History tells us that overtime games—particularly multiple overtime games, and even more particularly multiple overtime games with a complete defensive deficiency—are exciting. Thrilling. Once-in-a-lifetime events. And all of that may be true. But you know what my primary feeling was last night? Exhaustion. Six hours at the Garden in one shot is more than enough for anybody.
It was the latest installment of the Larry Brown/Isiah Thomas Derby featuring the Detroit Pistons and the New York Knicks in the last Knick home game of ’06 (they’re off on a road swing that doesn’t put them back in the Garden until January 10th). Winners of three straight home games following the Denver debacle, the Knicks entered the game as hot as they’ve been. And Detroit—well, even without Ben Wallace, they’re still the Pistons. The class of the East.
I’m joined by SLAM intern Konate Primus tonight. Unpressed, I offer my final score prediction: 102-90, Pistons.
Rasheed Wallace may not talk to the media pregame, but he talks to us. Pounds are exchanged, and I ask him about the Nike Air Force 1 25th Anniversary party from a week or two back that we both attended. He gets excited. “They had some of mines that I’D never seen before!” He turns to Chauncey Billups, asking if he’d heard about it. “Rakim performed, KRS-One, Nas and [I really wish I’d written this down—I’m not sure if I remember this exactly right] Kwame East.” Rasheed is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the best.
If possible, Rip looks even skinnier without his braids. He also has the illest pair of shoes in his locker—a pair of white, red and blue Air Jordan Vs with “32” on each outer ankle. Konate declares that the Pistons—as a team—have the best shoes in the League, and I’m not gonna argue with him. Rasheed has two pairs of Air Force 1s in his locker, a white and blue patent game pair, and a TRASHED black leather pair. Those are apparently for warmups only. Then there’s Chauncey’s “It Takes Five” adidas, and Tayshaun Prince’s wild track-spike-like midcut Shox. Yeah, they’re good.
Over on the Knicks side, Steve Francis is playing some sort of electronic game. Gold, four-sided. He’s focused. “I’ve been playing nonstop for two days,” he says.
During warmups, one of the Pistons goes up to dunk and loses his warmup pants. He shuffles off the court with a grin, catching grief from all his teammates. We’re pretty far away, but I’m almost positive it was Jason Maxiell.
As the Pistons take the court, Rasheed comes over to the Knicks bench to give Isiah Thomas a hug. So does Rip. And Chauncey. Nice gesture I suppose, but it just seems weird.
Oh yeah—as well as predicting the score beforehand, I predict a final line for Eddy Curry. 18 and 9. Well. Right off the bat he scores over Rasheed, gets fouled. He misses the free throw, but comes right down the next time and does the same thing, only to Nazr Mohammed. This time he makes the free throw. And then he scores again. That’s seven points in 62 seconds.
David Lee checks in (to much applause and cheering) with 9:27 to go in the first. How he hasn’t earned a starting spot yet is beyond me.
I’m going to hazard a guess that a full 85 percent of Jamal Crawford’s assists are to Eddy Curry. And the Knicks go up 13-8 on a sweet over-the-shoulder dime from C to C, and an equally sweet Crawford floater.
Nazr Mohammed commits his second foul and is pulled for Dale Davis—who commits two immediate fouls of his own. Detroit is over the limit with 6:47 to go in the quarter, and perhaps in surprise over this turn of events, Jared Jeffries misses a pair. He’s got a mean hitch in his stroke.
Rip shoots a pullup over Crawford. [You’re going to see a lot of this.]
Chauncey is isolated up top with Lee on him, and predictable results occur. He breaks him off and kicks it back out to Rip, who hits another pullup. And a Dale Davis dunk gives the Pistons an 18-17 lead.
Renaldo Balkman, making a rare first-quarter appearance, tries a corner three. He should try harder.
Rip over Steph, and 1. 22-19, Detroit.
The Knicks run a terrific break where the ball ends up in Crawford’s hands behind the three-point line in front of the Knicks bench. He rises—and fires a pinpoint pass to a wide-open Eddy Curry underneath. Dunk you very much. A Steph drive results in an and-1 over Sheed (his second). Would have never happened if Ben Wallace was still alive. 28-24, Knicks.
Eddy Curry travels, and on the next possession Renaldo Balkman has a two-handed dunk blocked from behind by Tayshaun Prince. No call, Pistons ball. Guess it’s easy to avoid body contact when you weigh 27 pounds.
Antonio McDyess, in for Sheed, ties it at 28, then gives the Pistons a 1-point edge at the end of the quarter on a free throw.
Eddy Curry has 13 points on six of six from the floor in the first. Oh, and no rebounds.
The Knicks City Kids get a standing ovation, which I don’t understand. They continue to—as they always have—creep me the F out.
And the Knicks welcome…Robert Wuhl? You’re kidding, right?
Rip pullup, good.
Curry AGAIN. That’s seven of seven. Rip misses on the other end, and Crawford leads the break, flipping it over his shoulder to Lee for a double-clutch dunk. 32-31, Knicks.
