Ho boy, the return of the Shane Larkin – John Wall matchup. I watched these two guys go head to head in the Garden over the preseason and while the Knicks managed to come away with a close victory, I was not excited about Wall having another opportunity to destroy Larkin on defense.
What I really should have been worried about, however, was the return of Paul Pierce to the Wizards’ lineup. Pierce had sat out that preseason game and while Otto Porter finished that night with 22 points in his place, Pierce is an upgrade in almost every conceivable way. This includes, tragically, on defense where The Truth made Carmelo (for lack of a more appropriate word) his lady all night long. Melo did finish the game with 18 points, but that came on a horrendous 8-23 shooting to go along with 7 turnovers. Yeesh. Looking back you can see it happening as early as the Knicks’ first possession. Pierce gets all up in his face and as Melo goes to try to draw the handcheck foul, he puts an elbow into Pierce for the offensive foul. Carmelo’s always had a bit of a problem with the ornery, shit-talkers and Pierce was exactly the kind of asshole veteran to lock up Anthony on defense.
All that being said, the Knicks looked very good in the first half. They moved the ball around nicely, Jason Smith and JR Smith continued their Smith-Love connection assisting one another, and the starting front-court of Melo-STAT-Dalembert was big enough to bang with the Wiz and actually outrebound them. Larkin actually played fairly good on-ball defense on Wall, though it helped that the Washington floor general missed at least 3 point blank layups. We went into the half up 5 and God I wish the game could’ve ended there.
Third quarter from hell. Really just miserably offensively, no shots falling. And then not getting back on defense to make those misses even worse. During the first half, I’d been encouraged by the fact that our bench would definitely be able to outplay the Wizards’ second unit, but even they were running train all over us in the third, including some really clutch shooting by Drew Gooden. Also, we were just clamoring to give the ball right back, losing the turnover battle 15-8 at one point in the quarter. All told, the Wiz outscored us 32-15 in the third, good for a 17 point swing and for me yelling and pleading with my television set.
The Knicks showed a little bit of heart in the 4th, particularly by Shumpert who followed up a nice blocked shot with a HUGE 3 pointer. And, even though we cut the lead to 6 at one point, we just weren’t getting stops. I know the Wizards played real team ball, but the guy who really extinguished any comeback runs was Professor Andre Miller, the oldest player in the NBA, posting up Larkin, Prigioni, and even JR at one point to put in little effortless hooks. Ughh, by the end of this one I was barely watching, only praying that the Knicks would be able to bounce back tonight against a fairly disappointing Pistons squad.
As the Knicks game began winding down and going to sad, after-loss press coverage I decided to flip over to the Moda Center and watch the Cavs take on the Blazers. Not only are these guys both incredibly fun squads to watch, they feature one of the most exciting PG matchups in the league with Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard. Lillard’s been a little off to start the season, getting a ton of his shots blocked, but I think you could make a case for either of these guys for being the NBA’s next great floor general.
And GODDAMN. The start of this game. The offenses that these teams have. Unbelievable.
First of all, the Cavs went 10-10 to start this game, shooting a cool 100% from the floor (Math!). However, because of a couple of turnovers and a disparity in 3 pointers, the Trail Blazers were somehow right there with them, making around 80% of their shots and running the floor. The commentators repeatedly said “looks like there won’t be much defense in this game”, which is I guess all you can say where each team is just splashing away open looks and then running to the other end of the court to get splashed upon. Wet.
In a lot of ways, these teams are very good foils for one another. Both have a young, dynamic PG with lights out shooting and no defense. Both have All-Star PFs, though Love gets the slight nod on LA because he can step outside the arc. And both teams have tragically, 0 bench threats. I honestly can’t believe that Coach Blatt still has not made the adjustment to have Dion Waiters coming off the bench to take all the shots he wants and make the Cavs’ second-unit at least kind of intimidating. But the Blazers’ bench may be even worse. Check out the box score. Not a single player scored more than 5 points for them off the pine.
In the end, both of these teams need their starting 5s and All-Star caliber players to carry the rest of them with offensive explosions. And last night, it was the Blazers all the way. After the Cavs made those 10 shots to start the game, they went a disastrous 3-19 after that and the game devolved into ugly bench players throwing up ugly shots. All I can say is that Coach Stotts managed his Blazers’ minutes a little better and staggered in his starters to give those gross second units a little more punch. Although, looking back at that box, none of the Cavs besides Love had a particularly good game, with Lebron scoring his lowest point total since 2008. For as thrilling a first quarter as this was, the game really fell apart a little after that. The NBA is weird sometimes.