Knicks 102, Wizards 82: Umm...Yeah...
The Knicks wanted it more than the Wizards tonight.
How else can you explain how the Knicks' second unit, led by David Lee and Renaldo Balkman, outplaying the Wizards starters in the fourth quarter? How else can you explain the Wizards going 36-40 from the free throw line and getting blown out by 20?
Understandibly, the Knicks second unit has arguably been stronger than their first unit, but this has occured mostly against other team's second units. Today, Isaiah Thomas finally played them for extended minutes, and it paid off. Balkman finally got real minutes and he made the most of them. They had more energy on both ends of the floor, and it was contageous. Lee in particular was a beast on the offensive boards, and Balkman was all over the floor offensively and defensively. It's no accident the Knicks pounded the Wizards 52-39 on the boards, held them to 31.5 percent from the field and 0-15 from three-point range.
This kind of felt like one of those mid-majors going up against a Kansas or a North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament. The underdog, with the crowd in its favor, uses the energy and races ahead to a consistent 4-8 point lead for a long period of time. All the while, you sit there thinking sooner or later the better team will get their act together and turn things around. The problem is, the more the underdog, energetic team invariably gains more energy, gets the crowd into it more, and uses that energy to thwart a comeback and potentially turn the game into even more of a blowout. I can remember the crowd being very out of it early on and slowly getting into it when the Knicks were turning it on.
Again, I hate using this analysis, because it's all based on subjective findings and it doesn't help to signify a strong trend. But I have to hand it to the Knicks tonight; they deserved to win by even more and they really shut down the Wizards' offense.
If I can pick out a real trend that is particularly disturbing, it's rebounding again. Do not ignore the importance of rebounding. The Wizards struggled tonight, and it meant that they got blown out despite going to the free throw line so much. The Knicks aren't exactly known as a rebounding powerhouse, which makes tonight's line even more disturbing.
All this makes for an interesting game on Friday against Detroit. Both teams are struggling, and both teams are in about as much of a must-win situation as you can be this early in the season. One thing's for sure though; a loss tonight really hurts the Wizards.
Postgame thoughts? What did you think of tonight's loss? If you need to air some grievances, feel free to let it loose.