Raptors @ Knicks

 Monday 22 February  
The fourth game with Kurt Rambis in charge. Going in to the game he has 2 losses to 1 win (and the win came away from home). This was always going to be a tough game as the Raptors are doing well at the moment.

The Raptors took an early lead in q1 but the Knicks managed to keep the pressure on and ended up finishing the period up by 2 points. In the second quarter they again lacked energy and focus and managed to end the half down by 13 points. 

Some of the players were having good individual games (Lopez and Melo) but others were not having good games and were making silly fouls. 

The Knicks today signed Jimmer Fredette to a 10 day contract. This guy is known for his scoring (he scored 35 points during the D-league All Star game) and there was a lot of expectation that he would get bug minutes to help the team. Chants of ‘we want Jimmer’ kept breaking out throughout the crowd. The fans were not rewarded in q3, and the quarter finished with the Knicks down by 18. Looking at the stats at that point it was clear that the Knicks were simply being outplayed. 

Free throws were a problem for the team tonight, especially Melo who did not seem to have the touch from the line.

The final score was Raptors 122 Knicks 95.

Credit has to be given to the crowd at MSG who stayed behind the crowd and kept defence chants going even in the 4th when even the most optimistic fans must surely have given up hope. 

The post game interviews were telling as Melo and Lopez were visibly upset by the result and whatever had happened in the locker room post game. 
 

Knicks @ Nets

Friday 19 February 

On the way to the venue and inside the venue it definitely seemed that the Knicks fans were outnumbering the Nets fans. Even during the game the Knicks fans mainly seemed louder. 

Knicks were playing well and had the lead at the end of q1. The second quarter started in the same way but by about half way through q2 the Knicks seemed to be losing energy. They ended the quarter up by 2 but the Nets had taken the lead during the quarter.

Nets came out of the half time break with a lot of energy and took an early lead. They maintained this lead for the rest of the game. 

It’s difficult to pinpoint one thing that is going wrong for the Knicks. Individual player stats show good games for many players but they don’t seem to be able to maintain high energy and good plays for four quarters. Kurt Rambis has said that he wants to get the Knicks to the playoffs but based on the performance against the Nets I just don’t see how that can happen. Rambis has only been in charge for 2 games at this point but he has a big challenge ahead of him. 

Maine Red Claws @ Delaware 87ers

Saturday 20 February 

This was a strange game between the D-league teams linked to the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers. 

The Sevens (the nicknames of the Delaware 87ers) had set up a kids zone alongside the court and for out of the game there was a large crowd of children and their parents in that area. This area had inflatables for the children to play on. As a result I’m not sure how much of the game the children actually saw.

The cord that were sat, supposedly watching the game, did not seem that interested in the game. There was little recognition for good plays from the Sevens, no chants of defence. There was a crowd of away fans and they were definitely supporting their team. 

The Red Claws took an early lead and they were able to maintain this for the entire game. The Sevens were not playing well, but the interesting thing was the high fouls count for the Red laws. Given the performance from the Sevens they did not need to foul them to prevent them from scoring. 

The high fouling from both teams made the game feel slow, as the insistence of the referees to review calls.

At times it felt that the referees did not have control of the game. This was especially true in the early period of the third quarter. A technical was called on the Sevens, with no explanation. The enraged coach walked on to the court seeking his explanation. I’ve seen this result in coaches being made to leave the game. In this occasion it resulted in a time out.  Presumably the referees were acknowledging their original mistake but it was not the way to maintain control. 

People started to leave at the beginning of the fourth, making a quiet venue even quieter. 

In the end the Red Claws won convincingly 132 – 107.

Iowa Energy @ Westchester Knicks

Sunday 21 February 

The arena was fairly busy for this D-league match up. 

The Westchester Knicks took an early league in the first quarter but then, in the last few minutes, they seemed to lose their focus. Shots were not falling for them and they had a couple of sloppy plays. They manage to keep the game close though ending the q ahead by one point.

Q1 set the tempo for what turned out to be an exciting match up. The game stayed really close the whole way through and up until the last few minutes of the game it was difficult to predict who would win.

The D-league has different rules to the NBA. In this game we saw two coaches challenges. The coach gambles a timeout on the challenge (losing the timeout if the call on the floor is upheld). One call was held and one was overturned, both not helping the Westchester Knicks.

Both teams played well, although fouling was an issue for both teams. This is something the W-Knicks needs to watch as two of their best players in this game also had high fouls counts. In the last minute of the game W-Knicks appeared to be playing for fouls but they left it too late for this tactic to be effective – not giving themselves enough time to make use of their possession. 

The game finished Iowa Energy 84 Westchester Knicks 80.
The crowd at this game were behind the home team throughout the game. It was good to see this level of support and to see the children in attendance get in to the game as well. 

All Star Weekend

NBA All Star weekend is a spectacle. It is not serious basketball but a chance for the chosen players to show off and have some fun.

