New York Knicks 92, Toronto Raptors 115

There’s a damn good reason why the Knicks are 17-39. They play selfish basketball, don’t communicate on defense, are horribly coached and are in general just a bad dysfunctional team. Despite all that, they managed to split a home and home against us. Just like one didn’t feel excited about beating an injury-depleted Washington on the back-end of that home and home by 39, there’s not much pleasure to take out of this one. Except from some individual performances.

Andrea Bargnani’s 25/7 came in fairly natural way, usually when he ends up having a good game he shoots a very high percentage, hits some deep, deep shots and at the end of the night you get the feeling that there’s no way he can actually sustain such performances. Today was a little different, things came a little more naturally, all his threes came off of swing passes and Bosh kickouts. The rebounds he got didn’t fall to him, he had to work for them, even his five assists were clever. Nothing flashy, just solid decisions when the ball is passed to him on the perimeter or below the foul line. One wonders if he can deliver performances like these on a semi-consistent basis. I mean, we’ve seen this movie before, a few bad games followed by a great game leaving all of us confused. Those who doubt him get a glimmer of hope, those who blindly support him get a little more reason for their faith. In the end, we all get a little hope that this guy can be more than an erratic three point shooter who rebounds on occasion. The saga continues. The ESPN recap has some fighting words from Andrea and praise from Jamal Crawford:

“I tried to be more aggressive from the beginning, we were very angry after [Friday's] loss. It was a bad loss.” – Andrea Bargnani

“That’s tough, that’s not something that you see. He’s probably the only guy in the league with that range to be that big. He got it going tonight and that set the tone for them.” – Jamal Crawford

The NY Times perspective on the game pretty much makes fun of Isiah Thomas’ substitution pattern and Eddy Curry’s crapiness.

Primoz Brezec looks to be a serviceable player, give Bryan Colangelo credit for acquiring a big body. It’s only one game but it’s clear that Brezec plays with a swagger and confidence that this team needs. Plus he runs the floor and hits the glass – at least he did for one game. I feel bad for Kris Humphries, he’s done a good job for us, his hands may be clumsy at times but his effort and desire can never be questioned. If this game is any sign of how Brezec’s going to play, it’s hard to see Humphries and Baston get any burn. Again, it’s only one game but 11 clean points and 3 rebounds got me thinking that just maybe him and Rasho could allow Bosh to ease himself on the defensive boards. This story about Brezec lipping at Sam Vincent didn’t exactly make me feel great but at the same time it’s good to know that we got a Raptor with an edge. As for calling him a steal, we should remind ourselves that when Juan Dixon was acquired for Fred Jones, we all thought it was a steal. Check out a conversation between Bryan Colangelo and Brezec, very interesting character this Brezec fella.

I’m all for TJ Ford jacking up shots. He needs to get his legs back in to his shot and must play at his pre-injury level. With Bosh and Bargnani around, sometimes we forget that our real true strength and advantage over any other team is our PG play. Looking ahead at the potential matchups against Cleveland, Washington or Orlando, if you had to pick one position where we can dominate, it’s got to be the PG spot. So even if it comes at the expense of some bad stretches of play (like Friday in NY), I’m all for anything TJ needs to do to get back to being TJ.

For the high-flier Jamario Moon is, he sure wimps out when he’s within a 6ft radius of the rim with any sort of traffic around. What’s up giving up the ball to somebody who isn’t even expecting it when you have a chance to take it hard? His defense in this mini-series has been brutal, Sam rightfully went off at him after he kept giving Crawford space to shoot. Anthony Parker was then given the Crawford assignment and faired much better by forcing Crawford to create. Parker’s good scoring night was nice but his aggressiveness in taking the ball at Crawford slowed down the Knick G. Crawford’s an awesome offensive player but he’s not a great defender and can’t guard the slower but multi-faceted Parker.

We were making the same mistakes as Friday in the first half: leaving Jamal Crawford open who made us pay with 14 points which kept the Knicks in the game. Mitchell’s message at halftime worked, he played all five starters the entire third quarter which began with a 18-3 run where the ball movement out of the post and round the circle was impeccable. Although we almost exclusively made the critical run through jumpers, at least we went inside and started things off of Bosh doubles. On the other end, all you have to do is collapse on Randolph and Curry – they’re just not smart enough to know how to react. Over the last two games, every single time we’ve crowded them and put them under pressure, good thing have happened. I still can’t figure out why we didn’t do that for all 8 quarters.

Indiana tomorrow, we’re 5-4 in February, need to step things up.

Liners:

* There is no reasonable explanation of the drop-off in Kapono’s production from early in the season. One can only give so much credit to the defense and scouting reports. At some point you have to wonder just exactly what we need to do to get him off and implement a solution to this HUGE problem. If I’m Sam, I’d start by running a couple scripted plays for him, almost like out-of-timeout plays anytime he comes in to the game. This guy needs to air it out before he becomes completely useless.

* Zach Randolph: That play where he tried to take Brezec one-on-one and lost the ball only to run it back from halfcourt was bad enough, but then he jacked up an airball. What a mess!

* You have to check out the injury to Arsenal striker Eduardo from yesterday. Reminded me a lot of Jorge Garbajosa’s injury.

* Bosh only played 27 minutes, he should be good to go tomorrow at Indiana where we need to win and finally pick up some momentum and get 7 games over 500 for the first time this year.

* Bargnani: Top Rap

Till tomorrow.

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