After a summer of media speculation, the Knicks turned in an inauspicious debut to the Jackson-Fisher era Wednesday night , getting dominated by the Bulls 104-80.
Madison Square Garden was packed to the rafters to see the first page in the historic franchise’s newest chapter. The usual NYU alum film luminaries were in attendance, as was –all-of-the-sudden-for-some-reason NYC spokesperson– Taylor Swift –with her date Ben Stiller–. They –and most everyone else– were heading towards the exits as the starters were pulled by the end of the THIRD quarter.
It all started out promisingly enough.
The Knicks were up by eight in the opening minutes . Beleaguered salary-cap-monster/forward Amare Stoudemire started hot and was 4 for 4 from the field. The newly installed triangle offense seemed a bit askew, but lead to some nice backdoor cut opportunities –inluding a beautiful dime by Samuel Dalembert to Stoudemire–.
Then, the starters were subbed out.
Without Dalembert protecting the paint, Chicago attacked the rim rapaciously; finishing the final minute of the 1st quarter with an 8-0 run to take over the lead. They would never lose it.
The Knicks reserves allowed the triangle structure to completely collapse without Carmelo Anthony on the floor. Unformed, lopsided, spacing patterns began emerging out of confusion. J.R. Smith reverted to chucking threes with 20 seconds on the shot-clock –he swore he wouldn’t do that this year!–. Newly contract-extended-young-gun Tim Hardaway Jr. was completely uncalibrated; chucking ten and hitting two.
Diametrically, The Bulls bench was stellar. Newly acquired point guard Aaron Brooks was Prius-style efficient, shooting 4-5 from the field, 4-4 from the line, and dropping 6 assists, leading to a +25 plus-minus. Even more impressive was Taj Gibson, who came off the bench for a game high 22 points. He shot 10 of 12, and ended the night with a striking +28 plus-minus.
By the fourth quarter, the Knicks “triangle” offense was boiled into an amorphous blob. Down 30 points, Coach Fisher decided to rest his starters for the duration. With the Frankenstein roster of this year’s Cleveland Cavaliers team looming in the second day of a back-to-back –Thursday night–, they’ll need that rest.
– Despite the Knicks struggling so mightily in the paint, it took Fisher until the end of the third to insert the gritty center Cole Aldrich. Once in the game, Big Cole instilled a semblance of paint control, hauling in seven rebounds.
– Not much mention of Carmelo Anthony tonight. He played well, and passed willingly, but seemed to disappear at times. He shot only 13 times from the field –making five–. It remains to be seen if the new offensive scheme will hinder his ability to take control of games.
– The triangle needs a ton of work. It was good, though, to see the ball moving around so often in the early going. There has not been a lot of that the last…. forty-or-so years in New York. They’re going to need some patience through some ugly games like this to make it work.
– Newly acquired point guard Shane Larkin has an amazingly quick first step. He blew by primary coverage almost at will. The offense struggled to find rhythm when he was on the floor though.
– In what could have been the only positive takeaway for Knicks fans; Pablo Prigioni “broke” Derrick Rose’s ankles –though perhaps that metaphor should be withheld when talking about D-Rose’s legs– with a killer crossover that sent him sailing across the floor. Prig was unable to drain the open-three finisher though. So close to mixtape material….
– Speaking of Derrick Rose; there was not too much to gather from Rose’s return from his second major injury. Like Anthony, he stayed out of the bench gunfight, shooting only seven times. His explosiveness was tough to measure, although he was beaten several times off the first step dribble.
– Pau Gasol had a solid Bulls debut. He shot an efficient 7 of 11 and grabbed 11 boards.
– Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is an absolute maniac! Thibs was absolutely livid at his team’s transition defense, and was screaming his head off at them while up thirty points with five minutes left in the game. Fellow “Curmudgeon of the Century” nominee, referee, Joey Crawford was — as usual– in no mood for anything, and hit Thibs with a technical foul. This will happen again.