Thursday, January 19, 2006

Obliviousness/obligatory Knicks post

So I was in attendance at last night's Bulls/Knicks game, which is now front page news because during overtime, Knicks forward (and former Bull) Antonio Davis entered the stands after his wife got into a confrontation with a couple of fans. I was sitting in the very last row of the upper deck behind the basket, and I had no idea any of this happpened. The game had gotten chippy thanks to a Chris Duhon/Maurice Taylor shove-off, but due to my nosebleed seats (I couldn't even hear the PA announcer clearly) and my immersion in what was an engrossing game, I had no idea that Davis had entered the stands and been ejected. I don't think too many other people noticed either, or else I surely would have heard other people talking about it.

That aside, it was a hell of a basketball game, with Ben Gordon breaking my heart again on a buzzer-beating 22-footer in overtime. Gordon missed a similar shot at the end of regulation, and although Jamal Crawford defended him equally well this time around, Gordon rose to the occasion. It was an up and down night for both teams, particularly in the second half. The first half was rather lackluster, with only New York's Quentin Richardson and Gordon standing out. Both shooters found their stroke, and Q was the only Knick in double figures at halftime. The teams traded punches in the 3rd quarter, with neither team making a big run until Chicago pulled ahead by 9 with about 8 minutes to go in the 4th quarter. The Bulls ran some nice plays offensively, and the Knicks destroyed themselves with sloppy, telegraphed passes. Over the course of the night, at least 3 crosscourt passes were intercepted by alert Bulls defenders and taken the other way for easy fast break points. In all, the Knicks turned the ball over 23 times, which led to 27 Bulls points.

New York's collective lapse in concentration cost them the game, because with about 4 minutes to go in the 4th, the Bulls started missing open looks, and the Knicks started scrapping to get every loose ball and defensive rebound, which enabled them to come back and send the game into overtime. It's definitely a positive sign that the Knicks were able to muster up the energy after being so lackluster minutes before, but when it came down to it, they just couldn't quite make enough shots to win the game. Channing Frye particularly struggled, and he seemed a completely different player from the one whom I saw go for 11-13 and score 30 points on January 6 at MSG. Since then, Frye is only 28-66.

I'm concerned that the reason for Frye's dip in form is that he has not been in the starting lineup. Larry Brown favors Antonio Davis and David Lee over Frye at this point, possibly because starting center Eddy Curry can't rebound and both Davis and Lee can. But with Stephon Marbury out for the next week (by the way, if he had been playing, the Knicks probably would have won) and Davis likely to be suspsended, Brown would do well to put Frye back in the starting lineup and play him 30 minutes a game. Frye started out shooting poorly and consequently passed up open looks. With Marbury out, the Knicks need another consistent scorer in the lineup, because Curry's range is about 5 feet from the basket (if that), and Crawford, Richardson, and Nate Robinson are all streaky.

Just to remain somewhat unbiased in coverage, I'll say that the Bulls have one of the best guard-tandems in the league with Kirk Hinrich and Ben Gordon. Both players are multi-faceted offensively with the ability to shoot from the perimeter and to drive, and from what I could see, they both defend well--last night they combined for 5 steals. They're not Chauncey Billups/Richard Hamilton yet, but I wouldn't be surprised to see a similar output in a couple of years. The Bulls are weak on the front line, and they would've done well to try to combine Eddy Curry's offensive post presence with Tyson Chandler's defensive/rebounding abilities. Darius Songaila had a nice game off the bench, but he's a perimeter forward. Simply put, they don't have an interior scorer, and that only works in the NBA if you have Michael Jordan or insane perimeter guards like the Pistons currently do. In a conference that's stronger than people realize, the Bulls will either miss the playoffs or crash out in the first round. As for the Knicks, I'll be happy if they finish in front of the Raptors. No sense in tanking to move up in the draft either, as they don't have a first rounder for about the next million years...sigh.

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