By Jake Appleman

I decided to go to Jazz-Knicks because, even though it’s early, I wanted to see if the Knicks are going to be competitive this year. The inauspicious start is disconcerting, but the Knicks also lost three games that they could have easily won (home to Miami, at the Clippers and at Sacramento). You could make the argument that without Z-Bo having to miss time for his grandmother’s passing and the strange Zeke/Starbury beef, they’d be 6-7. In other words, better fortune combined with less stupidity, and this team could easily be treading water like an excited labradoodle. (And let’s be honest, do we really expect anything less than mediocrity from this bunch? I thought not.) I wanted to see if they could build something after beating the Bulls on Saturday instead of doing their impression of a folding chair.

Pregame:

–Jason Williams is in the house, presumably to see his boy Carlos Boozer. I hear the words, “do the best you can,” come out of his mouth as I walk by. Sounds accurate. Best of luck, J-Will.

–Jarron Collins is like half the size of his twin brother. Jason should henceforth be referred to as “Twin and a half.” Or, put it this way: Jarron, in size, is the halfway point between Jason Collins and Ben Collins. Mathematically: Jason Collins + Ben Collins divided by 2 = Jarron Collins.

–Jerry Sloan holds court in the hallway outside the visiting locker room. He extols the virtues of Ronnie Brewer, inferring that Brewer feeling mistreated last season could have contributed to his excellent off-season work ethic. He also speaks with pride about AK-47—“he’s been terrific”—working with Jeff Hornacek on his shooting, mentioning that, even though shots aren’t falling with regularity, they still look good. Um, you can get a nose job, but that doesn’t mean you have a real nose.

–As mentioned before, the pregame video montage of the Knicks working out in conjunction with Kanye’s “Stronger” is lame. REMIX: “Heard they’ll do anything for a Klondike. Well, Steph will do anything for a…” Too soon?

–Isiah is booed like his team is 3-9 and he recently lost a civil litigation sexual harassment suit or something.

FIRST QUARTER

–Zach Randolph showcases his offensive versatility (long jumper, stickback, running hook) in scoring his team’s first three buckets.

–The Jazz move away from the ball with purpose. Every cut is designed to have a certain effect on the way the floor is spaced and the options the team (operative word here) has. Contrarily, the Knicks are somewhat stagnant, but it appears to be ok tonight because their talent (Randolph and Steph) are both scoring at will. Given these opposite methods, it would only seem natural that the Knicks win only when their talent comes through while the Jazz have a system to fall back on—their flex set; predicated on uniformity and interchangeability—when things aren’t going their way. Structure and motion vs. A disorganized potpourri of screen/rolls, post-ups and drive and kick bailouts. The juxtaposition is staggering, especially because the Knicks are winning. Obviously, it isn’t this cut and dried, but the impression sticks nonetheless.

–A Starbury 4 point play puts the Knicks up 23-18.

–Overmatched on D, the Knicks do a good job of getting their hands in the passing lanes to disrupt flow and maintain their edge.

SECOND QUARTER

–A minute or so into the second quarter, Zeke is rolling with a Curry-Lee-Balkman-Jeffries-Nate quintet. All hustle and no shots outside 12 feet. Nate could conceivably start jacking 3’s, but without any other lead guards out there to take attention away from him, that probably wouldn’t be a good idea.

–To fill MSG’s need for someone who plays a sword-crossing leech, Turtle from Entourage is courtside. Sir Lancelot had a prior commitment.

–Immediately after Renaldo Balkman drains a baseline 15 footer the Jazz scouting report commits suicide. 38-33, Knicks. If I’m Isiah, I discourage Balkman from working on his shot, but that’s just me.

–Isiah brings Steph and Q back, and he puts Balkman on Deron Williams, hiding Steph on Ronnie Price. The Knicks still can’t contain D-Will, but the move pays accidental dividends when Steph loses track of Price, who, open, bricks an uncontested jumper. Thing is, Steph continues to be visibly confused by the switch, forgetting who he’s guarding, and three possessions later, he’s back on Williams. I’m almost wondering if he’s forgetting Price on purpose, because a) he’s Ronnie Price, it’s doubtful he’ll burn you and b) Steph’s ego, perhaps subliminally, can’t deal with the bruising that comes from the fact that his coach doesn’t want him guarding the opposing team’s point guard, especially on a night when he’s on fire.

–Reverend Run is in the house. Whose house? Run’s house. Ronnie Brewer checks in for Ronnie Price. Whose house? Ron’s house.

–Blast from the past: Shakira’s “Wherever, Whenever,” or whatever it’s called, blares over the speakers momentarily, including the awesome line about her breasts being small so that you don’t confuse them with mountains. (Sidenote: I like this line better in the Spanish version of the song.) The reason I bring this up is because Eddy Curry is the opposite: His mountains are small and humble so you don’t confuse them with breasts. For bonus footage of Shakira gyrating, click here.

–Good grief, does Carlos Boozer have to do everything, right? I guess so, though memories of some imperfect defense against Randolph early are soothing.

–The Jazz cut it to 1 and the crowd immediately starts booing—um, expectations, much!?!—but the Jamal Crawford oven preheats to 325 for a mini 5-0 run that puts the Knicks up 6 at the half.

–D-Will has 15 at the half; those points might be the quietest 15 I’ve ever seen. Given the context of their offense, as discussed above, this isn’t really surprising. On the other side of the point guard coin, Steph’s 15 feel like 36.

THIRD QUARTER

–Deron Williams breaks Jamal Crawford’s ankles so badly, Craw ends up in another zip code. JC/cross jokes are tempting, but I’ll pass.

–Crawford resets the offense and calls “motion.” I feel like I’m in fifth grade.

–Paul Millsap is beasting, dominating the Knicks inside and keeping the Jazz within 10.

–No signs of defense right now (about halfway through the period). The Knicks score and then don’t get back. Rinse. Lather. Repeat. At least it’s exciting. Crawford to Curry oops, D-Will dunks and Crawford behind the back circus shots are always fun.

–After D-Lee blocks a shot, Balkman goes careening into the Utah bench, trying to save the ball. Your word is symbolic and its definition is linked.

–Boozer has sat for 6+ minutes. Where is he? He can’t play with Millsap? Is this normal? I feel like I’ve asked this question before.

FOURTH QUARTER

–Remind me again why Jared Jeffries gets minutes. I don’t get it.

–Both teams are doing a good job of consistently going to the rim. Still no signs of defense. Boozer is getting anything he wants.

–3:33: The Jazz cut it to 2 when D-Will waltzes by matador Marbury. Neither Lee nor Balkman has been on the floor of late and it is showing.

–After a few back and forth turnovers, a Randolph put-back gives the Knicks a 109-104 lead.

–After a Jazz turnover—great awareness by Q to knock the pass away—Marbury takes it the other for one of his many fearless forays to the rim on this night.

–Kirilenko bricks a 3, but the Jazz grab the O-board and Boozer gets a three point play.

–Curry rims out a shot out of the post.

–D-Will finds a cutting Brewer to cut it to two.

–Off of Steph penetration, Crawford bricks a 3, but Randolph grabs the board. Two fouls later, Crawford ices it with two from the stripe.

Big game for NY’s big guns. Big win. The potential for the ninth seed is still there.