It still hurts two days later. As you all have noted, this site was quiet on a recap of the Knicks-Pacers elimination game yesterday. I was still wrapping my head around the disappointment of the game. Yes, the Knicks went down swinging (well, some of us did). But considering the level of talent assembled for our “win now” motto, the strong feeling of what could have been remains with most Knicks fans. I wasn’t one of those people who thought this squad was going to win the championship this year, but I did see a team that could make the Eastern Conference finals and give a considerable challenge to the Miami Heat. So what went wrong?
SURVIVING THE FIRST HALF: The Knicks offense was again in struggle mode for the first 24 minutes (35% shooting). JR Smith shot 1/6 and Raymond went 0/5. Luckily for NY, Melo was on and kept his team within striking distance (12 points in the first, 20 at the half on 8/16 shooting).
The other reason the Knicks were on the wrong side of a 55-47 score was the rebounding and fouling. The Pacers were getting all the hustle plays and crashing the boards (at one point a 18-5 edge). Indy was very focused while other players, most notably Tyson Chandler and JR Smith, were cyring to the refs, earning Tyson a tech late. The Knicks found themselves in the foul penalty around the 8-minute and had an astounding 16 fouls in the second quarter.
MELO AND SHUMP’S DRAMATIC 3RD QUARTER: The Pacers got the lead to 13 and the feeling was this game was about to be blown open at any moment.
Iman Shumpert had other plans.
Shump detonated for three consecutive threes to bring the Knciks within one (69-70). JR came alive for his own trey, and Shump hit yet another one to tie the game at 79.
Melo was on fire himself, at one point being 4-4 in the quarter and ending up with 15 points in those 12 minutes. A driving layup in the final 30 seconds briefly gave the Knicks a 81-79 lead. When the quarter ended, the score was tied at 81 and the stage was sent for a drama-filled finish.
THE BLOCK: Might as well get right to it. The below play from Roy Hibbert was the defining moment of the game (even more than his great rebounding and 20-plus points). Melo went up as hard as possible and got summarily rejected. From there, he became reluctant to keep that same aggressiveness inside and it led to three consecutive turnovers on his part (one of which resulted in a costly three-point play courtesy of Lance Stephenson over JR Smith for a 95-92 Pacers lead).
The Pacers used the momentum from Hibbert’s play for a 9-0 run that pretty much sealed the deal.
DISAPPEARING ACTS: Melo had 39 points in this game so even with some glaring mistakes, I can live with his effort. Shumpert as well. The rest of the team is where I have issues.
Tyson Chandler (2 points, 6 rebounds) has been abysmal this entire series and after spouting his mouth off in the media about the team’s play, he goes out and makes Roy Hibbert look like Hakeem Olajuwon for the second time. I watched in the disgust as he fumbled point-blank putbacks and failed to box out.
Felton disappointed me the most in going 0/7 from the field and managing just two points. His offense, and more importantly his playmaking, was sorely missed.
JR ended up with 15 points, but on 4/15 shooting. Some in the media have chosen to focus on Melo’s 2/7 shooting effort in the fourth, but not noting the several drives for open kickouts he got to Smith. JR couldn’t hit from the three when it mattered, and the rest is history.
Amar’e Stoudemire only got 5 mintues (none in the fourth) and managed 2 points for the game. Sure, we needed scoring, but Stat’s subpar defense and rebounding would have made the Hibbert feasting even worse.
TIME FOR CHANGE?: I’ve heard everything from fire Woodson to blowing up the roster of everyone except Melo and Shumpert. We definitely need to make some serious adjustments in regard to offensive creativity, strengthening our rebounding, and team defense IQ.
One thing I refuse to do is call this season a failure. Never at any time this season did we have our team completely healthy, yet we still managed our first 50-plus win season in well over a decade. With everyone at their best, this is easily a 60-win team.
Now if we can see a healthy Knicks team for next year is the question. More on that, and Stat’s comments on his team contributions, later today.