New York Knicks 100, San Antonio Spurs 83: Inefficient nights
Holders of the league’s longest active winning streak at seven games in a row thanks to a couple of losses by the Los Angeles Clippers, the San Antonio Spurs went into Madison Square Garden looking to sweep their latest four-games-in-five-nights stretch.
Instead, the Spurs lost to the New York Knicks 100-83 on Thursday night in a strange game. Both teams are in the top-5 of offensive efficiency, and yet viewers who weren’t watching the Fiesta Bowl were treated to a offensive strugglefest that had no discernable rhythm or open play.
Interestingly, the Knicks started Marcus Camby alongside All-World defensive anchor Tyson Chandler. The move gave the Knicks about 15-feet of wingspan with which to deflect passes, cut off penetration and harass shooters. The Spurs struggled mightily with the change, scoring only 12 points in paint against New York and getting outrebounded 48-35.
San Antonio also shot 9-of-34 (26.5 percent) from the 3-point line. So when you take no points in the paint and combine that with poor shooting from the perimeter, what do you get? That’s right, terrible efficiency. The Spurs had an offensive rating of 89.0 befitting their offensive performance.
Credit goes to the Knicks, though. In the first quarter, New York seemed well-prepared for the Spurs. Knicks guards were jumping passing lanes that the Spurs had relied upon all season, like when Jason Kidd picked off Tim Duncan’s pass from the top of the key, where Duncan was looking to find Danny Green cutting baseline for a layup, a situation the Spurs had scored on numerous times this season.
J.R. Smith did the same, overplaying on one play where one of the Spurs guards set a pin-down screen for Duncan on the low block and Duncan flashed up near the elbow. Smith read the play coming and almost stole the pass, but somehow Boris Diaw was able to sneak the ball by Smith.
Considering how things were going in this game, it was a wonder the Spurs were even in it for as long as they were. San Antonio went into the fourth quarter down just seven points, but the Knicks started out the fourth on an 8-0 run and went on to hit their first eight fields goals. By that time, New York had amassed a 20-point lead and the game was effectively over.
Playing the Knicks on the second night of a back-to-back and for the fourth game in five nights, the silver and black were obviously fatigued. The offense wasn’t as crisp (though some of that was thanks to the Knicks), the defensive rotations were slow and the mental mistakes weren’t exactly under the cover of darkness. There’s a good chance that Gregg Popovich and his staff looked at this game back when they first got a copy of the schedule and chalked this up as a schedule loss.
They would never say that publicly, mind you, but the thought had to have crossed their minds. Luckily for the Spurs, there’s no back-to-backs in the playoffs and there’s sure as hell no four-in-five-nights stretches. No, the playoffs take two months and there will be plenty of time to rest their legs as the postseason unfolds. The Spurs just have to make sure they’re in good shape by the time they get there.
Some other notes from the Spurs’ loss to the Knicks:
- Stephen Jackson sprained his ankle in one of the weirder plays you’ll ever see. After shooting a 3, that on this night was a sure miss, Jackson stepped back and twisted his ankle on a waitress who was serving New York mayor Michael Bloomberg courtside. Only in New York or LA does a sentence like that one get typed.
- I thought Gary Neal was particularly poor in this game. Neal shot 3-of-11 from the field and was credited with two turnovers, but his performance had the feel of one much worse. One of his turnovers came from recovering a loose ball and falling out of bounds with no one in his vicinity. It was just strange. He also hesitated on his shot at random times. He just seemed… off. Perhaps the adrenaline wore off from his first game back against the Bucks, and what was left is a player who needed to shake off some rust.
- Knicks forward Amare Stoudemire was working off some rust of his own, having played his first game of the season in New York’s loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday, but Tiago Splitter didn’t help much. Splitter only had three blocked shots on the box score, but it felt like he had something close to seven. He owned Stoudemire down low. I thought Splitter got shafted on at least a couple of his three personal fouls.
- J.R. Smith. Damn.
Advanced stats courtesy of NBA.com/Stats