Knicks/Heat. The rematch. E-City v. Shaq.

by February 27, 2007
31

I’m writing this super-late on Tuesday afternoon. OK, early evening. Couldn’t sleep last night, and felt lousy all day today. Which is great, since I’m leaving town tomorrow for a SLAM story. If my flight sits on the runway for 10 hours, I might not survive.

Anyway, Knicks/Heat. I wasn’t even on the schedule to go or anything, but no one else was going, and I missed the Heat when they were at the Garden the first time this year and Jamal Crawford scored 52 points. I figured I could find a seat easily enough.

PREGAME

Miami side first. I haven’t seen Eddie Jones since the Air Force 1 25th Anniversary party back in—well, a while ago, before he re-joined the Heat. As usual we wind up talking about shoes. He’s wearing the Jordan B’Loyals, and is psyched that he just got the white/blue Spiz’ikes (a retro shoe that combines elements of the Air Jordan III, IV and V). He actually wore the black Spiz’ikes, a Spike Lee tribute shoe, in his first game back with the Heat.

He also mentions that he never sold his house in Miami from when he played for the Heat the first time. “I had people working there still even though no one was living there.” Oh, to be young and rich. Udonis Haslem sits down next to him, and Eddie picks up one of his enormous Converse. “They’ve been doing real nice stuff since Nike took over,” EJ says. A company man through-and-through. (Still, the shoes are pretty nice.)

I excuse myself to pop into the Knicks side and let EJ get back to the conversation he was already involved in—with Antoine Walker and player union head Billy Hunter. Billy says something about someone wanting to make sure that the Hornets could stay in Oklahoma City. That’s the extent of my eavesdropping.

Not many people on the Knicks side. I finally—for the first time this season—introduce myself to Renaldo Balkman. His agent, Andre Buck, lived next door to me when we were both freshmen at the University of Delaware. Funny how things work out.

On the court, Heat point guard Chris Quinn is working out with an assistant coach. At first glance I take Quinn for one of the ballboys, until I notice he’s wearing Heat gear. He looks all of 15. Maybe 18, tops. Hard to imagine who he hangs out with on an aging Heat team. Dorrell Wright, maybe. Or Michael Doleac.

In the media dining room before the game (meatloaf and mashed potatoes, salad, B), Dunkshoot’s Daisuke Sugiura and I go through who our ultimate starting five (current players only) would be right now—and we don’t pick ANY of the same players. From 1-5, I’ve got Nash, Kobe, Marion, Dirk and Amare. I don’t remember exactly who his were, but I don’t think either of us picked T-Mac or TD. Weird.

Saxophonist Mike Phillips, the only musician signed to Brand Jordan, performs the national anthem. It’s probably the longest—and the most elaborate—performance of the year. Everyone loves it.

FIRST QUARTER

David Lee is still in a suit. Dwyane Wade isn’t even in the building.

In honor of the Academy Awards, the role of Jerome James (Knick starter) is being played by Forest Whitaker. Ghost Dog accumulates a foul and a missed shot in under a minute.

Jason Williams is sporting Steve Nash’s throwback Santa Clara haircut. He hits a three, as does Jason Kapono, and EJ gets a reverse layup off a nice pass from Shaq. Heat up 8-1. And then Shaq goes around Jerome James like he wasn’t even there. Was he?

He is next play. Jerome stretches for an offensive board and sets up a MEAN Eddy Curry dunk. Shaq gambles for the steal on the pass and, well, he probably shouldn’t have.

I should note here that I accidentally stepped on Eddy Curry’s orange-and-white Air Force 25s in the pre-game locker room by accident. There wasn’t even anyone around me at the time. At least he wasn’t wearing them right then. MY BAD.

Jerome picks up his second foul at the 8:04 mark and is pulled for Malik “DNP-CD” Rose, who instantly proves as effective against Shaq as his flowery namesake. On the other end, the Diesel emphatically swats E-City, leading to another EJ layup. But Malik comes back down and hits a Kurt Thomas Memorial 19-footer.

Jason Williams jacks a pull-up three from straightaway that misses wide-right by a foot. The Daddy gets one the next time down, and there’s an immediate time out. Shaq stays in the paint talking to an official for some reason—that being, as shown on MSG, that it was his 25,000th (and 25,001st) NBA point. Good for 14th all-time.

Aaaaaaaand, we’re back. Eddy Curry matches his rebound TOTAL (4) from the previous game with five minutes to go in the first, and passes it less than a minute later. He’s got six and five already.

16-13 Heat, and it’s Antoine Walker time.

