Game Notes: Hornets at Knicks
Appleson Sans Apple, or Chris Paul’s Lament.
Yep, I’m solo today. But I’ve been here before. I’m a big boy, I can do this. The Apple was inadvertently cast out, and this is my Speakerboxxx. Let’s do this.
The notes on the home locker room dry-erase board are short and to the point. When you’re 0-3, there’s no point in getting too caught up in details. There are three directives for the offense and two for the defense, led by two more general messages. Underlined. They read as follows:
GET YOURSELF READY TO PLAY
PLAY WITH MORE INTENSITY THAN OPPONENT
OK then. The Knicks season is just a week old, they’ve already lost to the Bobcats and heard boos in the home opener, but hands are on the wheel. This thing’s getting turned around.
– Presumably the Hornets—who finished 49-33 last season and moved Tyson Chandler for Emeka Okafor over the summer—fancy themselves a playoff team and legit contender. Morris Peterson in the starting lineup says otherwise.
– The Knicks are still introed to Biggie’s “Hypnotize”, (which may have been written about the ’94 team: “Never lose, never choose to, bruise crews who // do something to us, talk go through us”) but thankfully they don’t come out of the crowd this time. Danilo Gallinari AKA Danny Gallz (his Sopranos name) is starting, as is Larry Hughes. Guess he’s back in the rotation. Meanwhile, Al Harrington is relegated to the bench.
– And Emokafor (copyright @ticktock6, all rights reserved) tips ahead to David West, who puts the Hornets up 2-0 with but five seconds gone.
– The Hornets take an early 6-2 lead, and, if they were blessed with hindsight, should appreciate it. Because the Knicks improbably embark on a 14-0 run that has Byron Scott calling for time. Presumably it’s to discuss the Hornets’s continued viability as an NBA franchise, and quite frankly, it doesn’t look good.
– David West breaks the Hornets drought, Hughes answers, but the Hornets find Emokafor inside, then West again. They’re clawing their way back. So of course Scott decides to pretend he’s up 10, bringing in Peja, Hilton Armstrong and Bobby Brown. Who? Exactly. Byron may not be an NBA coach, but he did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.
– That said, when Peja is on, it’s something to behold. “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” My man John Keats said that. John Keats, that’s my man. Two threes and a two, without even brushing the rim.
– Still, the Knicks lead 31-24 at the end of the first.
– Peja has his first misfire, throwing an off-balance pass to the scorer’s table. He would have been better off firing blindly towards the rim—it probably would have gone in.
– An Al Harrington corner three stretches the Knicks lead to 38-26. Did we mention that Chris Paul is still on the bench?
– Chris Paul comes back in at the 9:11 mark. NEVER FORGET.
– Darius Songaila! That’s five straight points for the Hornets. 38-31, Knicks.
– Toney Douglas checks in before Jordan Hill. It appears that the Knicks’s draft strategy of “draft the best dreadlocked player available” was sound for Renaldo Balkman, not so much with Hill. He’ll get some PT if this game goes to a 17th overtime and everyone else fouls out. Maybe.
– Emokafor blocks Harrington, Jared Jeffries converts on the follow, and cue snippet of John Mellencamp’s “Small Town.” I guess there’s no song called “We Would Trade You For A Dead Guy Provided They Come Off The Books This Summer.”
– It comes up on the MSG feed that Nate Robinson (on crutches) will be out for 10 to 14 days with a sprained ankle. Well, that might do it for the Kobe IVs.
– Jared Jeffries is a “glue guy,” by which I think they mean he should be turned into glue.
– David Lee hits a jumper over Emokafor. Lee looks way more comfortable from outside this year—last year it looks like he was shooting jumpers because he had to, this year it’s because he knows he can hit them. He’s got 14 points and three boards, Knicks lead 54-51.
– Make that four boards.
