Knicks @ Hawks

Thursday 14 February 

The Knicks decided to gift the fans a win for Valentine’s Day, but the draft lottery predictor now suggests we will get the 5th pick.

I had anticipated that this would be another Knicks loss. The Hawks have a better record this season and in their last game they had beater LBJ and the Lakers. 

The Knicks do have a habit of looking confident at the start of games only to fall asleep somewhere in the 2nd or 3rd so when they took an early lead I didn’t allow myself to get my hopes up. There was 7.33 remaining on the clock in Q101 before the Hawks scored. At home. The Knicks were up by 14. At that point I had some hope of seeing a Knicks win. 

At the end of the first the Knicks still has a 15 point lead. During the second quarter the Knicks did start to slow down as expected.  The sloppy mistakes were creeping in and they ended the period with only a three point cushion. 

The third quarter didn’t start well for the Hawks who got in to foul trouble early with four fouls in the first three minutes. They did manage to keep the score close for a good section of the quarter. However, the Knicks managed to finish the quarter ahead by 11. This was not because the Knicks were playing so well, it had more to do with the mistakes being made by the Hawks.

The Knicks managed to maintain a comfortable lead throughout the forth to bring home the v-day win. It would have been nice if they had managed to do this in fron of the crowd at MSG but the Knicks fans in attendance in Atlanta were definitely happy.

Knicks v Sixers

Wednesday 13 February

Last night at MSG the New York Knicks took on the Philadelphia 76ers. This Knicks team has the franchise record for consecutive losses and they were playing a 76ers team with multiple All Stars. The result was never in doubt. 

As a Knicks fan it’s hard to see the team lose so often, the end result might be a high lottery pick (there is no guarantee of a number one pick) but that feels like a very long way away from now. 

I have a very real concern about player development. Last night’s game showed some moments of great play from Kevin Knox (rookie), Damyean Dotson (rookie) and Dennis Smith Jnr (2nd year). However, the constant losing can’t be good for morale and there is more than enough evidence of sloppy mistakes to make you question how much they are focusing on the fundamentals. 

At times it almost felt that the will to tank was so strong it was effecting the 76ers (many of whom have experience of tanking or ‘trusting the process’ as they euphemistically referred to it). At certain points in the game the most effective element of the Knicks defence was the 76ers offence. The 76ers have talent on the team but the second night of their back-to-back (which started with a loss to the Celtics) seemed to leave them tired and a little bit off their usual form.  

The MSG crowd, that only four nights before had been chanting for Zion, were getting energised by the moments of good offence and good blocks and was really willing the team to finally win a game. 

The Kevin Knox dunk over Ben Simmons is definitely my highlight play of the year and Mitchell Robinson’s double double was encouraging. However, DeAndre Jordan had a poor night (compared to his previous games as a Knick) and Kevin seemed to struggle against the 76ers defence. 

Knicks @ Cavaliers

Monday 11 February 

Another day, another Knicks loss. 

Assuming that both teams would be satisfied with a losing record this season to ensure a good draft pick, which of course both teams are denying, this could have been billed as a must lose game for both teams.  We were not the only Knicks fans in attendance and it was nice to see that others had come out to support the tank.  

The home crowd were vocal in their support of the team, aided by the humungotron and the piped in chants. It was clear that they valued a win and it was only towards the end of the game that I heard some Cavs fans realise that a lose would help them, more than a win, in the draft. 

This game marked Kevin Love’s return from injury – to the delight of the home crowd and supporters of the Knicks tank (which of course they absolutely are not doing). Love was happy to be back on the court and taking charge for the Cavs.  Arguably the best Cavs player of the night was Larry Nance Jr. 

For the Knicks it was another double double for DeAndre Jordan and Kadeen Allen was hot on the bench for 25 points. There was definitely a feeling that the Knicks could win this game especially after a three point shot from Kornet with under a minute to go drawing the Knicks to within one point. The remainder of the final minute went largely scoreless until foul by Allen sent Colin Sexton to the line for two giving the Cavs a three point cushion.

Again, this was a close game and it really looked as though it could go either way until the final twenty seconds or so. There are signs that the Knicks have the talent and ability to win games, making this losing streak even more frustrating.

Knicks v Raptors

Saturday 9 February 

The Raptors fans were loud and proud at MSG on Saturday night. Clearly a good number had made the efforts to get to the game. They were rewarded with a good game for the Raptors. 

