I’m watching the Heat destroy the Knicks in New York in the second half and find myself feeling sorry for the Knicks. This game was tied at 59 in the 3rd quarter. A few minutes later it was a blowout as the Heat clamped down and the Knicks offered little more than token defensive resistance to Lebron, D-Wade, Bosh and Arroyo. Even Joel Anthony got into the act as the Heat outscored the Knicks 54-32 from the 3rd quarter tie on.
Why feel sorry for Amar’e Stoudemire and his coach, Mike D’Antoni, who came into the game with a 16-10 record, 5th in the East, just a half game behind the 4th place Magic?
Because the Knicks just made it too easy for the Heat — something the Bucks refused to do two weeks ago at the Bradley Center, the last time I saw the Bucks play live. Where the Bucks clawed at Lebron every time he touched the ball, the Knicks gave him a yard to survey the floor and decide how he was going to make them pay for it. Where the Bucks scrambled for loose balls, the Knicks lost the 50-50 battles every time. Where the Bucks made D-Wade fight for his game-leading 25 points, the Knicks let him waltz through their defense unattended.
After one long Knicks miss, Lebron broke out leading a three-on-three break and Chris Bosh cut to the basket, open for an instant but with two Knick defenders in the vicinity. Lebron held the dribble top right, looked away, paused … and fired a no-look bullet pass to Bosh for a layup. Bosh hadn’t moved from his spot — yet none of the Knicks near the hoop had bothered to pick him up. (Thinking back, James’ look-away fake seems gracious – he assumed — wrongly — that the Knicks were interested in defending Bosh.)
I felt sorry for the Knicks because, despite their 16-11 record, they’re still hapless and there’s little they’ll be able to do about it. They can’t win in the East playing the porous, disinterested D that D’Antoni seems to encourage. Oh, they’ll score alright, especially against the lesser teams. But the top 5 defensive teams in the NBA are the competition in the East, and they rebound the basketball, too. The Knicks don’t play D, and they don’t box out well either.
Where the Bucks were able to challenge the Heat and hold Lebron to 14 pts, he disgraced the Knicks with a triple double – 32 pts, 11 rebs and 10 assists and left the Knicks in his wake as though they were the Washington Generals, the Harlem Globetrotters’ patsy.
Where the Bucks are 10-14 and playing the toughest schedule in the league, the Knicks have played a soft one. Despite their record, the Knicks have a negative SRS number (a complicated thingy that ranks teams success against their schedule). (After losing in Cleveland on Saturday, the 16-12 Knicks are actually BEHIND the 10-15 Bucks, who took a tough loss to the Jazz at home, in SRS ranking. The Bucks schedule has been that tough, the Knicks schedule that weak.)
I felt sorry for the Knicks because there no amount of hype can make them more competitive than a slow-starting, injury plagued 10-and-14 team from Milwaukee. I felt sorry for the Knicks because, despite the Amar’e highlights, they’re still the Knicks and they can’t help it.
Bogut since his return against the Magic Dec. 4: 19.8 pts – 14.2 rebs – 4 blks – 1 steal – 2.3 assists per game.
Add in the possessions that he turns over by taking charges and the result is a center playing better now than Dwight Howard. Overall, Bogut leads the NBA in blocks per game (3.1) and has the 3rd-best defensive rating in the league (96.5 pts allowed per 100 possessions when he’s on the court) behind Kevin Garnett and Howard. That’s the sort of company AB keeps these days.
If Bogut keeps it up and continues hitting 55% of his shots (50 of 89 since tipping it off against the Magic), the Bucks should weather the current scheduling nightmare (and AB’s horrendous free throw shooting) by earning a few tough road wins in the West — and be right on the Bulls’ tails by late January.
The Bulls, it should be noted, won’t have their center for 8-10 weeks. I don’t, however, feel sorry for the Bulls. This, I suppose, is just one more reason to feel sorry for the Knicks.
Note: The Knicks on Saturday lost to Cleveland in OT, 109-102, in the kind of game Mo Williams loves — No defense required. Mo led all scorers with 23. New York fell to 16-12.