– The Knicks are up 58-52 at halftime. Funny, I thought “Knicks halftime lead” was a purely theoretical construct, like “four-sided triangle” or “tasteful Kanye interruption.” Someone’s winning a Nobel for this.
– A Chris Duhon three opens the scoring, Lee gets a runout layup, and the Knicks lead is back to double digits before Byron even stands up.
– Jumpers and Jared Jeffries conspire to give the entire lead back. Mo Pete follows a miss to put the Hornets up 70-69. Although it doesn’t last. Not that the Knicks aren’t trying—Jeffries misses a two-footer by a foot.
– The Hornets run the lead to six, a Hughes triple cuts the lead in half, and then Jared Jeffries hits Hilton Armstrong in the elbow with his face. DOWN GOES JEFFRIES. Cue trainers, blood, giant bandage, time outs. The bandage on his brow actually partially covers his eye, and I can’t help but wonder if it’ll improve his shot. As Jeffries heads to the line, you can clearly see him repeating “Which one of y’all got me?” It was Hilton Armstrong in the paint with the candlestick, dude. Get a clue. He hits one of two.
– The Hornets cling to a tenuous 81-77 lead heading into the fourth.
– Bobby Brown and Hilton Armstrong are in the game to start the fourth, and Chris Paul isn’t. Either Byron Scott is trying to get fired or…well, there’s really no other explanation. The Knicks score five straight points off a Harrington and one and a Darko Milicic baby hook, setting up the Uptempo Collapse™.
– Al Harrington gets a non-traditional two-point play by missing a pair of free throws but tracking down the rebound and scoring. Bobby Brown hits a three to tie things, but this may not be a good thing. Darius Songaila fires up an airball, Brown takes a ridiculous jumper, and Byron pulls them both before things get too obvious.
– I didn’t read all that carefully, but I’m pretty sure one of the Knick defensive directives wasn’t “Leave Chris Paul WIIIIDE open for threes from the top of the key. He can’t hit those.”
– Al Harrington tackles Chris Paul in the backcourt for a 15-yard loss. The refs don’t call anything, despite it being an obvious safety.
– Harrington is aggressive. Jumper over West. Knicks lead 100-92 Lawler’s Law. A Lee layup stretches the Knick lead to 10 with four minutes to go.
– This is the play that puts it out of reach: A Paul driving baseline would-be layup is blocked by Harrington, Harrington misses a corner three that would have caused utter pandemonium, but Paul is called for the loose-ball foul. That’s his 3rd. 2:50 on the clock.
– The rest is purely academic. Paul hits a few more threes (his jumper looks terrific), but the Knicks score enough to stay out of reach. Final score, 117-111, Knicks.
The Knicks locker room actually opens before Byron Scott comes out. This is unusual. Presumably he can’t figure out how to turn the doorknob with his arms crossed. Or he’s working on his resignation speech.
Chris Paul speaks a lot about defense, pointedly ignoring the Bobby Brown (literally) in the room. Some out-of-context snippets that I clumsily thumbed into my G1:
“We had a lot momentum going into the fourth. Our biggest issue right now is we can’t stop anybody. Every time they needed a basket, they got it.”
“At the end of they day, we gotta stop the guys who are in front of us. Can’t count on help.”
“My whole thing is we can learn and try and gel and all that, but we can win at the same time.”
“I can’t remember the last time we were under .500, let alone 1-3.”
“I hate to lose, it’s nothin’ to do with our team. I hate to lose more than I like to win. I can’t stand it.”
“We gotta find a way to finish each quarter, the last 1:30. 1:45.”
“I think our biggest issue right now is trust.”
“We can learn from other teams, like the Spurs, like the Celtics.”
Then, during a media shift change, unprovoked, and as much to himself as to anyone: “We gonna be all right though. It’s a long season. A looong season. The Cavs lost their first two games, people think they’re gonna win a championship.” The way things have gone so far, it might be a longer season for Paul than he ever imagined.