Post-Game Grades: Knicks Make It a Sweep

I watched Friday night’s game from the perspective of someone who follows and writes about the Pacers. In that game, I saw the Pacers as weak-willed and timid. The Knicks, I saw as a dog walking on its hind legs. Sure they were aggressive and physical, but it was a parlor trick. Nothing real or sustainable.

I watched Saturday night’s game from the perspective of a stringer for ESPN New York – in effect, a member of the “New York Media.” In that game, I saw the Knicks as a team that knew who they wanted to be. A team that lapsed into bad habits in the first quarter, but with the focus of someone who genuinely wants to change and improve, fought its way back to playing the physical, hard-nosed basketball that they showed on Friday night.

And the Pacers looked like a team the Knicks should expect to beat regularly.

If you throw out the first quarter of Saturday night’s game, and a garbage-time fourth quarter from Friday’s, the Indiana Pacers could only manage 80.5 points per 100 possessions against the Knicks this weekend. Over eight quarters, the Pacers could produce only one good offensive quarter (Saturday’s first) and one good defensive quarter (Saturday’s third) when the outcome was still in question.

It’s amazing what a shift in perspective does. The first 50-degree day of the fall is freezing, while the first 50-degree of the spring is positively balmy.

Danny Granger has taken some flak for calling these “winnable” games last week. The flak is largely silly. As the Pacers approached this game, the Knicks were five games under .500 and had just had their coach resign. Their season had evolved into a different variation of the circus that has been Knicks basketball for much of the last decade.

The Pacers were nine games over .500. Of course, these games should have been viewed as “winnable.”

However, if you’d gone into hibernation on December 24th, just waking up this weekend for a touch o’ the pure, you would have expected what you just saw – that the Knicks are better than the Pacers.

The question now is, “Which perspective is right?”

Coming into the season, I had thought the Pacers were probably a 5- or 6-seed, without much upside or downside from that. Since then, it’s changed, and that change was driven by two different things.

First, Indy played better, sooner than I had expected. With 15 of their first 22 games on the road, I expected struggles that didn’t occur. Second, teams like Boston and New York significantly underperformed my expectations.

Now, the Pacers are being measured by me and others based on heightened expectations. Wins in L.A., Chicago, and Dallas made us wonder if the Pacers were for real. If they could end up as the third best team in the East.

And from wondering, it’s a very short leap to taking it as fact.

But it’s not. The Pacers are a flawed team just taking their first steps back to being a contender. They can probably be considered “good,” but certainly not much more than that. Indy is a cut below the best teams in the league.

From the day Frank Vogel took over as coach, he has never shied from high expectations. Often, he created them himself. High expectations are great…you know the whole “reach should exceed your grasp” thing…but the Pacers are drifting into a danger zone, here.

There is a backlash that occurs when expectations go from being high to being unrealistic. At that point, the only outcome is failure.

The Pacers need to not worry about who they are or aren’t beating, and who they are or aren’t better than. They need to figure out how best to play together, and how to get back to defending.

All of the other things will follow.

Here is how each guy played individually tonight. Agree? Disagree? Express your thoughts below in the comments or yell at me (@8pts9secs) or Tim (@TimDonahue8p9s) on Twitter.

David West, PF 26 MIN | 1-4 FG | 1-2 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 3 PTS
I see numbers in the box score, but cannot recall David West being on the floor at all.
Danny Granger, SF 36 MIN | 5-15 FG | 4 REB | 11 PTS
Danny says the offense isn’t working. Danny, buddy, the defense ain’t exactly the cat’s pajamas.
Roy Hibbert, C 36 MIN | 8-13 FG | 8-9 FT | 12 REB | 24 PTS
Good bounce back game after Friday’s debacle. Really can’t ask for any more for him, but it’s kind of disturbing how little impact such a good game from Roy Hibbert had on the outcome.
Darren Collison, PG 39 MIN | 6-16 FG | 6 REB | 3 AST | 15 PTS
OK offensively. Bullied defensively, but I just figure he was going with the rest of the Pacer crowd on that one.
Paul George, SG 32 MIN | 6-13 FG | 4-5 FT | 4 REB | 4 AST | 18 PTS
Numbers, numbers everywhere. Not sure any of them mean anything.