Steve Francis, still looking rusty, overdribbles, tries to launch a three at the shotclock buzzer and gets blocked. Turnover. Tayshaun comes back down for the Pistons and hits a three. 34-32, Pistons.
The Knicks keep on coming, though. Steph finds Lee underneath for an easy dunk, then hits Lee again off a screen-and-roll. The Knicks actually look like they WANT it tonight—they’re moving without the ball, going after every rebound (well, not Eddy, but still), and everyone seems to have a bounce in their step.
John McEnroe is here, which isn’t all that unusual. He is, however, wearing a straight-brimmed Knick fitted. A PINWHEEL, even.
Steph drives to the basket, draws another foul, this one on Flip Murray. Then Flip goes and commits an offenseive foul, too. Channing Frye joins the party with an offensive foul and gets pulled for Eddy Curry, then Flip one-ups him with another and gets pulled for Rip.
Eddy scores to push the Knick lead to an alarming 11, 45-34. Then there’s a Billups three and a Carlos Delfino one-man steal, break and layup, and it’s 45-39 and the Knicks need a timeout.
Whatever they talk about isn’t enough. Jamal commits an offensive foul, and CB is fouled on the other end. Hits both. 45-41. Steph throws a pass to Jeffries on the perimeter who tries the rarely-successful no-look catch. Turnover. Rasheed misses a three, and Steph scores on the other end.
Delfino hits again, Jeffries causes another turnover due to offensive negligence, and Rip and-1s over Crawford. 47-46, Knicks.
Interesting sequence. Rip misses a wild scoop shot, and Delfino comes down with the rebound, gives it back to Billups for a reset. Back to Rip, who once again gets into the paint and is fouled by Crawford. Again. Who complains. And gets t’ed up. And Rip hits three instead of two. 52-51, Knicks.
McDyess fouls Curry off the ball, but the Pistons are over the limit. Curry coolly hits both. Delfino comes back and hits a three, 54-all.
Isiah goes BALLISTIC over a non-call? Not sure what exactly happened. Oh—a second delay-of-game violation. Tech. And another tech now, for Zeke. Billups hits a pair. 56-all.
Eddy Curry misses in deep, gets his own rebound (his first! With less than a minute left in the half!) and gets fouled. Hits both again.
Rip, pullup, baseline. 60-58, Detroit. Four seconds.
Another great play by the Knicks. Jeffries fires a baseball pass to Curry in the post, who kicks it out to Marbury at the three-point line. Good, at the buzzer. 61-60 Knicks at the break.
Eddy Curry’s line at the half: 21. 1. 1.
The Knicks open with a trap. The Pistons open with a Nazr Mohammed jump hook.
Steph hits a three, Rip hits a three. Nazr hits another short hook, Frye hits over Sheed. Rip gets fouled, hits a pair, Frye scores again from the baseline. Tonights defense is brought to you by…nobody.
And as a fan cries “Put David Lee in, come on!” Jared Jeffries commits his fourth foul and comes out for…David Lee. CB3, Frye two free throws, Rasheed—travel? He looks at the ref who whistled, an incredulous look on his face. The crowd screams for a tech, to no avail.
Rip, and 1, Rip, again. We’re at 82-all, Rip has 29, and the third quarter is still going.
Rip, two more. 31. Curry scores—his first bucket of the second half—and Rip comes back and scores again. And again. 35 points. With over a minute remaining in the quarter.
Other than a bad pass by Eddy Curry out of a doubleteam (shocking!), not much happens. You know, more offense. Detroit’s up 89-88 after three. Larry Brown would NOT be psyched by all of this.
Steve Francis drives, goes to the line, hits both. Helpfully, the scoreboard just showed that Francis is leading the League in free throw percentage, at 93 percent. And it just went up a fraction.
Detroit breaks 100 first—the usual standard for winning—on a Rasheed 19-footer with 7:28 to go. Channing Frye comes back on the other end and hits the same exact shot. 101-98. This isn’t the usual game. And 100 probably doesn’t mean anything. Tayshaun misses a corner three, Rasheed misses a standard tap, and McDyess EMPHATICALLY misses a vintage-1997 two-handed dunk putback. Guess the knee’s feeling OK these days.
Oh yeah, Rip. Forgot about him there. Again. Over Steph. 37.
Hey, t-shirt toss. It’s not like the game is terrific or anything. Thanks for the distraction! Go, added value!
“The Knicks next home game is January 10th against the new-look 76ers.” Yeah, that’s one way to put it.
Rip, J. 39. 109-105, Pistons.
Lest it be forgotten, Steph is having a vintage offensive night. He scores his 33rd point on a driving layup, a season high. 111-110, Detroit.
OK, let’s get this over with. Rasheed fouls out with 15.2 to go, the Knicks go up three with under 10 seconds left, people start to move towards the exits. Not so fast. Delfino inbounds from in front of the Spike Lee Memorial Seats to Prince, back to Delfino for three. Overtime. Sweet shot—and it took a little air out of the crowd. And, perhaps, the Knicks.
