GAME NOTES: Knicks v. Magic

by March 27, 2007
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NOTE: I found the image to the side of the link while Google image searching “Penny Hardaway.” I have no idea what it is, but I’ll take it.
Another must-win, another didn’t win for the lottery-bound Knicks. Oh, that’s right, they don’t have that pick anymore. It’s only a matter of time before John Paxson starts showing up at the Garden on game nights in a Greg Oden jersey. Of course the Knicks already got their first rounder, signing Kentucky center Randolph Morris mere days after his Wildcats were bounced out of the tournament by the Kansas Jayhawks. Yeah, I’m sure he’s ready to contribute.

He suited up last night (wearing Jalen Rose’s old No. 5), but never got out of his warmups. Not to be logical or anything, but given that the Knicks already have Eddy Curry, Jerome James, Kelvin Cato, Channing Frye AND David Lee, wouldn’t they have been better served signing a shooter? Since, with Quentin Richardson and Jamal Crawford out, they don’t really have any? Oh, right, that would have made sense.

PREGAME

Trevor Ariza, former Knick, takes on a mini-rush of New York beatwriters. Nothing like a Jeff Van Gundy would face, but give it time. I guess he also gets the crowd because there’s no one else in either locker room. Except Jerome James, who’s intently watching game film. What a team player.

Oh yeah, Darko Milicic walks into the Magic locker room from the trainer’s room in the back, and I don’t even recognize him. He’s put on quite a bit of muscle since his Detroit days. Not that he’s good yet or anything.

Towards the end of the media session, players start to trickle in, and as a commercial for that Will Ferrell skating movie comes on, a Magic staffer mentions to Bo Outlaw that “that’s the movie of the year right there.” Outlaw, never one to hold in an opinion, disagrees. “No, Pride is.” Magic guy looks confused. “The one with Tom Arnold?” “No,” Bo says, “with black guys swimming.” Something like that, anyway. It was an odd conversation. I’ll probably be skipping both flicks anyway.

There’s a fat 8 1/2 by 11 white envelope on Grant Hill’s seat from Spike Lee. Got Grant’s name on the front, Spike’s in the corner, and “enjoy” written on it. Someone says it’s a copy of When the Levees Broke, but Lang points out that “enjoy” would be a really weird thing to say about that movie. I simply note that it would be hard to fit 40 acres and a mule in such a small envelope.

The food is some sort of stew or goulash that is beyond awful. I think Lang was going to write about it. So I’ll just give it a D and move on.

FIRST QUARTER

Grant starts, and scores the first basket of the game. This is as good as he’ll look all night. For the Knicks, Steph opens with a corner jumper. Tony Battie comes back and scores over Channing Frye, and Frye misses over Battie. The Magic get down on the break, and Battie gets it back. Then Francis misses a three, and Steph misses off the rebound.

It’s worth noting that Eddy Curry has yet to touch the ball. Which is interesting because he’s had great games against the Magic all year. Good game plan, fellas.

Dwight Howard, dunk. 8-2 Magic. Frye misses after an 800-pass possession—none of which go in to Curry. Hedo Turkoglu makes it 10-2 O-town with 9:24 to go in the 1st.

Orlando commits a defensive three-second violation—Francis hits the freebie—and Starbury hits a three to bring the Knicks back to 10-6. Dwight gets fouled by Eddy and misses both free throws. Jerome James enters the game for Jared Jeffries, and the Twinkie Towers are reborn!

Orlando rebound, Orlando turnover, and Jameer Nelson draws a charge on Stephon…in the backcourt. Yeesh. Then Orlando throws it out of bounds. It’s around this time that I propose that the team that loses this game gets thrown out of the NBA.

Eddy Curry misses a hook, and Jerome James is there to clean it up. On the other end, Hedo hits an open baseline jumper. (For some reason, I often forget that Hedo Turkoglu exists. Not while I’m watching him play or anything—just in general. If you asked me to list every NBA player I could think of, I’d probably name 200 guys before I got to him. If I got to him at all. It’s very odd.)

Jerome James, baseline jumper, airball. Possibly the worst shot ever. Definitely the worst shot tonight.