Dahntay Jones, SG 9 MIN | 2-2 FG | 0 REB | 4 PTS
Dahntay is what Dahntay is. I’d rather have a guy like Dahntay, than a guy like Brandon, but…I’d rather have a guy like Mike Dunleavy, Jr. than a guy like Dahntay.
Louis Amundson, C 10 MIN | 4 REB | 1 AST | 0 PTS
Play a few good games, Lou, and the grading curve goes up. Other than one brief flurry of activity, he was basically non-existent.
A.J. Price, G 9 MIN | 1-5 FG | 2-4 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS
During the stretch in the first half, when the Knicks bench made it their game, A.J. kept ending up with the ball, and all I could think was, “This must be what hopelessness feels like.”
George Hill, SG 28 MIN | 1-7 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 4 PTS
Didn’t score. Didn’t defend. Got a silly technical foul. Starter material.
Tyler Hansbrough, PF 16 MIN | 2-4 FG | 1-1 FT | 1 REB | 5 PTS
Last year, Tyler Hansbrough scored 29 and 30 points in the consecutive March matchups against the Knicks. This year, he didn’t.

Topics: New York Knicks, Post-Game Grades

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  • Chris D.

    Good perspective. I’ve had to coach myself to not let my expectations get out of hand. I knew the Knicks would be dangerous with Melo reveling in the overthrow of his coach. He’s always been a tinpot Kobe. They’ll return to earth soon enough. Too bad we were two of their first three games after the firing.

    That being said, the Pacers are still what they’ve always been: a sixth seed. That’s solid improvement for a team that squeaked into the playoffs with a losing record last year. No way should anyone expect home court advantage. At best, we go out in six or seven games. Then we have hope that picking up a game changer in the off season makes us a top four team in the East. No one on this team is a game changer. Maybe Paul in a year or two.

  • richard

    why is collison still starting? is there any decent big out on the waiver wirer? why do we play so timid?why is dontay still in the rotation? why is our offense is so predictable? why does tyler miss more than he hits?. this team lacks toughness, consistence, iso creators, true point guard leadership, a great rebounder, great shooter, and a true star. granger is not working out as our team franchise player, its time to make an decision on his future in the off season. also with hansborough, he just so one dimensional n inconsistent. i would let hibbert test the market, bc he is just to soft, timid, n inconsistent. package collison in a tade deal in the offseason or reduce his roll to a back up. these so called core players are not goin to take us nowhere now or in the future n if we keep declining this year n next, it will b time for a coaching change.

  • http://reddit.com AesopRockOn

    The offense has been terrible, but the defense has been giving me too many fuckin’ forty-degree days!

  • NoLookPass

    This is a very foolish quote IMO from Frank when talking about a young team who’s already has issues with playing fully as a team….

    “Everybody has to be on guard and be on their game because we have a lot of combinations and there are jobs to be won and lost in the next few weeks”

    I feel Frank lost the game for us last tonight and is on the verge of losing his team. We had the moniker of smashmouth basketball but with no Jeff and using Tyler as a perimeter shooter and defender that idenity has vanished.

    West and Tyler took a total combinded 8 shots with 25% of those coming off of getting offensive rebounds. They took just 2 shots the final 32:52 of the game both by West and took none over the final 23:02 despite the team having a hard time scoring. With Novak on them we had a favorable match up yet but didn’t attempt to exploit it. When Hansbrough had those two big games against NY last year he took 37 shots but these last two he and West had 21 combined, that’s unbelievably poor usage for one of our stronger positions.

    Price had his second game of calling his own number for bricks (1-of-5 starts) and not passing before saving his stats in garbage time in NYC. For some reason he thinks scoring will salvage his PT with Barbosa here but in reality its his passing that can force his way into the rotation. He went 3-for-3 to close out Friday’s embaressment and out side of those 3 comsecitive makes in a blowout he’s just 8-for-40 20% from the field since the all star break and is just over 50% from the stripe.

    You know we have poor passing when Lou and Tyler have 2 of our 3 bench assists last night. DC hasn’t got past 6 assists in 15 games in a row, Rondo has just 5 games under 7 dimes all year and Nash has just 4 times all season. We’re dead last in the NBA in assists but its not hard to figue out as we are 16-1 when topping our aveage and get 19 or more assists with that lone loss was just by 4 points, we are 6-14 when we fall below our aveage and 3-3 when landing on it directly.

    We’re now 9-12 over the last 21 with all 9 wins coming againt teams who are terrible or was having a terrible go of it at the time we played them. If we lose to the Clippers this week or have any major hiccups during our back-to-back-to-back before we face Miami I’m expecting West to blow up on Frank or the other guys hardcore or the team to get into something heating in practice.

  • richard

    great point no look pass. frank is really coaching bad n it already seems that he has lost this team, we should of got rick adleman or mark jackson, but instead we got a mediocore coach to coach mediocore players.