Speaking of Chi-town, Quentin Richardson hits two straight shots. And Shaq gets tied-up/blocked by Malik Rose. Despite a rather extravagant gesture, he doesn’t get the call. Pat Riley does. T. (The New York fans still hate him, too. After so many years!)

EJ misses, Malik Rose boxes out the Daddy, and Jamal Crawford finds Eddy Curry with a very nice alley-oop pass. You know, Larry Brown might hate the Knicks and everything about them, but he HAS to love the progress Jamal has made.

Alonzo Mourning checks in for the first time right when they’re showing Kevin Bacon on the scoreboard—to the strains of the theme from Footloose. And he’s actually into it. Kevin, not Alonzo.

Gary Payton checks in for Eddie Jones. What year is this? Really?

Malik Rose scores off a broken play, and finally Jason Williams stops the bleeding.

Eddy Curry plows through Zo, who sprawls across the court, and somehow gets called for the foul. The Heat follow it with a nifty play from Williams to Walker to EJ for the basket, as Zo stays down on the defensive end and sulks.

Oh yeah, Nate Robinson gets in with two minutes to go in the quarter. So, Nate and Malik weren’t good enough to play at all against the Nets, but they’re the first two off the bench against the Heat. I don’t get it.

Eddy Curry is blocked by James Posey and lets out a yell. Tech. Out for Channing Frye.

Jamal Crawford isolated against Payton up top with the clock running down on the quarter. That’s just mean. Juke, three, Knicks up 24-23 after 1.

SECOND QUARTER

Nate Robinson with a DEEP three over Eboy. Next time down, confidence boiling over, he drives one on four, and gets the foul. Luckily. PASS ALREADY. Sheesh.

Stuff happens. Knicks lead 32-27 with 6:19 to go in the half.

Dorrell Wright!

Eddy Curry misses a pair of free throws. Then he scores over Shaq. And Shaq scores over him.

Quentin Richardson hits a three, Jason Williams hits a three.

And hey, there’s Dave Winfield in the first row. Hi Dave!

Kapono for 2, Steph for 3, Kapono for 2, Q for 3. Ah, the old trading threes for twos ploy. You can’t get that one past me, Riley.

You want classic Knicks/Heat? YOU GOT IT. Knicks lead 45-39 at the half. Gross. Michael Doleac earns a DNP for the half, along with an advanced degree in astrophysics.

THIRD QUARTER

All of the starters start the second half with the exception of Jerome James. His substitutions are soccer-inspired—once you go off, you don’t come back. Meanwhile, Shaq starts off the quarter with a little jump hook in the lane, and then gets three chances to make two free throws. He hits one. 45-42. This is usually when the Knicks have trouble.

NOT TONIGHT. Curry flips a shot in over his head and adds the and-1, then catches another alley from Jamal. 50-42.

Shaq drops in another one of those little jump hooks. That’s 13 points…and somehow only two rebounds. How? Who does he think he is, Eddy Curry?

Meanwhile. E-City himself grabs his NINTH board, and gets fouled again. Hits both (take that, Diesel!). He’s a little too excited, maybe, as he goaltends the hell out of a Shaq shot.

Good one here: Q misses a corner three, and somehow Curry ends up with it just outside the paint. He drives in, and Shaq—trapped behind Malik Rose—just shoves Rose right into Curry. Interesting technique. Shaq gets called for the foul, his fourth, and Curry makes the layup and the free throw. Shaq does, however, win the nightly Malik Rose Toss (previous winners include Jerome James).

Ron Rothstein forgets he’s not the head coach anymore and gets T-ed up.

Alonzo in for Shaq, instantly gets a dunk and an and-one.

Curry again! Fouled by Mourning, hits both free throws. Again. He’s got 23 and 10 with 7:20 to go in the third.

Udonis Haslem hits a 19-footer to cut the Knick lead to three. Those are his first points of the game.

Curry over Alonzo. There’s a new sheriff in town.

Eddie Jones pulls a vintage spin move around Steph.

Curry gets fouled by Mourning again, hits both again. Unstoppable! Williams pushes it the other way and buries one of his patented pull-up threes. 61-59, Knicks. Somehow it seems like they should be up more. Udonis ties things up with a baseline jumper.

Eddy Curry commits his inevitable obvious offensive foul. Which is a relief. I was starting to get worried.

Eddie Jones. Heat lead.

But the Knicks aren’t laying down. Frye hits on a very nice up and under—Curry’s first assist of the night—and adds the and one.

And it’s Jason Kapono time! Three, then a two over Jared Jeffries, who’s playing him TIGHT.

And let’s not forget the HSBC promo, where a guy wets a three for $10k. Not bad.

