Before we turn our attention to the Knicks’ second game of the season – and a nice early test – against the Chicago Bulls, a few more observations on Wednesday’s season-opening win over the Milwaukee Bucks.
- The Knicks’ 22 turnovers would have been a season-high from last year. There were some newbies in the lineup for sure, but that isn’t the sole reason the Knicks’ were sloppy with the ball. Tyson Chandler had five turnovers, Pablo Prigioni four Raymond Felton and Carmelo Anthony three apiece. The second half was especially uncharacteristic, but the Knicks had built themselves a big enough lead that it didn’t end up totally ruining the game. It helped that the Bucks were playing without an experienced point guard, and that Larry Sanders played just 12 minutes and was in foul trouble all night.
- That first half, though. How good is Pablo Prigioni? He was a team-high +19, including a +23 at halftime (!). As usual with him, the individual stats don’t tell the story but the team is simply better, seemingly by a lot, when he’s on the floor. Maybe Mike Woodson is finally starting to embrace this fact, because the only guy to play more minutes than him last night was Carmelo Anthony (Raymond Felton did re-injure his hammy at one point, so that helped Prigs’ playing time too). As for Melo, he didn’t shoot a lot and only got to the line six times, but made two big buckets down the stretch to salt the game away, which we should all be used to at this point.
- The European Imports had rough debuts. Beno Udrih and Andrea Bargnani were far and away the Knicks’ least effective players, combining to shoot 4-of-13 with five turnovers and a combined plus/minus of -23. It was rough, especially, for Bargnani. He spent some time at center, which not coincidentally, is when the Bucks’ looked their best during the first half. Offensively, he simply looked tight, missing some open jumpers, hesitating, generally being sloppy with the ball. Woodson needs to find a few combinations that include him that are effective – maybe playing him as a stretch 4 on a largely defensive lineup, where the offense runs through pick and rolls/pops with him as the screener might help. Last night was not good.
- The boos for Bargs. I found it a bit ironic that a lot of people on Twitter last night were aghast at the Knick crowd for booing Bargnani so early on. I don’t know, maybe most people in the crowd had some sort of preconceived notion of him, because they spent all summer reading on Twitter how atrocious he was? Maybe not.
- That’s the Tyson Chandler that needs to show up when the games count. I have no doubt that he just wasn’t right in the playoffs last year, because when he plays like he did last night, he affects the game in such a positive way for the Knicks. He did his part in guarding the pick and rolls, protected the rim with ferocity, and hey, even hit an elbow jumper.
- Iman Shumpert started off shooting very well, and tapered off a bit as the game went on (as did most of the team). Getting to the line five times was a good sign – he’s so athletic, and if he can become a good penetrator/finisher around the rim, he has an even brighter offensive future. He also, as usual, had really active hands on defense; while credited with no steals, he played a big hand in forcing the Bucks into 23 turnovers.
- Metta World Peace had a quiet 18 minutes. Tim Hardaway Jr. is on pace to break the NBA record for shooting percentage in a season. The Kenmar’e Stoudemartin hybrid played just five minutes. Maybe they both get some time tonight in Chicago?
- When the game flipped in the fourth quarter and the Bucks made their run, I thought it was the exact point in so many of last season’s games where J.R. Smith would step up and nail a few threes to widen the lead and salt things away. They may have been his 18th and 19th shots of the night, and been step-back fadeaways with 16 seconds left on the shot clock, but they seemed to go in at some clutch times last year. He’ll help when the rest of the team goes ice cold.
- The Knicks did not shoot a lot of threes.