There are a lot of complaints about All Star – the way the players are selected, the lack of defence in the All Star game. But I think a lot of the complaints miss the point.

The NBA is home to some of the best basketball players in the world and while I can understand the arguement that players should be selected for All Star based on their skills, not their popularity, this is a sales opportunity for the NBA and they want the highest sales possible.

I would watch pretty much any game of basketball so it almost does not matter to me who is selected for the game but for many people they only want to see their favourite players from different teams go against each other (or with each other). And why not? When else would you get to see that?

A lot is said of the fact that defence is an after thought in the All Star game as the players focus on flashy  dunks and lay ups. But in the last few years I have seen some amazing defensive plays during All Star games and this year was no exception.

My only real complaint about All Star weekend is the entertainment. The mascots and cheerleaders are part of regular season NBA games and they do provide some light relief during stoppages in play. However this year’s All Star Staurday night featured a reduced line up of events with an increase in on court entertainment. I was not the only person getting bored of this, I could hear people around me complaining.  I don’t go to All Star so I can see kids dance groups or other performers from teams that aren’t even the host. It almost felt on the Saturday that the NBA was more concerned with promoting performers from around the league than players from around the league.

Please NBA bring back the four event line up on the Satuday night and leave some of the acts at home.

The other odd thing about All Star weekend this year was the choice of half time  entertainment. I don’t know what the thought process was behind Sting but he is not exactly the musical choice of your typical NBA fan.  During half time a lot of fans left their seat or started playing with their phones. Very few were paying any attention to the man on stage. This is in contrast to other year’s where the fans have definitely watched the show.

I don’t go to All Star for the half time show but if the NBA really wants to entertain for the whole evening they need to put more thought in to the choice of performers.

Next year All Star is in North Carolina. I’m already looking forward to how they are going to beat this year’s dunk contest.

MSG

Madison Square Gardens.

The world’s most famous arena.

Madison Square Gardens is an impressive building. There is no denying that. If you have the time I recommend you take the tour as it really does give you an added appreciation for the venue – and let’s you experience seating areas you might not otherwise get to see.

Just inside the building there is a merchandise shop that should cater for your Knicks based goods (or Rangers on NHL days). There are smaller merchandise stalls located around the concourse where you can pick up a foam finger, baseball cap or jump shirt if you are looking for one of the more popular ones.

A range of beer, spirits and soft drinks are available alongside a good range of food including hotdogs, burgers, popcorn and candy floss (or cotton candy as it’s called in the States).

Before the game the queues are not normally too bad but they can get long during the quarter breaks. It is also worth noting that American venues stop serving alcohol at the start of the final period of play, so at the start of the fourth quarter in basketball.

Prices are a little high but that’s typical in sporting venues. New York has no shortage of restaurants so I would recommend eating before the game if you want something substantial.

They claim that there is no such thing as a bad seat at MSG. I don’t entirely agree with this. Some of the seats in the 400 section are not ideal. Yes, you can see the whole court but as you are far from it, it helps to have the jumbotron. Except that in the furthest back seats you can’t see the jumbotron – small to screens are provided but at a pretty uncomfortable angle. Overall this does not have a massive impact but it is worth being aware of if you are going for your first visit.

All Star Sunday  -14 February 2016

The NBA really goes to town for the All Star game. They do their best to up the level of entertainment provided so that you are not really able to feel bored. Unless you don’t like the entertainment.

The five starters for each team are voted for by the fans. The remaining players are selected by the coaches. The players are announced to the crowd one at at time, they appear on a stage and then make their way down to the court. This provide just a little more entertainment than the normal player introductions. 

  

 
As it was Kobe Bryan’s last All Star game there was a moment to pay tribute to Kobe before the start of the game. I think the NBA handled it pretty well, it could have been over the top but it was a fitting tribute without detracting too much from the main event. 

  
All Star games don’t feature a huge amount of defence – though there are usually some pretty good blocks and the occasional sneaky steal. 

The main element of these game is the flashy offence; the players are more relaxed than in regular season games so they can go for a dunk or focus on lay ups (looking at you Steph Curry). I think Russell Westbrook summed it up post game when he commented that he likes to smile at All Star as he knows people comment on the fact that he doesn’t smile much during games.

The players do all look like they are having a lot of fun during the game and it’s great to see them mix it up and try things a bit out of their comfort zone during the game.

Russell Westbrook having fun is clearly good for his game as he won MVP for the second consecutive year. I was a little surprised that they didn’t find a way to give the trophy to Kobe but then he did play limited minutes. I think Paul George had a better game and was more deserving but as he was on the losing team I guess they felt they couldn’t award it to him. 

All Star Saturday night – 13 February 2016

All Star Saturday night is an opportunity for NBA players to showcase skills that you may see on the court but with a bit more flash.

