By John Schmeelk
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The Garden was alive. The Knicks were a few tenths of a second away from beating the best team in the Eastern Conference. But the last thing I want to see this morning is a Knicks fan smiling about any of that. The Knicks are a real basketball team again, and there are no more moral victories.
A loss like that should make Knicks fans angry. It should have been hard to sleep last night. You should have still been annoyed when you woke up this morning. A good loss isn’t enough any more. This isn’t the Isiah Thomas era. It’s not the Scott Layden era. In the 90’s a loss was never acceptable and it shouldn’t be now.
No one is saying that the Knicks are a championship caliber team, but they need to have the attitude of one, and the fans need to share that approach. Paul Pierce took a victory lap and then stood near center court and started bowing after the game was decided. The Knicks and their fans need to remember that and make him pay for it next time they see him. Of course, Pierce never would have done it if beating the Knicks didn’t matter to him. After the game, Kevin Garnett commented how the Garden felt like it did when he used to take on the Knicks with Latrell Sprewell.
The Knicks ARE back and it’s time to start acting like it. Take a cue from Raymond Felton: “Tough loss, tough shot, I’d rather lose by 15 points than like this. I am mad. I hate to lose.” Losing to the Celtics at home is not something to celebrate. Be angry, and enjoy every minute of it. This is the type of pain and anguish a Knicks fan hasn’t been able to feel the last ten years. The team didn’t earn it. In a strange way, this type of pain is good. Feel it, embrace it, and look forward to beating the Heat on Friday.
Up and Under
Up: The Knicks offense is spectacular. Amar’e Stoudemire is a monster around the basket, and unstoppable isolating in the both the high and low post. Felton is mastering the pick and roll and penetrating the lane. Danilo Gallinari has found a comfort zone as a third or fourth option. Wilson Chandler does a little bit of everything, and is actually hitting the three consistently. Landry Fields does all the little things that helps a team win. This is the offensive genius Mike D’Antoni was touted to be when he came over from the Suns.
Under: The Knicks defense is still their achilles heel. Despite an offense that scored on nearly every possession in the 4th quarter, they could not pull away from the Celtics. Ray Allen found himself open around screens. Garnett dominated close to the basket, getting excellent post position and grabbing a ton of offensive rebounds. Pierce had great success isolating on the perimeter. Sure, Pierce pushed off of Stoudemire on the last possession, but the Knicks or any other team will NEVER get that call. They need a better defensive strategy (less switching) and fewer missed assignments. Until this gets fixed, the Knicks won’t be a top 3 team in the east.
Around the World
The Heat come to town on Friday winners of ten in a row. Many of those have been double digit victories. It seems like the Heat have found some type of answer to their early season difficulties. They still have one glaring weakness: interior defense. Chris Bosh is an average defender, and the rest of their frontcourt consists of Joel Anthony, Zyndrunas Illguaskas, Juwan Howard and Erick Dampier. Stoudemire should have a field day. The Heat play good team defense, but besides Bosh, no one can guard Stoudemire. The Knicks needed to win one of their two big games this week, so they better get Friday night’s game against LeBron and the Heat. And Knicks fans, I expect some very creative chants directed at King James.
December 15th has come and gone and now NBA teams can trade the free agents signed during the offseason. Besides the Carmelo Anthony option, the Knicks need to strengthen their bench. The starters are playing way too many minutes because D’Antoni simply can’t trust his backups. A defensive minded center, and a quality passing point guard should be at the top of the list. I’m even starting to think about the option of foregoing Anthony all together, and going after a combination of Marc Gasol and a quality guard in the offseason. I’m still categorizing these thoughts into the “crazy talk” realm, but the option is growing on me. Just sayin…
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