as Tapscott and some of you guys are saying.  There were only 87 possessions in this game, which is far below the Knicks' average of 97.2.  If you define D'Antoni-ball as pushing the pace and running like crazy, that wasn't what happened in this game.  We played half-court ball and got back well enough so the Knicks did the same (though that's probably because every damn shot was going in). 

In another sense, though, we once again let the other team dictate things.  In particular, our defensive philosophy played right into the Knicks' hands.  As Seven Seconds or Mess, a wonderful new Knicks site with awesome video breakdowns, identified in the Knicks' last game against the Hornets, the Knicks have basically decided that they suck so much at perimeter defense that they'll switch every single pick instead of trying to fight through it.  They've adjusted their starting lineup so that they surround Chris Duhon with four guys who can guard a number of positions (Richardson, Jeffries, Chandler, Lee) so that every time they switch, it doesn't matter as much as it would with a more traditional lineup.  Then, on offense, they space the floor and run pick and roll in hopes of forcing you to switch just like they do.  It's so tempting, because when you do the same stuff on your end, they're switching.  You just do what they do and you'll be okay.

Obviously, that's what they want you to do.  When you switch, the Knicks are better equipped to take advantage of mismatches, since there's no difference in size between their two and their five.  They've created a competitive advantage, but the only way that advantage matters is if you do the same thing they do. 

Lo and behold, the Wizards switched every single damn screen the Knicks ran.  Whenever that happened, the Knicks set up Lee or someone else in the post on the mismatched guy.  We'd either leave the mismatch alone, in which case Lee scored and/or grabbed offensive rebounds, or we'd help and surrender a three.  Even if the shot missed, our defensive assignments were so screwed up that the Knicks didn't even have to grab physical rebounds.  Lee barely had to work for offensive rebounds because our bigs were always switching onto guards and weren't inside.

I can't even yell at any one single Wizard, because they all did it.  At different points in the game, Javaris Crittenton, Nick Young and Mike James were all caught guarding David Lee in the post.  The end result was predictable.  Either the entire team decided to not try and get over screens, or that was Ed Tapscott's defensive strategy.  The second seems more likely, and if true, it's yet another example that Tap has no coaching skills whatsoever. 

The decision to play small for the last six minutes was mind-boggling too.  Yes, it's true that our best stretch during this game was when we played Antawn Jamison at center.  But that lineup worked only because it was a novelty, a change of pace if you will.  It confused the Knicks for a short period of time -- enough time to get back into the game -- but eventually, the lineup's limitations will show.  Which they did when, predictably, Dominic McGuire couldn't keep David Lee off the glass.  He should never be asked to do so for the key stretch of the game.  And while nobody was playing defense anyway, resorting to a gimmick isn't going to work.  You just don't play small against a Mike D'Antoni team.  That's asking for trouble. 

So basically, Tapscott and the team let the other club dictate what they do, again.  Even as we were rolling offensively, we were shooting a lot of jumpers.  Antawn Jamison had his way in the post a couple times, but never parked his butt down there, and Caron Butler didn't start driving to the hoop until the fourth quarter.  Taps been better than we think for player development (I'll explain this in a post later), but he can't coach.  Not in this league at least.

Other thoughts:

  • Dray Blatche and his 16 minutes: Inexcusable.  Look, I realize there were some plays where you wonder where his head is.  But in choosing this play to encapsulate the entire game, Mike Jones is feeding the false perception that Blatche is to blame.  Yes, David Lee grabbed about 100 offensive rebounds, and yes, Blatche lost the ball instead of securing it well.  But Blatche also blocked David Lee, switched out to Tim Thomas because Caron wouldn't let Blatche recover to Lee, cut off Thomas' drive with good defense and was literally the only Wizard contesting Lee and the other Knicks on any of those rebounds.  I know Jones didn't mean to use that as a statement against Blatche, but Blatche's name is the only one mentioned.  My question is, why does Antawn escape blame when he didn't move to help Blatche at all on the glass?  Where's Caron Butler on the play?  And why isn't Javaris Crittenton helping at all?  There's no reason why over half the team abandons the glass.

Point being, Blatche doesn't deserve to sit out the entire fourth quarter, not when the alternative is playing gimmick-ball.  Blatche struggled with Lee, but so did everybody else.  Why does he get singled out?  And if it's for something as nebulous as effort or focus, then it bothers me.  Not only because it's wrong to interpret too much from body language, but also because Blatche wasn't the only guy who was exhibiting poor defensive rotations/defensive focus. 

  • Haven't said much about Nick Young's explosion recently, mostly because I'm trying to stay realistic.  He's shooting incredibly, but he's not doing too much different than before.  The only difference is more minutes and better touch.  Hopefully, this convinces Tapscott to give Nick the minutes he's always deserved. 
  • Better game from Caron tonight.  He was jumper-happy in the first half, but did a good job driving in the fourth
  • There's no reason for Mike James to be playing the kind of minutes he does.  If you're going to use MJ as a shooting guard alongside Crittenton, you might as well just play Juan Dixon
  • D-Mac's defense disappointed me a bit.  He didn't close out well at many points and looked confused on the weakside.  Also, five rebounds in 35 minutes is a bit weak for D-Mac's standards
  • As bad as we were defensively, the Knicks hit some tough contested threes.  In particular, Quentin Richardson had a couple in the third quarter.  Not much you can do there
  • In the game preview, I asked WWOD whether he'd rather have David Lee or Nate Robinson.  It's only one game, but the choice is clear based on it.  Not only did Lee dominate, but Robinson didn't do much of anything, save for that block on Critt.