I was going to type some sort of sum-up paragraph, but screw it. If you’re in a rush, the Knicks won 97-93, and LeBron was apparently waiting to really turn it on in overtime.
I ride the elevator with Clyde Frazier, get off at 5 (event level) and the first person I run into is Jamal Crawford, who’s headed for a tiny TV studio with Al Trautwig. I haven’t sseen Jamal since his ankle injury, so we exchange some quick pleasantries and move on. Jamal’s one of my favorite people in the League, no question.
Turn the corner toward the Cavs locker room, and there’s a billion media folk in the hallway. “What’s everyone waiting for?” “LeBron.” “Oh. I hear he’s supposed to be good.” I duck into the locker room to find Lang, along with Webby, Shannon and the rest of the Knicks ballboy crew. Good peoples all. LeBron is on the floor getting stretched, Anderson Varejao’s getting dressed, and Larry Hughes is doing some sort of on-air interview. There’s pretty much no other media in here—the locker room is almost empty—which means it’s pretty stupid that the hallway is ENTIRELY blocked off by people waiting for LeBron when they could just talk to him in here. But the LeBronference goes off in the hallway anyway. I don’t even bother trying to listen in. Meanwhile Lang makes some crack about all the quotes being the same anyway—especially from coaches—while standing very close to Cavs coach Grimace, I mean Mike Brown. He’s a good sport about it. Lang can explain further if he wants.
We escape the Cavs locker room through the media mess, using Varejao as a blocker, and duck into the Knicks locker room real quick. I ask a gimpy David Lee how he’s feeling, and he just looks at me. That good, huh? Then I compound it by saying, “if Florida wins again this year you should see if you have any eligibility left.” He just stares again. “No.”
“Somebody greezed me!” Apparently there are cookies missing from Nate Robinson’s locker. And Jerome James is slowly wandering around looking into lockers, seeking two bottles of lotion that are missing from HIS locker. Bunch of savages in this locker room.
FOOD REPORT: I’ve never been to prison, but if I ever DO go, I expect to get fed better than this. The salad’s gone by the time we get there, and it’s never replaced. Then there’s slabs of turkey (which I find a hair on), similar slabs of stuffing (yeah, think about that) and a tray of very sad-looking mixed vegetables. F-.
Jess Kersey is reffing tonight. Totally forgot he was still in the League.
Sasha Pavlovic starts the scoring off with a three-pointer. Somewhere dogs start salivating uncontrollably.
The Knicks go inside to Eddy Curry on the very first possession. Good idea.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas—looking eerily like a giant version of SI.com writer Marty Burns—misses everything inside. Back to the other end, the Knicks ignore Curry, overdribble, and wind up with a terrible shot from Jared Jeffries. Luckily Channing Frye is there to clean up the mess.
Z has a neat hook that starts from somewhere near his knees that sweeps the arc of the universe before heading basketward. Unorthodox, but effective. Sometimes.
LeBron has done nothing so far.
OK, he finds Z on the baseline, who fakes Curry off his feet, draws the contact, and puts it in. And 1. Eight all.
Z hits another one of those sweeping hooks after a Knick turnover where a cross-court pass intended for Marbury bounces off the head of an unsuspecting Channing Frye.
ANOTHER hook for Z. He’s got nine. Offensive foul, Channing Frye.
He makes up for it (Frye does) by catching an open dunk along the baseline on a nifty pass from Stevie Me. Um, Franchise.
LeBron takes his first shot of the game at the 5:45 mark, a bricked jumper. I’m tempted to yell, “what, are you building a house!” until I remember a) he is, and b) he’ll need about 3.6 million more of those.
Francis hits a jumper, Knicks up 14-12.
It doesn’t last. LeBron, up top, three, nothing but bottoms.
Curry misses, Drew Gooden grabs the rebound, Eddy commits his second foul. Enter Jerome James (Enter the Draggin’?). Ditto Sideshow Varejao.
Z immediately gets Jerome James to bite on a fake (like it’s hard to get Jerome James to bite on ANYTHING), draws the foul. Z’s got 11 points and zero rebounds. Who does he think he is, Eddy Curry?
Francis scores a quick bucket, and just as quickly Bron gets fouled on a drive by Jared Jeffries, hits both. Eric Snow comes in for Pavlovic, Donyell Marshall replaces somebody, and Randolph Morris makes his not-very-long-awaited Knicks debut.
