I watched Carmelo Anthony sink that game-winning jumper, with 0.5 seconds to go, probably 20 times last night. It was tough to process. What happened? Who's to blame? Should Shane Battier have hounded Melo on that last play? Should the Grizzlies, as noted by thenightstallion in our game thread, have fouled Melo allowing us to get the ball back with time on the clock?
In the end, we can second-guess and continue to dissect what went wrong. But, after sleeping on it, I actually figured out what went wrong. Nothing.
Think about it...
- We let Carmelo Anthony beat us. No, it wasn't Toney Douglas or Shawne Williams or Jared Jeffries or even Amar'e Stoudemire. It was Melo, arguably one of the three most complete scorers in the league.
- Tony Allen got UP! He had his hand planted firmly in Melo's face. You can teach ups (kind of...), but you can't teach size.
- I get the idea of fouling Melo, forcing him to hit two free throws and putting them on their heels as we go for the game-winning bucket. But it's tough to second-guess. If Melo missed that jumper, no one would have complained. Or if Melo did get fouled, hit both free throws and we miss the game-winning jumper we would have questioned the sequence of plays.
In the end, though, after thinking about what could have been, all I can think to say is this: It was a hard-fought, tough loss for us.
Let's look at what we did right.
First, we fought back, pushing the Knicks each and every time they thought they had us on the ropes. In the 4th quarter, it was Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Darrell Arthur and Zach Randolph's presence on BOTH ENDS of the court. We continued to disrupt the passing lanes, picking 13 steals and forcing 16 turnovers. The Knicks, however, adjusted late in the fourth, as we saw when Sam Young tried to close the passing lane only to have Landry Fields cut backdoor on him for an easy bucket. It's what we do best, though.
To say the Knicks were "on" offensively would be an understatement. They shot 53.4% from the floor, hitting 12-of-24 3-pointers. We watched as Toney Douglas hit jumper after jumper. We saw Landry Fields hit 7-of-8 buckets, while Shawne Williams burried a late dagger 3-point bucket, Roger Mason drained two 3-pointers to quiet our comeback, and, what do you know, Jared Jeffries made a bucket in the paint!! There were a few times where we got caught cheating defensively and our struggles against defending the three are well-documented, but disruption of the passing lanes, a strength, was at the forefront.The Knicks, however, just couldn't miss over the first three quarters -- they scored 96 points over the first three quarters, while taking just two free throws!
Speaking of free-throw shooting, we had a HUGE advantage, going 33-of-35 from the line, against the Knicks 4-of-4. Arthur hit all nine of his attempts, showing his chops in the paint. Tony Allen, who was just unreal at times last night, made 8-of-9 attempts, while Zach Randolph tied the game on a 3-point play. We proved to be aggressive in the paint, which was one the keys I talked about in the game preview -- the Knicks lack size and depth in the middle, make them use their fouls wisely.
Really, we in the thread continued to keep our spirits high as the Knicks continued to hit jumper after jumper. I have a hard time faulting the team for the Knicks hot hand.
Let's look at it this way: we hit 33 free throws, stole 13 balls and shot 53.7% from the floor and lost. That's a recipe for success, no?
I'm happy with...
- Tony Allen was a hound, disrupting the passing lanes, getting out on the open break, and, eventually, hounding Melo. Allen scored a team-high 22 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the floor and 8-of-9 from the line. He knows his limits offensively, and made it well known on Wednesday night.
- Darrell Arthur was huge off the bench. He scored 21 points in 29 minutes, pulling in 7 rebounds and showing how active he can be on the defensive side of the ball -- two blocks, one steal. He is going to be key as we make our playoff push. He's our size off the bench, and to know that we can "trust" him in a big spot is huge for us.
- Mike Conley was effective offensively with 20 points and on paper he looked liked a beast defensively with five steals. Hard to argue against those numbers. But, throughout the game he struggled to keep Doulgas in check. The things is, we know that Conley has his shortcomings on the defensive side of the ball, so I can't get on him for not locking down Douglas. He simply can't!
- Zach Randolph was beasting! He had an emotional outburst late in the fourth quarter and really turned up the volume on his defense. There was a fire in his game, and I loved it!
I'm disappointed with...
- Marc Gasol only took 7 shot attempts. I was thinking he needs to take about 12-15 in this one. Jared Jeffries has no size and no frame, and when Amar'e was checking him we should have had more sets for Gasol to try and draw cheap fouls or force Amar'e to back off as to not pick up fouls. I think we needed to get Gasol more involved.
- O.J. Mayo went on a 4-point spurt late in the first quarter and then, well, disappeared. We know that Battier is not going to come off the bench and provide an offensive spark, and we're fine with that. He's our intangibles guy! Our lockdown defender! Mayo, on the other hand is out there for one reason -- provide that offensive spark! It just wasn't there. Four shot attempts in 21 minutes doesn't add up.
Luckily, for us, we get another chance against the Knicks next week. It's likely that they'll have Chauncey Billups back by then, so we'll get a different look from them. But, as far as I'm concerned, we proved that we're no "easy out."
I look forward to the rematch.