Wednesday, November 12, 2008

NYTimes: Knicks Let Spurs Slip Away in the Fourth Quarter

Published: November 11, 2008

SAN ANTONIO — The dictionary does not have an entry or the proper spelling for the word Mike D’Antoni used to describe the horrors he has endured at AT&T Center. When prompted for his memories, he could only muster a nasty shriek: “Auuugghhhh!”

The San Antonio Spurs have that kind of effect on people. They ruined many springs for the Phoenix Suns and were partly responsible for D’Antoni leaving Phoenix for New York.

The Knicks are not the Suns and the Spurs are not exactly the Spurs at the moment, but the outcome Tuesday night was all too familiar — cool efficiency from Tim Duncan, timely shooting from Michael Finley and Bruce Bowen, and a 92-80 victory for San Antonio.

“We just weren’t sharp,” D’Antoni said after the Knicks let a close game slip away in a ghastly fourth quarter. “We had chances.”

This was, in fact, the best chance the Knicks have had in years to beat the Spurs. Their All-Star guards, Manu GinĂ³bili and Tony Parker, are out until December because of injuries. Their championship core is aging. They had lost four of their first five games.

But the Spurs ran their offense through Duncan, and he dominated the game without even trying. He finished with a near triple-double: 23 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists.

“He ain’t getting older, he’s getting better,” Zach Randolph said of Duncan. “He’s a tough player.”

Bowen and Finley, championship veterans who are now coming off the bench, hit critical 3-pointers in the fourth quarter as the Spurs (2-4) pulled away.

The Knicks (4-3), carrying the momentum of a three-game winning streak, were still high after Sunday’s victory over Utah. A win here would have cemented their progress. Instead, the Spurs gave D’Antoni nasty flashbacks and probably made him a little wistful for his old roster.

The Knicks converted just 38 percent of their field-goal attempts and are now 0-3 when they fail to score 100 points. They had a 4-point lead in the second quarter and a 6-point lead early in the third, but never found a way to break the game open against the Spurs’ still-stingy defense.

“Once you put them in a hole, they could’ve crumbled a little bit,” D’Antoni said. “But we just couldn’t get a lead, and it’s easier to shoot when you’re up than when you’re down.”

The Knicks fell behind by 7 points in the third quarter, tied the score at 64-64, then disintegrated. Bowen hit a 3-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer, igniting a 14-0 burst that put the game away. The Knicks opened the fourth quarter with five missed shots and three turnovers.

Jamal Crawford led the Knicks with 28 points, but he was held to one field goal by Bowen in the fourth quarter. Randolph was the only other Knicks’ starter to score in double figures, finishing with 15 points and 13 rebounds. But he missed 11 of his 18 field-goal attempts as he tried to match Duncan shot for shot.

So the Knicks wasted a rare chance to beat the Spurs in a rare vulnerable moment and lost to them for the seventh straight time.

At tip-off, the Spurs were nearly unrecognizable, with Roger Mason, Ime Udoka and the rookie George Hill standing alongside Duncan. Coach Gregg Popovich started Udoka over Bowen in attempt to spark the lineup.

Udoka did not make a shot until early in the third quarter, after missing his first eight. Mason hit his first shot in the final minutes of the period. But he finished with 7 points in the fourth.

The Spurs are again looking like a team in its twilight. But then, they are written off nearly every year at this time. D’Antoni knows them too well to believe it.

“If you also look at the banners, every two years they seem to put one up,” he said. “And this is the year that they don’t have one up there. You know that Popovich and Duncan will figure it out. And Parker will eventually get well and so will GinĂ³bili. And by the end of the year they’ll be there. That’s a sure thing.”


Danilo Gallinari’s back troubles have flared up again, casting doubt on his rookie season. Gallinari stayed in New York to have a magnetic resonance imaging test. Results were not immediately available. “His back just flared up again,” Mike D’Antoni said. “He was making progress, and then one morning he said he couldn’t put his pants on.” Team officials are hopeful that Gallinari can avoid surgery, but they cannot rule it out. “I’m worried about it at this point,” D’Antoni said. ... If there were any lingering doubts that Stephon Marbury has no future with the Knicks, D’Antoni dispelled them Tuesday when he activated Eddy Curry, who has a sore knee, rather than Marbury, to take Gallinari’s roster spot. “I just think it’s better that I’m going to play my guys,” D’Antoni said. “So there’s no reason to change course right now.” ... David Lee has a bone spur on his left ankle, a painful injury that might help explain his slow start to the season. Lee said the pain is manageable and that he does not expect to need surgery. But, he added, “I’m sure it’s not going to be real comfortable at times.” ... Although they are out of the rotation, Marbury and Curry were included on the All-Star ballot, which was released Tuesday. Jamal Crawford and Zach Randolph are also listed.


John said...

What a way to win for the Spurs, especially without Manu and Parker.

They need to bring this kind of attitude for every game when the big two is out.

I'm happy with Oberto performance tonight, helping in defense and allowing Timmy to push on offense.

Can't wait for Manu to return.

What is your opinion about the game?

Scott said...

Sorry about the late response, John.

It did, however, give me a chance to see the Spurs followup performance against the Milwaukee. While the Spurs dropped this contest despite holding a comfortable 13-point cushion at one point, I am very encouraged by the performances on the floor.

Without Manu and Parker, the Spurs obviously have to defer to Tim for the bulk of their offensive production. The surprising thing, to me at least, is that Tim has not had outrageous scoring nights in either of the last two games. Rather, he's been quarterbacking the offense and counting on the role players to put up some points, and it's been quite effective.

If players can actually step up and do that (i.e. Bowen, Mason, Finley, Hill, and Udoka) then the Spurs seem to be a pretty formidable team, even without our All-Star backcourt.

If those role-players start clanging jumpers, the offense has no other gear to switch to. Tim is an amazing player, but we can't count on him for 60 a night. So at this point, it boils down to the wily veterans and youthful rookies to provide some life to this team.

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