James jumps into Howard, HE falls down, and gets called for the foul in the process. It’s amazing he made it down the floor to even be involved in the play, actually. Dick Bavetta should race him in New Orleans.

Dwight blocks Eddy, and the Knicks pick up a 24-second violation. I hate this game!

On the other end, Dwight spins around Jerome like he’s standing still. Actually, he is standing still. That’s two fouls on the big guy.

Jameer ties up Steph on one of his running back like moves to the basket, and the ball goes out of bounds. Steph gets that face he gets when things aren’t going his way. Or when one of his teammates dunks nasty on someone. The Knicks get it back, but Eddy travels.

Channing blocks Dwight from behind, and on the other end Jerome James actually freezes Dwight with a spin move and dunks. It’s like seeing a tractor-trailer win the Indy 500. Lang says “you can put in the notes that I’m openly rooting for Jerome James in the press box.” Who isn’t?

Hedo Turkoglu…for three. 17-12, Magic. Steph comes back with his own three around a gargantuan James screen. In his case, it’s more like a wall. Or an entire building. Jameer Nelson hits a deep 2. And Jerome misses a rather ill-advised J from the top of the key. But the next time down he catches the ball on the baseline, and comes in for a big dunk on the freshly installed Darko Milicic. As if his career hasn’t had enough embarassments.

A couple minutes later, Malik Rose checks in for James, who leaves to much applause. That’s about enough for one night. No, really. He’s like a soccer player—when he checks out, that’s it. (OK, he’s like four soccer players. Still.)

Steph lunges for a loose ball and ends up nailing Jared Jeffries in the neck or something. Whatever the case, Jeffries drops like someone shot him from the grassy knoll. It was probably Dave Checketts.

Renaldo Balkman checks in for Steph. And a Malik Rose jumper ties things at 19. It’s odd—both teams HAVE to win this game, but neither seems to really want to. It’s like, “you make the playoffs!” “No, you make the playoffs!” “No thanks, we’re not ready yet. You go!”

Dwight Howard cleanly strips Nate Robinson at midcourt as he dribbles the clock down. However absurd that sounds, it looks a thousand times worse. Magic lead 23-21 after 1.

SECOND QUARTER

JJ Redick is in to start the second. I hate JJ Redick. He was doing some sort of interview with MTV pregame, and I’m just happy I never watch MTV. He has that same fratboy smirk that Christian Laettner used to have.

Nate ties the game, and Keyon Dooling unties it.

Dwight Howard gets doubled, and finds a WIDE open Trevor Ariza for an emphatic dunk. See, Eddy? You CAN pass out of a double team.

Steve Francis throws a wild layup attempt high off the glass, and Balkman is there to dunk it home. On the other end, they continue to show no interior defense as Darko gets an open layup. Aaaaand, Eddy Curry backpedals in, lays it in, travels. And JJ Redick sticks a three. 32-27, Orlando.

Malik Rose falls while dribbling towards the baseline, doing his best Marques Haynes impression. It isn’t very good. Out of bounds to the Magic. Who get another wide-open dunk underneath courtesy of a complete lack of Knick interior defense. The Knicks call time and go with Mardy Collins.

Other stuff happens, none of it particularly noteable. Mardy misses a pair of free throws, Grant charges, Jameer tosses a well-placed alley-oop to Dwight, the Knicks make a little run capped by a pair of impressive Balkman dunks. There’s no stoppin’ what can’t be stopped. Knicks up 49-45 at the half.

THIRD QUARTER

Mardy starts the second half over Steve Francis. It’s safe to assume that Francis isn’t happy about this. The Knicks open the half crisply, with an offensive three-second violation. Then they give Jameer Nelson the ENTIRE lane, and Frye reaches in just enough to give him a free third point. Such gracious hosts. 49-48.

The Knicks DO get the ball in to Curry, and he kicks it back out…to the opposite three-point line. Backcourt violation. Then they welcome Jameer with open arms and no interior defense again. Magic up, 50-49. That didn’t last very long.

Steph is having a decent night, with 22 points early in the third, but he takes two consecutive shots—a baseline airball and a HIDEOUSLY off three from up top—that make you wonder. Or at least make Steve Francis wonder why he can’t get back in the damn game.

