Trust me on this, if you ever truly want to know how big of a difference 24 hours can make, just watch the New York Knicks.
On Wednesday night, after the Knicks dropped a 104-80 loss to the Chicago Bulls, Derrick Rose held court in the visitor’s locker room at Madison Square Garden. He was upbeat. He spoke about how his Bulls were going to be “scary” this season. He admitted that he couldn’t remember when he last played so few minutes in a meaningful game in which he was healthy.
Without saying it, Rose said what everyone thought after the shellacking, and that is that the Knicks simply do not belong in the same arena as his team.
Apparently, that’s a different story.
Four hundred and sixty miles away, triumphantly, Jason Smith pulled down the resulting rebound from Kyrie Irving’s missed three-pointer. The Knicks bench erupted because it was the game’s final meaningful shot. With the Cavaliers trailing 92-87 with less than 10 seconds remaining in the contest, Smith’s rebound sealed the deal.
The Knicks would go on to pull out an improbable 95-90 victory in Cleveland. It was the night of LeBron James’ homecoming and, on paper, was a certain loss.
But these Knicks — a walking, collective dichotomy — didn’t get that message.
Recap: In LeBron James’ return to Cleveland, the Knicks spoiled the party with a victory on Thursday night.
Need to Know: After being outplayed for the majority of the first half – even with LeBron James playing poorly – the Knicks closed the second quarter with a 20-11 run to head into the half trailing just 44-42.
The Knicks carried their strong first half play into the third, opening up a 67-60 lead with roughly 2 minutes to go in the quarter, and wound up entering the fourth with a 67-64 advantage.
Even though Carmelo Anthony (who was in foul trouble) spent the first 5 minutes of the fourth quarter on the bench, the Knicks jumped out to an 82-73 lead with 5 minutes left and held an 8 point lead with 2:30 to go.
After a small surge by the Cavaliers and two terrible offensive possessions by the Knicks, they regained their 5 point lead when J.R. Smith‘s teardrop made it 90-85 New York with 48 seconds to go. The Cavs responded immediately at the other end, but Carmelo Anthony’s baseline jumper put the Knicks up 92-87 with 25 seconds remaining and sealed the win.
Carmelo Anthony led the way for the Knicks with 25 points and 6 assists.
Iman Shumpert had 12 points, and J.R. Smith and Jason Smith added 11 apiece for New York.
Quincy Acy scored 8 points and grabbed 10 rebounds before fouling out in the fourth quarter.
In his return to Cleveland, LeBron James scored 17 points while shooting 5-for-15 from the field. James turned the ball over 8 times.
The Knicks travel to Cleveland for LeBron James’ first game back with the Cavaliers on Thursday night.
The game is scheduled for 8 p.m. on MSG and ESPN Radio.
Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, Samuel Dalembert, Shane Larkin and Iman Shumpert are expected to start.
Jose Calderon and Andrea Bargnani are both out.
New York tied the season series with Cleveland last season, 2-2, with each team going 1-1 on its home court.
Carmelo Anthony led the team in points with 29.0, 7.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists over four games versus the Cavaliers this season. J.R. Smith added 17.0 points and 3.0 assists in four games (three starts).
Kyrie Irving paced the Cavs with 30.3 points and 7.3 assists in three battles with the Knicks this season. Dion Waiters provided 14.3 points off the bench.
Jose Calderon will miss two to three weeks with a right calf strain.
Calderon underwent an MRI on Thursday, the Knicks said.
He was scheduled to play in the Knicks season opener, but didn’t dress, and was replaced by Shane Larkin in the lineup.
Keith Schlosser, Lead Writer
Calderon represents veteran leadership, organization, order in the offense and is able to keep his teammates calm by controlling the tempo of a game. These were all things New York visibly lacked on Wednesday against the Bulls.
As the point guard continues to sit out, his team may continue to suffer.
While the early goings of the season are admittedly part of a transitional period, having Calderon run the floor would undoubtedly make it more of a seamless one. A big upgrade over Raymond Felton, he figures to be a key to the team adjusting to, and eventually picking up, the triangle offense.