The Knicks entered this game on a losing streak and it was the second game of a back-to-back. The players didn’t seem overly affected by either of these things. 

The minutes were shared pretty equally among the 9 Knicks players who took to the court. Kevin Knox was the Knicks highest scorer (20 points) and DeAndre Jordan got a double double. On occasion though Jordan appeared to lose concentration and almost forget he was playing. 

Looking at the game stats you can see that the game was close and actually the Knicks look like they matches up well. Which makes the lose even more frustrating. 

It was disappointing to hear the Knicks fans be out chanted by the Raptors fans in attendance but there was a lot of them and it does get hard to keep cheering on a team that seems to be focusing on losing. 

Nets @ Bulls December 28 2016

This was an interesting game for the Bulls. They had a terrible start going 9-0 down and needing to call a time out with 9.48 to go in the first. Whatever coach Hoiberg said clearly worked though as the Bulls scored out of the time out. 

They had a challenge ahead of them but by 2.50 to go in the first they had managed to get a one point lead and even finished the quarter three points ahead. 

Given the Nets performance away from home this season you would have been forgiven for thinking that this would not be an overly difficult game for the Bulls. Perhaps it was this optimism that led to them seeming just a little off their game. 

The second quarter started in much the same way as the first with the Bulls failing to score in the first two minutes, while allowing the Nets to score 5. 

From there the second quarter stayed tight, with neither team able to take a big lead and the Bulls found themselves going into the half down by 3. 

The third started better for the Bulls but although they fought to keep it close they did allow the Nets to sit in be lead for most of the quarter. At points, with the Nets 7 points ahead, it seemed that they might win the game. 

The fourth was close, although for most of it the Nets were ahead. With 2.50 to go they were 7 points ahead but they Bulls fought back, bringing the game level with 1.22 to go. 

By this point the crowd was completely on the edge of their seats ( in many cases standing) willing their team on. 

The final minute was what basketball games are for, the Bulls took a 2 point lead, the Nets levelled the score and then as the clock ran down Jimmy Butler had the ball, would he make the shot? Would it go in?

Yes and yes. 

In the final second he released the ball and made the shot!

Bulls win! 

Christmas Day Boston Celtics @ New York Knicks

The NBA traditionally plays Christmas Day games and this year was no exception with the Celtics @ the Knicks kicking things off. 

MSG seemed a little off their game as they were later than normal in allowing fans in to the venue and seemed to be practicing heightened crowd control (of course this was New York on Christmas Day so precautions are understandable).

The Knicks are having a good season, certainly better than some of the results would suggest. This was a highly anticipated match up following on from the dramatic game earlier in the season which saw Carmelo Anthony being removed from the game and KP picking up a technical foul as well.

All the players seemed to be excited for the match up and there was palpable anticipation among the crowd. The crowd started off fairly quiet but as the game progressed the volume rose and you easily hear the chants of ‘defence’ or ‘let’s go Knicks’. The Garden is known for this and it really is something to be part of the experience.

After the game Walt ‘Clyde’ Frasier commented on the atmosphere saying “you could hear all the oohs and ahhs, it was like Linsanity”

I’m not sure it was quite that, but every dubious decision by the referees was met with strong booing from the crowd, while a good play was met with loud cheers.

There was a sense that the Knicks may have started on the Christmas dinner a little early as they seemed sluggish at times. Noah is under a lot of pressure to perform this season, and is jeered when he fumbles or misses an easy rebound however he was not the only one to fumble the ball during this game (looking at you Melo).

Overall though it wasn’t a bad game for the Knicks, to suggest that is the reason they lost is to suggest that the Celtics are a bad team, which they are not – they were sitting second in the division gong in to the game. They have some great players including the lightening fast Isaiah Thomas, who scored 27 points in this game.

The Knicks lost this game on a couple of things- turnovers (17 to Boston’s 6), steals (5 to Boston’s 10) and shot selection, with marginally lower percentages in both FGs and three point shots. There were some media exports following this game claiming that isolation play was a big factor but I just don’t see that, this was a close game. The previous two home wins had 4 and 6 players in double digit points respectively, this game had 4 as well so I’s not out of the ordinary.

The team just need to keep focusing on being a team, finding the open man and staying awake on defence.

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. 

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.