Mardy Collins drives in for what looks to be a high-flying dunk and runs over Grant Hill. That’s a charge, rook. It’s a heads-up play by Hill, who otherwise looks to be a shell of the shell of his former self. Just like Mike, only better? (oh yeah, thanks for stealing our 10-year-old coverline, ESPN.com. Way to be original. Jerks.)

Francis gets back in the game and does absolutely nothing to justify it.

Booing starts.

All this confetti inexplicably blows onto the court off the scoreboard right in front of celebrity row. Kids rush out to sweep it off and under the feet of various models and Charles Grodin. Just what we need, a reason to delay the wonderful third quarter.

It eventually ends. 70-64, Magic.

FOURTH QUARTER

Darko! Mardy!

Eddy Curry airballs the front end of a pair of free throws. People do the opposite of cheering. He hits the second one, at least.
Neither team is good enough to pull away, honestly. The Knicks keep cutting the lead, and the Magic keep just a little bit ahead. Curry ties it, Howard kicks (out of a double team) to Redick for three. There’s no way JJ would be playing this many minutes if Grant Hill was still alive. Dwight gets a dunk, Redick fouls Nate on a three-point attempt. Nate responds by coolly missing two of three (he hits the one in the middle).

The Magic miss a lot of threes down the stretch. At one point Redick has the ball out there WIDE open and he doesn’t even take it, which makes one wonder why he’s out there at all if he’s not gonna take open threes.

The Knicks actually go up four, 86-82 with under two minutes to go. It happens on an Eddy Curry shot that hangs above the cup for longer than the last shot in Caddyshack before falling through. He also gets the and-1, and actually hits it.

But, apparently both teams were born in a barn, because neither can close a damn door.

Jameer buries a three in front of the Knick bench to tie it at 87 with a minute left. Then Steph floats a floater that’s rejected by Dwight right as it starts to come down. Which makes it a goaltend, only it isn’t called. The ball falls into Jameer’s hands, and he comes right back down and bangs another three. Magic up three with 38 seconds left. You could say the wind was taken out of the Knicks sails, but that would be a tremendous understatement.

Steph hits two free throws to cut it to 1, and Hedo hits two to bring it back to 3. Then, of course, with under 20 seconds left, Nate Robinson chooses to drive the lane and challenge Dwight Howard, which is a high percentage play. Dwight gets up high enough to block the ensuing shot with his head, only he doesn’t have to, because it’s off. JJ Redick is fouled, and hits two in his sleep. 94-89. Last play, Steph floats an alley-oop to Curry, which sails beyond his reach. As does the game. And, most likely, any real shot at the playoffs.

Final score, Magic 94, Knicks 89.

POSTGAME

I HAVE to go listen to Isiah again. It’s amazing, as nearly all of the questions are about the missed goaltend call. You know, because otherwise the Knicks played a perfect game. Isiah is actually quite frank about things (I’ll get to his quotes in a second), but the beatwriters all insist on being Isiapologists (thank you, I’ll be here all season). It’s embarassing, really.

Heeeeeeere’s Isiah!

(On the non goaltending call) “We’re not perfect and they’re not perfect.”

“We get beat by sometimes just maturity and not understanding enough. We gave up two threes, one is over Nate, the other Nate just got caught on a switch with Renaldo.” (It’s pointed out that actually Mardy got caught on the switch—shocking that a rookie that never plays fails on an end-of-game defensive assignment.) “These are things, unfortunately, that we have to learn from as we go down this road.” (Um, wasn’t that what pre-season and the first half of the season and practices and shootarounds are for?) “I just have to remind myself that one day these guys will be 25.” (Yes, but will they be good THEN?)

“We get to the foul line, and one day we’ll make free throws. When that happens, we’ll be a good basketball team.”

(Asked about the no-call AGAIN) “It was definitely a momentum changer. Again, we could have done some other things also. If we shoot better from the foul line, we’re looking at a totally different season. I guess that comes from being young—you don’t know how important little things are.”

That last statement floors me. Really? You can be in the NBA and not know how important little things are? In late March? During a playoff race? Really? Isn’t that the COACH’S fault? Oh well, at least he got his extension. Better luck next year. You know, when guys are older.