First up was the skills challenge where players have to weave through some objects while dribbling, make an accurate pass, run down the court for a layup and then back down the court for a three point shot. This year they had 4 bigs and 4 guards take on the challenge which works as a head to head, with instant elimination.

  
The final was between KAT and Isaiah Thomas. It was close and the crowd really got behind the players. Both players were struggling to get a 3 to fall. In the end KAT made a three point just ahead of Thomas to win the trophy.

Possibly the funniest moment of the night was Kevin Hart challenging DeMarcus Cousins to a shooting contest. Cousins went first to set the pace. Kevin Hart is actually a good shot and he came pretty close to beating the NBA star. 

The three point challenge featured the splash brothers so we knew we were in for a show. Eight NBA players took place, and the three with the highest score progressed to the next round. WAe actually had to a have a tie-break round as three players had joint third highest points (the splash brothers filling spots 1 and 2).

  
Devin Booker was the youngest of the competitors and he kept his cool to advance to the final round. I think we all knew he wasn’t going to win but it was still exciting to watch him try. 

Booker had the first go in the final round, followed by Steph Curry so we didn’t have to wait long to realise that was true. Steph, as always, put on a show. The excitement when Klay Thomson took his place to start was amazing. People were standing up to make sure they didn’t miss any of the action.

When he made the shot that took him past Steph’s score the whole place went crazy.  It was as if we were watching history being made. 

  
The dunk contest, the last event of the evening, was just outstanding. Four players each make 2 dunks, the two with the highest combined score progress to the next round where they again make 2 dunks. Aaron Gordon and Zach LaVine quickly set themselves out as the ones to beat. 

The dunk made a comback last night; at one point I thought we were going to be there until the two guys were exhausted as they both kept getting full marks. My opinion is that Aaron Gordon should have won but there is no denying that Zach LaVine was amazing. 

BBVA Rising Stars Challenge

Friday 12 February 2016

The Air Canada Centre was quieter than I had expected when we arrived. We were sitting 9 rows from the front so we had a great view of the players warming up.    
The Rising Stars game is USA v The World. As we are in Canada, The World was effectively the home team. 

These games are exhibitions, a chance for the best rookies and sophomores to show off their skills. Defence is usually only an afterthought. For that reason a lot of people dislike All Star. I love it though, it’s a chance to see the players making the flashy moves and having a bit of fun with the game. 

The venue had a lot of empty seats. I am pretty sure the game had sold out in advance so  I’m not sure why there were so many empty seats but there were visible all around the arena. 

 The fans that were in attendance did not really seem to be enjoying the game. The people around me talked the whole time and didn’t seem to know who any of the players were. This was a shame as the game was very entertaining. There was a lot of dunks, 3 point shots, sneaky steals and passes. Sporadically a chant would start but strangely the chant was frequently for the Raptors rather than for any one of the players on the court. 

  
It was shame that the atmosphere was lacking as it was a really entertaining game.  I can only hope that the remainder of the All Star weekend has more atmosphere.

Clippers @ Celtics 10/02/16

The first quarter of the game seemed really quick. This was probably due to the low number of time outs and fouls. The Celtics seemed a little slow to start but they managed to keep the game close. In the last two and a half minutes of the game the teams went a little foul crazy – up to that point there had only been two fouls committed. By the end of the quarter both teams were in the bonus.
 This seemed to set a scene of sorts for the rest of the game as a lot of fouls were called. A lot of the referee decisions were questionable and at times it did seem that the three refs were not agreeing with each other.  
In the second quarter the Celtics could have had a stronger lead but for ref calls and some poor shots towards the end of the quarter.

Quarter 2 came to a dramatic end as Paul Pierce hit a half court three but it was judged to have left his hands after the buzzer.

The Celtics kept the lead during the third quarter but slowed at times allowing the Clippers to pull closer.

The forth quarter was the worst for the ref calls and the crowd let them know. The crowd got really rowdy during the quarter and some of the language used during heckles was definitely offensive. Now obviously I am only able to speak about the area I was seated in so I don’t know if that behaviour is typical.

 The NBA usually have an announcement at the start of game reminding people to behave appropriately, consume alcohol moderately and report abusive or disruptive behaviour. I didn’t see such an announcement at this game.

The final couple of minutes of regular play were slow as a a result of ref calls, ref reviews, officials time outs and time outs. Some fans were heading for the door but I think this was probably to try to catch trains.

Regular play came to an end with the teams even sending the game to overtime. (This weirdly resulted in a chant of ‘overtime’ from some of the people near me.)

Overtime really was an extension of the fourth in terms of delay to play in the first few minutes – there were so many foul calls for a five minute period of play. Thankfully in the last two minutes this eased slightly to allow for some uninterrupted basketball.

Interestingly DeAndre Jordan was on 50% free throw shooting going into the half and was on 53% free throw shooting at the end of the game.