The first game with new interim coach Kurt Rambis in charge was not what he would have wanted. It’s easy to judge him on this game but in reality the game came the day after the announcement that former coach Derek Fisher had been fired, leaving Rambis little time to make changes to practices.
MSG was oddly quiet for this game. At tip I could see many empty seats and although it did fill up a bit there were still more empty seats than I would have expected. The atmosphere was strange; there was no real air of anticipation. MSG has a reputation for loud crowds but for the entire first half and portions of the second that was not the case last night.
The Knicks got off to a slow start, in contrast to the Wizards who were strong on both offence and defence. With 7.18 left in q1 the Wizards had a 9 point lead.
The Knicks were struggling to get shots to fall, partly this was poor shot selection but the Wizards defence was forcing them to take poor shots to beat the shot clock.
Q1 ended with the Wizards up by 14 points.
The Knicks had a better start to the second, helped by some poor shots from the Wizards. Within 2 minutes the Knicks had come back to be within 7 points. However as the quarter went on the Knicks began to decline. The quarter ended with the Wizards ahead by 13 points. As this was similar to the difference at the end of the first this was actually not that bad for the Knicks. The increased performance at the start of the second definitely stopped the Wizards from running away with the game but the team needs to demonstrate more consistency.
One of the main problems in the first half was three point shots. The Knicks were bad at defending them and at making them with the 3 point percentage for the Wizards being 83% while the Knicks were on 17%. They need to stop letting teams have free reign from beyond the arc.
The third quarter was an entirely different story. The Knicks came out strong and managed to stay relatively strong through the entire quarter. They kept the pressure on the Wizards and managed to outcome them. The quarter finished with the teams level on 83 points.
The 3 point percentage for the Knicks increased to 26% while the Wizards decreased to 63%.
The final quarter was close pretty much the whole way. On a couple of occasions the Knicks were able to take small leads but they were not able to keep them.
A timeout was called with 2.09 left, and the Wizards up by 7. At this point fans were starting to head for the exit, convinced the game was over. The final minute of the game was slow to progress due to the number of timeouts and fouls, but it still managed to remain exciting.
The Knicks scored a three with 8 seconds left to bring the game within 1. A few more fouls were called, leading to free throws and there was three points in it in the last few seconds, the Knicks got the ball up the court for the three point attempt.. Which didn’t fall.
Consistency was an issue for the Knicks in this game and if they had been stronger in the first half there may have been a different outcome.
The next game will be after the All Star break, against local rivals the Brooklyn Nets. I think this will be the real test for Rambis; there will be an expectation that he will have made changes to the way the team the play and managed to put his own stamp on things. A poor performance on the 19th will leave people questioning his appointment and the team.