Celebrities! Donald Trump (who gets booed relentlessly), some non-Alec Baldwin brother, the main cop from The Usual Suspects, and Spike Lee (who’s in a white sweatsuit and super-bright Air Force 25s that can be seen from space).

Kapono to Haslem, Heat by three. Curry misses on the other end, doesn’t get a call, sulks. Miami can’t convert, though. Payton comes in for Williams with 1:11 to go.

Jason Kapono might be a great shooter, but he should probably avoid dribbling. Two turnovers in the final minute. A Frye freebie and a Nate layup ties things at 70 going into the fourth.

FOURTH QUARTER

Richard Lewis is on the scoreboard, looking roughly 7/8ths dead. Enthusiasm curbed.

Kapono, in transition. 72-70, Heat. And then a three over Balkman (19 points), and Nate misses a three of his own. Kapono gives it right back, though. Nate drives, loses it, gets it back, and is fouled by Doleac. Hits one of two.

Enter Shaq, Antoine Walker and Jason Williams. It bears repeating that this would be terrifying if it was, say, 2001. It isn’t.

Shaq scores over Malik Rose, Frye misses, then Walker and Steph trade missed threes.

E-City checks in for Nate Robinson. That’s unusual. Heat up 77-73 with 8:57 left.

Shaq misses thanks to some tough interior defense by Curry. I won’t go so far to say this game represents a changing of the guard, but if I DID say it, it wouldn’t be crazy.

Steph checks in, gets fouled by Williams, hits both.

Welcome back Jason Kapono and Jamal Crawford.

Antoine Walker is WIDE OPEN underneath and doesn’t miss.

But this fourth quarter is Starbury time. Three. Shaq comes back with another little jump hook in the lane, and Crawford hits a three right back. 81-all, with 7:22 left.

Shaq gets fouled by Curry (his second) and Shaq turns right around and runs over Malik Rose (his fifth). Steph comes back down and jacks a three over GP, putting the Knicks up three and the Heat in a time out.

T-shirt toss!

Antoine Walker scores, but it’s nullified by a travel call, and he’s literally hopping mad. No tech, though. Zo commits a defensive three-second violation, and Steph misses the free throw.

Leads trade, Zo shakes Curry in the paint and catches him with a MEAN dunk. He then glares and stuff on his way back up. Steph comes right back with a floater over him, and Haslem checks in and hits his first shot. Heat up three with 3:26 to go.

JAMAL! 89-88. Marbury gets swatted by Zo, but he’s fouled by Payton first. Shaq is back with 2:37 left. Jason Williams, too. Steph hits both, Knicks up 1.

Diesel misses his hook, and Steph pushes it back the other way, getting fouled by Williams on a 1-on-4 break. Hits both. Knicks up three. Rose fouls Shaq on the other end, and the Knicks aren’t even in the penalty yet.

It’s not over. Kapono spots up in front of Spike Lee, who’s yelling something in his ear. Kapono bangs down a three over Marbury, and turns to respond to Spike, who just stands there with his hands on his head. You’d think he would have learned by now. PLEASE LEAVE THE THREE-POINT SHOOTERS ALONE.

Curry misses, Kapono misses, Steph goes coast-to-coast and gives the Knicks a 94-92 lead with 59 seconds left. He’s got 25 points on 7-12 from the floor, 8-9 from the line, 18 of those points coming in the fourth.

Shaq to the line. One of two. 94-93 Knicks.

Malik Rose drives, and a pass that looks like it was intended for a cutting Curry is deflected by Haslem to a WIDE OPEN Jamal Crawford in the corner. Three. Money. Ballgame. 97-93 with 20 seconds left.

The Heat are done. Two more Crawford free throws and it’s over. 99-93 final.

POSTGAME

Numbers? How about that Curry hit more free throws (10) than the Heat took (9). Guess they miss Dwyane Wade. Riles is calm enough afterwards, saying that his team relies on the jump shot while the Knicks push it inside. Then again, when you have jump shooters like Kapono (10-17 from the floor, four of five from three, 24 points), why not? Free throws were definitely the difference, though, as the Knicks hit 30 and the Heat hit five. The Diesel is effective, but limited, with 20 points on 9-14 shooting (and just three rebounds) in 23 minutes. Riles is also asked about Shaq scoring 25,000, and he’s barely thused. After all, he was the Laker coach when Kareem hit 38,000. Shaq’s got a long way to go.

Shaq still gets the All-Star level press mob, but Curry is happier. He sits forever, answering questions about everything from Shaq to Tyson Chandler. You get the feeling he could get used to this.