Steve Francis dribbles in two huge meandering circles—from the perimeter, under the basket, back out, back in, back out—needlessly burning shot clock and getting booed increasingly, before pulling up for a shot and going down like he’s BEEN shot. Maybe he was. Probably by a teammate. The ball goes the other way and Donyell hits an open three from the corner before the Knicks call for time. The crowd doesn’t seem all that concerned. Goodnight, Stevie.
Jared Jeffries gets fouled by Snow, misses the first. He just doesn’t understand the importance of the little things, I guess.
Hughes pumpfakes Mardy Collins into a foul with 9.5 seconds left. That’s three of those on the Knicks in one quarter.
End of the first, 26-24 Cavs.
Randolph Morris goes to the line 17 seconds into the second, misses the first and hits the second. His first NBA point. He’ll remember that free throw forever. I won’t.
Hello, Boobie Gibson. Nice to see ya.
Bron hits a pair of free throws, the Knicks commit a three-second violation, Bron misses a pair of free throws.
Varejao tries to draw a charge on Morris, gets called for the block. Morris misses both free throws. It’s a fundamental nightmare.
Pavlovic checks in for LeBron, so everyone can stop paying attention.
Z gets his 13th point off of his first rebound. Moses Malone, he’s not.
Nate drives the lane and throws a perfect pass—to Larry Hughes. This is probably so he can justify never kicking out off a drive ever again. Gooden misses a shot and thinks he’s fouled; back on the other end, Frye misses and KNOWS he’s fouled.
Steve Francis is back on the bench.
Frye hits both free throws, and in celebration the Knicks give up a three to Pavlovic. LeBron’s back in, guarding Nate, who busts him with a crossover and sinks a jumper. Nate is immediately cut from the Nike roster. (OK, not really.)
Nate misses a corner three, and Balkman slips through a bunch of Cavs statuary to snatch the rebound, tiptoeing the baseline, and is fouled by a rudely awakened Hughes. He hits both, and in celebration the Knicks give up a three to Pavlovic. You may note a trend here.
Curry is doubleteamed, Nate flashes into the lane, and Curry ACTUALLY FINDS HIM for the wide-open layup. A national holiday is declared.
Hey look, it’s Jon Stewart.
Nate misses another three, and once again Balkman flies in, gets the rebound, and lays it in. The Cavs know they can move on the defensive end, right? Right?
Z commits his third foul, comes out for a rather clean-cut (for him, at least) Scot “Do Drugs!” Pollard.
Jerome James actually COMES BACK IN for a second stint. I expect Billy Hunter to file a grievance.
LeBron drives and gets levelled by Uncle Jerome. Luckily his fall is cushioned by Jared Jeffries. There’s a tense moment, but he’s OK. Whew. He hits a pair.
Knicks up 51-46 at the half. I know there’s no such thing as moral victories, but if there was, this would probably count as one.
LeBron gets one of those lightspeed breakaways that ends with a HUGE one-handed dunk where the ball bounces almost all the way back to midcourt. Then he fouls Nate Robinson.
Curry picks up his own third foul, sending Z to the line. 53-50, Knicks.
A little later, a Frye pullup off glass (like Tim Duncan, only more athletic) and a Steph turnover off a Z turnover gives the Knicks a 63-56 lead. The Cavs should be embarassed.
Hughes misses a corner J, Steph gets another layup. 65-56, Knicks. Hughes misses again (I don’t know, maybe GO TO LEBRON????) and the only thing that keeps the Knicks from extending their lead to double-digits is the Canon Eddy Curry Offensive Foul of the Night (that’s four on E-City).
Varehao scores, Nate misses, and LeBron wets a three from right in front of Spike Lee. He turns and says something to Spike, too. Maybe take a lead before you start talking?
Rough sequence for Bron coming up—he gets stripped by Steph on a runout, then, next time down, he gets clobbered by Jeffries and goes down again. It’s hard to tell exactly what happened, maybe a knee to the thigh? He eventually goes to the line and hits a pair.
Michael Rapaport is on hand, in a Yankee 5950. Dick Richie!
Nate whomps a three over Daniel Gibson. 68-63, Knicks.
Somehow, Jerome James is still out there. Play on, player.
Malik Rose is left WIDE OPEN at the top of the key. He takes advantage.
