Wednesday: The King, The Moose, and KCP

O.K., so the Knicks may actually be a very bad basketball team. That friggin’ Cavs win getting all of our hopes up.

Knicks-Pistons

Heading into Detroit for a matchup with the winless Pistons, I thought that this was our best chance to get a win over this three game roadtrip and wash some of the foul taste of Tuesday’s third quarter out of our mouths. Again, yeeesh.

It’s more than worth noting that the Pistons came into this game collectively shooting 22% from deep with a gorgeous 1-17 3-point performance during the last game against the Nets. Their starting shooting guard, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had also been shooting 22% from deep and a shocking 28% from the floor through the first three games of the season. Of course, he promptly went on to splash in 2 three pointers to start the game and the Pistons got red-hot from behind the arc, finishing the night a tad under 50% with 11-23 shooting.

This reminded me a lot of a game we’d played against D-Town last year where despite having the league’s absolute lowest FT% (thanks Andre Drummond, Josh Smith, pretty much everybody I guess), the Pistons went on to make 78% of their attempts on an endless parade to the line. I guess the Knicks defense just knows how to bring out the best in another team. And I can’t even say the Pistons got lucky, because they missed an INSANE amount of lay-ups and tip-ins and shots within 4 feet of the basket. I heard Clyde say at one point in the night that the Pistons were shooting around 50% from the restricted area, which is absolutely horrendous for a frontcourt as large and talented as Detroit’s.

Still, that’s what you expect Detroit to do. They’re big and they’re mean and they beat the CRAP out of us on the offensive glass. If I can get Fisher to do one thing in practice, it would be to work on boxing out for rebounds. If the Pistons had made even half of those misses we could’ve lost by 30.

And again, that was exactly why this loss was so cruel. We went down 5 to end the 1st, started getting smoked in the 2nd, and were down pretty much anywhere between 12 and 17 points right until 5 minutes left in the 4th quarter. We went on a little run, bolstered by some clutch shooting from Shumpert (shooting like 75% from deep on the season so far) and some bad Pistons’ misses. We even cut it to 3 at one point with a little under 2 minutes left but when it came down to it, we just couldn’t get the stops. Greg Monroe, or the Moose, as he’s affectionately known had a HUGE night (Way better than either frontcourt mate. Bet SVG is cursing the Pistons’ front office as loud as all their fans for that Josh Smith deal), ending the night with a monster 23 points and 18 rebounds. The whole time our run was going on, I knew we wouldn’t get it back (Bad fan? Realistic fan? Knicks fan.) but it still hurt all the same. I guess its better that we only lost by 3 instead of 17, but it felt like a tease to come that close and only show some heart when the game was practically over. For shame.

Speaking of shame, Melo had a horrendous night. Way worse than against the Wizards. Dude was 0-10 in the first half with two points on FTs. He ended shooting less than 25% from the field, going 5-21 and making me tear up a little bit. Our lone bright spot (although he KILLED it) was Jason Smith who was inserted into the starting lineup, made shots from everywhere, had half our points for most of the first half, and did this. Love ya Jason.

On to the Nets. Hopefully we can finally get Melo fired up for our cross-river rivals and get back to .500

Cavaliers-Jazz

I tuned into this game with about 8 minutes left in the 4th quarter because the Jazz were up 5 and I wanted to see if that little lead could make this into a contest against one of the NBA’s most potent offenses. Turned out the Jazz had been up as much as 16 points earlier in the game, but could they hold on? The announcer was saying that one of the most important things a young team can learn to do is to close out games.

I have to admit, there is a certain amount of schadenfreude (read: sour grapes) to be gained in rooting against the Cavaliers. And I’m not exactly sure where this comes from. I was never as much of a Heat hater as all of my friends and was genuinely excited to see Lebron coming back to Cleveland. I ranked them #1 in my League Pass rankings for chrissake. However, something about this team makes me want to root against them. Maybe its because the Knicks played that tight game and won to start the season. Maybe because I’m going up against a Kevin Love team in fantasy right now. Maybe I just like the King having to work for his money. But I was all Jazz last night.

And the Jazz have a lot of fun pieces. Watching Exum acclimate to the NBA is very cool; he hasn’t been forcing his shot, just moving the ball and playing long-armed defense. Rudy Gobert is a skinny world-destroyer. Derrick Favors has been playing out of his mind and Gordon Hayward. Well Gordon Hayward does stuff like this. He also does stuff like this but I think we can forgive him when he’s putting up a 21 point 7 assist night and going head-to-head with the best player in the world.

So, the Jazz clung precariously to that lead, helped in large part by the big bodies of Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors. Varejao can guard either one of them but not both, and the other one was there to outmuscle Kevin Love for a little tip-in on every missed Jazz shot down the stretch. Still, Lebron is Lebron so with under a minute left down 4, he hit a KILLER 3 pointer. Then, after two Jazz free throws, he drew the contact on a blatant lean-in and calmly sank all 3 to tie the game at 100. 3.4 Seconds left, inbound to Hayward. It looked like Lebron ran into one of his one guys and fell down, but one of the Cavs reacted quickly to put a body on Hayward who launched up a DEEP contested two. Ice. Game Over. Party in Utah, but they don’t really party in Utah. I was ecstatic. I was overjoyed. I forgot about the Knicks for a second, kind of.

A couple of writers before the season said the Jazz might be this year’s surprise team of the West ala Phoenix from last season. They’re a young group of guys who run the floor and play hard on every possession. They also have a new first year coach in Quin (!!) Snyder who represents a huge upgrade over the previous one. (Also that lock of hair was over his head all night, looking like some creepy giant scar on his forehead). Their roster is even better on paper than Phoenix’s was last year. However, I’m still not convinced. This was a big win, but Phoenix won games with a very specific style of a two-guard approach and shooting a buttload of 3 pointers. The Jazz play a little bit more conventionally, and still don’t really have the talent to match up with most of the Western bloodbath.

As for the Cavs, yikes. Andrew Sharp of Grantland wrote a piece yesterday, asking when it was OK to worry about the Cavs after their loss to Portland. He concluded that Cleveland should be able to recover by blowing out the Jazz and slowly getting the pieces to fall together. Whoops. The problem here isn’t even what we thought it would be: the defense or the lack of bench scoring (David Blatt finally had Dion come off the bench, replacing him with Marion in the starting lineup). Its that this team does not pass the ball. They came into Wednesday’s game ranked 25th in the league in passes and assisted makes and I gotta figure this game drops them to the very bottom. 6 Assists!! For the entire team!! That’s incredible when you consider Lebron averaged 6 and a half last year and almost 7 for his career. Kyrie Irving had 34 points and 0 assists last night!! I know its early and these guys have all the talent and leadership to figure this out, but that 6 assist game is historically bad (7th time this has happened since 2003, more than ten years). For an offense that has the potential to be one of the greatest of all time, these guys have a lot of work to do.

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