Thursday, April 3, 2008

Post Game Thoughts - New York Knicks

Grizz Win 130-114! A blowout at the Forum. Streamers floated down from the sky and everyone left happy.

Why does it feel like another loss?

Victories seems Pyrrhic these days. Sure it was great to see the young players step up and produce in a game. The problem is that the win cost the Grizzlies two spots in the lottery game. They dropped from 3rd to 5th with a win over the New York Knicks, a team that seems depressed that they can't tank enough to catch the hapless Miami Heat who the Grizzlies also have to play next week.

A sparse crowd that was no where near the amount of tickets sold for the game saw the Grizzlies put together their best effort of the season against a team more interested in their lottery position than their record. Ideally, one would look at this game as something to build on for the future.

Does anyone truly believe that this season's Grizzlies are a team that can score 130 points on any given night? Do people look at this game as the first step in the rebuilding of the once solid franchise?

But there is good news here. First, while technically 5th in the standings the Grizzlies are still tied with New York for the 4th lottery spot. Tie-breakers aren't used in the lottery so if the season ends with both teams having the same record then both teams get the same number of ping pong balls. The head to head match ups are of no concern.

Rudy Gay was Kobe-esque in the ease and fluidity of his game. His 21 pts on 7-11 shooting was so easy it looked like that ad for the Grizzlies where players are working out on the court by themselves hitting shot after shot. At times it even felt like he was on the court, all alone, hitting shot after shot.

(Hat tip: Odenized )

For the game the team shot 60% from the field. Before you say that it was just the Knicks remember that this follows a 53.9% shooting night against Atlanta, 47.5% against the Clippers and 49.4% against the Lakers. Something is working with the offense. The team is hitting their shots at a rate unmatched all season. They are starting to shoot like the Phoenix Suns that we wanted when Marc Iavaroni was hired.

Juan Carlos Navarro was 4-6 from the 3 pt line running his season total to 146. That leaves him 12 short of the tying Kerry Kittle's NBA record for three pointers in a season. With 7 games remaining including Friday night's game against the Warriors, a game at Miami and two against Minnesota it is definitely within reach.

Javaris Crittenton was a major bright light. He had a terrific game with 23 pts (a new career high), 9 rebounds (tying a career high) and 3 assists (one short of his career high) including a beautiful bounce pass through traffic to Kyle Lowry for a layup. Not bad for a former 3rd string bench player who spent most of the night playing Small Forward for the Grizzlies.

Kyle Lowry was the pugnacious bulldog Grizzlies fans love to watch play. He also showed off in front of shooting coach Mark Price by going 5-8 from the field to go with his 6 assists and 2 steals.
That has been one of the main reasons the bench has been so productive of late. Memphis routinely has Kyle Lowry, Juan Carlos Navarro and Javaris Crittenton on the court at the same time and frankly teams can't handle that combination of speed, passing ability and youthful exuberance. These three players seem to really enjoy playing together and make life miserable for opposing benches. The Knicks tried to go big and it did allow them to have a huge night on the offensive glass (17 offensive boards) but it didn't allow them to catch up.

One of the reasons that Knicks were so effective on the glass also had to do with the one true negative of the night. Darko Milicic, who has been so effective preventing opposing teams from controlling the glass this season, appeared to injure his shoulder early in the game and did not return. That meant the Grizzlies had to go with Jason Collins and Kwame Brown in the middle. Collins played his normal defensive game.

Kwame was the story of the night. The rarely used $9 million expiring contract (and does anyone think of him in any other terms) had his best game since coming over in the trade. He was actually important to the early success of the team with 6 pts and 6 boards in the first half. It looked like an easy double-double for Kwame as the Knicks resorted to fouling him to keep him at bay offensively. Clearly exhausted after playing 31 minutes he only finished with 8 boards but it was still good to see him out there gaining confidence every minute he was on the court.

The test of the team's new found success comes Friday night against the desperate Golden St Warriors who lost to the Dallas Mavericks last night to fall one game behind Denver for the last playoff spot.

It should be a great game to watch.

BallHype: hype it up!


TTN media room said...

I'd like to remind you that last year we had the most ping pong balls and look where it got us. If you're actually a fan, then you never root for your team to lose. Doing that is just lame. Besides, who is it that we're desperately trying to get in the draft this year? There certainly are some good players but there aren't any incredible superstars in this one.

oh yeah.. it's "through" traffic not "threw traffic" unless Crittenton was throwing a bus.

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