Knicks hold a slim 70-69 lead at the end of three after an alert Global Icon finds Snow underneath at the very end of the quarter for a layup.
Slim to none. Frye grabbed the rim on that last layup, gets a tech. Bron hits the freebie, has a quiet 22, 5 and 5. All tied up at 71.
Here’s a nightmare for you. You’re Malik Rose, in your own backcourt. And here comes LeBron, with a full head of steam, who goes behind the back with the dribble. What do you do?
Foul, Malik Rose.
Renaldo Balkman is DRILLED by LeBron on a drive at the exact same spot that Jeffries put down LeBron a few minutes back. He’s subbed out and dragged off like someone in Saving Private Ryan.
Z and Curry trade buckets. They’ve got 17 apiece.
Pavlovic hits a WIDE OPEN three to tie things up at 77 with 8:21 to go. Blown assignment, Mardy Collins. The Cavs make the most of the momentum shift by immediately committing a defensive three-second violation.
Collins catches Bron with a touch foul on a drive and Rose makes the most of the free hit rule by bringing him down. Again. Bron goes to the line and coolly misses both. Admittedly, he probably is a little shook up.
Just in case you were wondering, Scot Pollard can NOT guard Eddy Curry one-on-one. This kind of leads to the observation that, while Mike Brown seems like a really nice guy, I don;t know if he’s much of a basketball coach.
Eddy Curry hits another pair of free throws. He’s got 25.
LeBron throws a smoking two-handed cross-court pass to Pavlovic, who hits yet another three-pointer. 86-84, Knicks.
With the Knicks up one, Marbury throws an errant entry pass that’s picked off and leads to a LeBron shot. He misses, Nate skies for the rebound, and Frye buries a 20-footer. Knicks up three with three to go.
LeBron scores on a tough driving layup, taking plenty of contact, to cut it to one with 2:16 to go. It’s the first time you feel like LeBron is looking to take over.
And the last time.
Varejao commits his fifth foul, Malik hits one of two. 91-89, Knicks. LeBron comes back down, has his entry pass to Z picked, and Steph barrels back down and hits a three over Eric Snow. Bron misses a three on the other end, but the ball ends up with Pavlovic, who’s automatic. 94-92 Knicks.
Z gets fouled with 34 seconds left, goes to the line with the chance to tie. Hits the first, comes up short on the second. Steph calls a timeout with 24.1 on the game clock, 15 on the 24.
Not sure what kind of play Isiah drew up, but it probably has no relation to what actually happens. Steph and Frye end up playing hot potato on the perimeter, and Steph launches a 25-foot prayer as the shot clock expires. It rattles around for a full second before dropping through, giving the Knicks a four-point lead with 8.5 seconds left.
Who takes the last shot for the Cavs? Donyell Marshall, of course. He misses a three, Malik rebounds and clutches it to his chest. Ballgame. 97-93, Knicks.
Mike Brown comes out and delivers a virtual filibuster on defense. Guess that’s the best way to avoid the tough questions, by not allowing anyone to actually ask any.
“We have to recognize what got us here and go back to the basics. We’re gonna have to start repeating the drills we ran in training camp and stuff like that.”
He then says some ncie things about LeBron (who finishes with 24, 6 and 7 despite shooting 6-20 from the floor and 10-14 from the line) because he doesn’t want to get fired.
LeBron, in a crowd: “It doesn’t make sense for them (the Knicks) to have that much talent and not make the playoffs.” Nice of you to help ’em out, Bron.
Varejao has ice on his left shoulder, both knees, and both ankles.
Drew Gooden has a similar amount of ice on his watch.
Over on the Knicks side, Stephon is exuberant. Asked about hitting the game winner, he responds “It was a team effort tonight.” Asked to explain this win compared to losses to Portland and Seattle, he responds “It’s the NBA.” Asked the difference between the loss to Orlando and tonight, he responds “We won.” At least he smiles at that one. Stephon is a barrel of sunshine and roses.
To sum up? The Knicks live to fight on another day, and LeBron still needs a sense of urgency and a killer instinct. Because he sure didn’t have it tonight.
Lang and I stop at an ATM afterwards, and I make some comment about Z being kind of slow. The next second I glance over my shoulder and see Z himself leaving the Garden by the front entrance. He and his female companions wander up 6th Avenue a bit before climbing into a cab (Z folds himself into the front seat) and heading downtown. Odd.