Delfino again. 118-116, Pistons. Nazr makes it 120-116. Steph hits one-of-two, Jamal commits an out-of-control offensive foul (his fifth), Steph fouls Rip (his fourth), and Rip hits another pullup. 41 points. 122-117 Pistons with 2:11 left.
Steph scores over Tayshaun, then commits his fifth foul (off the ball again) on Rip. The Pistons have been getting a lot of breaks. Tay misses a trey, Curry gets the rebound (sort of) and is stripped, the ball’s headed out-of-bounds for the Knicks, and it bounces off a ref’s foot right to Chauncey Billups. Detroit doesn’t score, but they run the game clock down to 26 seconds before the Knicks take over.
Aaaaand, Chauncey fouls Crawford on a three-point attempt with 22.4 seconds left. Billups thought he got him clean, sits on the scorer’s table with an incredulous smile on his face. Crawford knocks ’em all down, and it’s tied at 122. Billups holds the ball the whole time down the other end, and misses a clean look. Nazr misses a tap, and it’s…
At this point I’m starting to feel tired, but apparently Rip isn’t. Another J, 43 points. Steph neither. Drive, 41 points. Rip comes right back, gets Steph in the air and hits what would have been an and-one if it got called. 45.
Eddy Curry gets fouled by Nazr (5) , goes one of two. Somehow he only has five rebounds. I’m pretty sure I have at least three by this point.
Rip, baseline, 47.
Too bad the scoring race is over, because Steph fouls out.
Rip, jumper, 49.
Rip shoots an airball over the basket that Nazr puts back. 132-128 Pistons with 32.4 seconds to go. The Knicks City Dancers get introduced and come out on the court, but it’s only a 20-second timeout so they run right back off. Everybody’s confused.
Jamal Crawford hits a pullup—he’s taken over where Steph left off—but Billups his two free throws to keep the Detroit lead at four with 17.3 seconds. The Knicks take a full timeout, and Frye hits a RIDICULOUS corner jumper over Prince. Lee fouls Rip with 12.4 seconds, and he hits both, giving him 51 on the night (his first 50-point game) and maintaing the Pistons four-point lead. The Knicks call a 20, their last timeout.
Crawford drives, hits, and 1. 136-135 with 8.9 seconds. Detroit calls a 20. Prince gets it to Billups, who gets knocked down by Balkman, heads to the line with 8.4 seconds. He misses the first, hits the second. Which sets the stage for CHANNING FRYE! He buries a 22-footer at the buzzer, and runs back to midcourt where he’s embraced wildly by Quentin Richardson as he demonstrates his shooting motion for the crowd. KEEP SHOOTIN’! It’s obvious that Channing thought the shot was a game-winner, when all it did was set up…
EVEN MORE OVERTIME
It’s 11 p.m. and it feels like 2 a.m. I mean, sure, overtime’s great, but there is such thing as too much. Like, I love Haagen Dazs mint chocolate chip ice cream, but I wouldn’t want to eat a gallon of it in one sitting. That’s sort of what this is starting to feel like. To their credit, though, the fans are still all the way in this. The building is still full, and still rocking. Some guy near the pressbox is stomping on the metal stands behind the basket, and my Thunderstix-addled brain is praying he falls through.
Jerome James, theoretically active, has yet to play. And Malik Rose has played all of 23 seconds. Which means eight Knicks have gone the distance. Wild.
Rip Hamilton is STILL coming off screens, still running. He must be the most maddening cover in the NBA. By far. He misses, Prince cleans up. 139-137, Detroit. Then it’s Eddy Curry with a three-point play, completed. 140-139, Knicks.
Crawford scores over Rip, and after another Rip miss, Crawford hits again—this time a runner from up top that draws nothing but net. Detroit calls time, and Crawford gleefully SKIPS off towards the bench, with 24 points and 11 assists and his Knicks up five with 2:39 to go. Jamal looks like he can go two or three more overtimes—although I hope he doesn’t get to prove it.
The Pistons though, they won’t die. Nazr Mohammed scores on a tip, then gets two more from the line following Frye’s fifth foul. 144-143, Knicks. They take a 20-second TO, and Crawford follows up with a RIDICULOUS jumper over Prince. Then it’s McDyess with a two-handed dunk, and Crawford hits a pair with 18.9 seconds left. Knicks up 148-145.
And this time, the Pistons can’t come back. A triplicate of free throws (Nazr’s sixth foul and a tech on Rip) provide the final, 151-145, Knicks.
Some numbers: Rip finishes with 51 (in a game-high 55 minutes), none in the third overtime. Marbury has 41, eight and five; Crawford 29 and 11. And Curry finishes with 33 points and seven rebounds in 53 minutes. Oh yeah, and Frye has 26 and seven, and Lee has yet another double-double with 11 and 13. Jerome James does not play. At all. Thanks!
You’ve read more than enough already. So one sentence, from one player, left alone in the locker room at the end. Rip? “We let that bitch slip.”