23. March 2011 23:59
The name on the front of the jersey may have changed (for a night), but the same lethargic, down in the mouth New York Knicks squad that had been disappearing down the stretch lately did the same thing Wednesday in a 111-99 loss to the Orlando Magic.
Since there were a lot of similarites to the Boston game on Monday, there's no reason to dwell on the same old issues.
Boston 33, New York 17
Orlando 32, New York 21
Boston 59, New York 35
Orlando 56, New York 40
The Knicks call it a night once the game is on the line. It's as if they're afraid a strong finish will raise expectations. Better to keep selling the "we need time to gel, wait until next year" storyline. It may take time to gel. But, it doesn't take time to guard the basket with a passion or battle on the boards.
Kevin Garnett 10 of 15 shooting
Dwight Howard 11 of 15 shooting
Boston 48, New York 38
Orlando 49, New York 35
ESPN color analyst Jeff Van Gundy was suggesting that it was unfair to expect the team to play like champions right away. Recent frustration (outrage!) from Knicks fans wasn't because the team wasn't playing at a championship level. It came from the lack of player enthusiasm vs. losing teams like Indiana (twice), Milwaukee, and Detroit. That set up the late game debacles...at home...vs. playoff caliber opponents.
New York still isn't running (see Monday night's article). There were more possessions tonight, but Orlando is a faster team than Boston (89 possessions vs. NY), Milwaukee (92), and Detroit (92). The Magic were at 94.1 possessions per game coming in. Wednesday's final total will be in that neighborhood. New York is still playing to its opponent's tempo rather than forcing its own. If you were watching Wednesday's game on ESPN, you saw that Chauncey Billups seemed much more interested in setting up in the halfcourt than running a fast break. Nobody was arguing with him about it either, at least when I was watching.
The Knicks have a back-to-back coming up with Milwaukee (Friday) and Charlotte (Saturday). They've fallen behind Philadelphia in the playoff race, and currently sit in 7th place in the Eastern brackets.
*Philadelphia beat Atlanta Wednesday 105-100. Atlanta led much of the night, but the Sixers used a 22-6 run at the start of the fourth quarter to turn things around. The Hawks played much better here than Tuesday vs. Chicago...pretty much confirming that the blowout loss to Chicago was a tank job. Broadcasters are hesitant to use that phrase, or suggest a team is saving themselves for the second night of a back-to-back. Given Atlanta's very clear history this year of doing just that, you might as well just be honest and report it!
*The Miami Heat finally got a breather after finishing that long gauntlet we've been documenting. They had trouble finding any intensity Wednesday in Detroit. Miami trailed much of the night before rallying late for a 100-94 win. The Heat allowed better than 60% shooting in the first half...but trimmed that down 49% for the game after holding the Pistons to 13 points in the fourth quarter. Miami won the fourth quarter 25-13, which gives you a sense of what was lacking until then.
Mike Bibby of the Heat took a step backward after recent good showings. He was 1 of 3 on three-point attempts, and posted a -13 in plus/minus in 26 minutes...worst on the team by far.
Remember Richard Hamilton? He's been back in the Detroit lineup since March began after sitting in purgatory for several weeks. Rip scored 27 points on 9 of 16 from the flooor.
*Boston continued its inconsistent play of late, falling at home to Memphis 90-87. The Celtics are still trying to get their bench in sync with what's needed in the playoffs. The four anchors (Garnett, Peirce, Allen, and Rondo) all had positive plus/minuses. Everyone else who saw action was negative. All Memphis starters were negative, and the entire bench (who played) was positive.
*If there were any doubts about motivation to make the playoffs in the Indiana/Charlotte battle for 8th place in the East...those should be resolved now. Charlotte lost AT HOME 111-88, posting the standard non-hustle stats of teams trying to stay out of the way so they don't get hurt.
Indiana 57%, Charlotte 47%
Indiana 37, Charlote 28
Tyler Hansbrough of Indiana was 8 of 10 from the floor, and 8 of 9 from the free throw line. It's as if he was facing New York again.
*All the Eastern playoff teams except Chicago saw action Wednesday. We can now update the seeding picture.
2...Boston 50-20 (1 back)
3...Miami 49-22 (3 back of Chicago, 2 back of Boston)
4...Orlando 46-26 (they'll be 4th)
5...Atlanta 40-32 (likely destined for 5th)
7...New York 35-36 (2 behind the Sixers now)
On the outside looking in:
9...Charlotte and Milwaukee 28-42 (3 out of the playoffs)
Might as well update the records since the All-Star Break. Still a few teams stumbling:
New York 7-10
Charlotte is 4-10, Milwaukee 7-8 if you were wondering.
*Thursday is very quiet in the NBA this week. Most of the focus from basketball fans will be on the Sweet 16 games in New Orleans and Anaheim. Will skip Thursday, then be back late Friday to talk about highlights from a 13-game card that includues Philadelphia-Miami, Memphis-Chicago, and Milwaukee-New York. If some interesting stat developments pop up in the college games, I'll throw those in too...