Not having Calderon has hurt the Knicks (both in preseason and the regular one), and it’s been easy to tell. In addition to being a savvy floor general, the veteran also proved to be aggressive when looking for his own offense in the preseason as well. His all-around skill-set and subsequent assertiveness would stand to aid the Knicks as they seek out secondary offensive options in the triangle.
Without Calderon, New York’s offense was in disarray during the season opener. While interim starter Shane Larkin may have not been solely to blame, his over the top speedy and erratic nature on the hardwood certainly didn’t help. He’ll need to remain steady and calm down in Calderon’s extended absence.
The Knicks’ current frontcourt woes could be addressed… this offseason?
In an interview with the New York Post, Bulls forward Pau Gasol said the Knicks have a chance to sign his brother, center Marc Gasol, away from the Grizzlies when he hits free agency this summer.
“We’ll see what happens next year, what he decides,” Gasol told the newspaper. “Hopefully he’ll have a strong year and all the options in the world, because he’s one of the top centers, interior players in the league, so any team would be fortunate to have him. It’s a personal decision. I talked to my brother enough about Phil that he knows what he brings to the table.”
Marc Gasol is among a handful of talented centers available in free agency this summer, along with Omer Asik, Roy Hibbert, Al Jefferson, DeAndre Jordan, Brook and Robin Lopez, as well as a familiar face in Tyson Chandler.
Gasol will have no shortage of suitors, as he’s a gifted offensive and defensive presence in the paint.
The Knicks’ will surely make a play for Gasol, hoping that he can supplant Samuel Dalembert’s current spot in the lineup. With Carmelo Anthony, Jose Calderon, Tim Hardaway Jr. and a power forward to be determined, along with Gasol, the Knicks have quite a formidable starting five to run the Triangle offense through. One that arguably rivals Phil Jackson’s Lakers teams with Pau Gasol, Kobe and Derek Fisher.
Following the Knicks’ 104-80 opening night defeat to the Bulls, there’s clearly plenty to work on. Execution of the triangle was lacking, the players looked out of sync, but nevertheless, such difficulty early on was to be expected.
Making strides and improving as a team will take time.
Having said that, how would you grade Derek Fisher’s first game as head coach? His team was not prepared to succeed with the triangle offense on opening night, but should that be considered his fault? New York wasn’t expected to excel on day one.
Coach Fisher experimented (albeit, a little too much, even) with different lineups early in the game, using ten different players in the first quarter alone. He truly brought the meaning of “second unit” back to life, utilizing five reserves on the court at the same time in the second quarter as well. Such substitutions didn’t appear to be necessary, as the rookie head coach opted to mix things up even when such a lineup was playing well early on (the Knicks were within four points of Chicago after one quarter, and still only down by ten at halftime).
Despite the blowout, Fisher still made some savvy decisions along the way. Fresh off his playing career, he can clearly sense the momentum shifting in either team’s direction throughout a contest. His timeout calls (and the subsequent timing of them) were on point. He knew when it was time to calm his team down, give them a break, and/or refocus them in hopes of stopping the bleeding. Unfortunately, with the different respective lineups, New York reverted back to old ways, deviated from the triangle, and things got out of hand relatively quickly in the second half.
Coach Fisher also accomplished something that Mike Woodson never could throughout his own Knicks’ tenure. The new coach managed the minutes of those players in foul trouble quite well. After picking up two fouls early in the first quarter, Iman Shumpert was pulled early, and his minutes were subsequently monitored closely in the first half. When he came back in during the second quarter, Fisher knew enough to pull Shumpert with less than a minute remaining, instead of risking could number three.
Another interesting little tid-bit about Fisher’s first game: when the game was out of reach, he took the opportunity to experiment with a Shumpert and J.R. Smith backcourt in the fourth quarter.
Should Fisher still be to blame for the blowout loss? Or should this simply be attributed to the team going through a transition? Opening night jitters? You decide.