  • Sammy

    richard: Wow….. I hope you’re just a frustrated fan because for the most part what you wrote was strait garbage. And I’m not just talking about your grammar.

  • PG24ShootMore

    I like Vogel but I disagree with his rotation system. He’s so set in stone with his rotations that it isn’t even funny. In this game Paul George had ten points, was playing very well, and had just gotten a steal when he got taken out of the game with like 4 minutes left in the quarter. Then he was a nonfactor for the rest of the game. My thing is Vogels rotation often times ices players when they’re getting hot…

    And needless to say, Danny shoots way to much. If he’d attack the basket more it’d be fine, but he takes a lot of bad jumpers and guarded threes. Just saying

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  • richard

    sammy i know my grammar is kind of bad, but what i wrote was 100% accurate. Ive been a die hard fan for years and its been the same ol story year after year. mediocore less talented players who from time to time over achieves. its time for us to finally get some player that are game changers and that fans fill up bankers to see, but instead fans only fill up bankers to see the opossing team players, like last night. but your probably one of those fans who enjoys the mediocore play n players, that in itself is straight garbage. WHAM!

  • NoLookPass

    I would image Danny and DC are the only players content right now since Danny still gets to jack tons of shots and DC has nobody to realistically take his job. Everyone else has to be scratching their heads about whats going on and why they get random PT and random usage.

    One night its all West the next he may get next to no shots, Roy might go off then get 6 shots the next game, Tyler and Hill go off and then they next game go long extend period without getting the ball. PG will play 32-34 one night and then the next drop to the low 20 even when not in foul trouble.

    I still have some faith left in Frank buts its starting to fade with no real direction on offense and the poor offense carrying over to confusion on the defensive end. I wish we could back to the hard nose smash mouth ball where we shot lots of FT and grabbed boards and played in the paint, rather than shooting long jumpers and not getting to the line as often and not crashing the glass as well.

  • dwain

    how many 3′s went up and missed, with no one even near the glass? i just can’t understand the offense, begin to wonder if there even is one…What the heck is coach V supposed to do, he needs a magic ball to show him who will shoot each night, cause for sure 3 of the other starters aren’t going to hit the ocean 1 out of 10 times.

  • richard

    great point again no look pass.

  • PG24ShootMore

    Richard, do you understand how much better the Pacers are this year than they were last year? We are a young team that is just getting used to actually winning for once. Cut them some slack. The players we have aren’t a problem (with the exception of our point guard and backup center position. I love DC and Lou but come on man, talk about inconsistent. DC’s assist numbers are god awful and he misses out on some easy passes) Paul George will be an allstar soon especially if he gets more assertive on the offensive end. David West is a veteran who knows how to play and contributes even when he’s off. Danny is an excellent player when he plays defence and doesn’t force shots. And say what you want about Roy, but he is easily one of the most dominant centers in the league (and it looks like he might be out of his slump after last night) Player for player the Pacers are an elite team. It’s just the experience and killer instinct that has yet to come. Once they develop that instinct expect this team to be a 50 win a year team.
    And in response to the “player that can take over the game” ordeal, Paul George has all the right tools for that role. I’m expecting him to become a 20 point 6 rebound 4 assist 2 steal and block type of guy within two years. High expectations for PG? Yeah. Unreasonable? You tell me.

  • PG24ShootMore

    Ignore me talking to just Richard. I was gonna comment specifically on something he said, but forgot what I was going to say. Then I forgot to take out the “Richard,” in my post. It was meant for anyone and everyone. My bad lol

  • Matt

    I really agree with PG24ShootMore. I really think our biggest downfalls are

    A. Danny shoots way too much.

    B. We are young, and as PG24 said we lack a killer instinct to come out every night and be ready to win

    C. Darren Collison just doesn’t distribute the ball well enough

  • Chris D.

    Agree with Matt on point C above. Danny is better with the catch and shoot as far as I can tell. You also need someone who can recognize when Roy is in position and deserving of the ball. You can’t trust Roy to call for it at the right times.

  • richard

    pg24 shootmore i understand yor confidence in this team, i got the same confidence as well, but my point is that roy needs to toughn up, dc is not the long term answer at point, danny is not a franchise player, and i agree that paul george will be 20 6 2 type of game changer in two years. i believe with better point guard play, guys like hibbert, west, hansborough, n pg will accelerate.

  • richard

    we have one roster spot left, we need a scrappy defensive rebounder. ronnie turiaf?

  • Ian

    To sum it up the Pacers offense right now seems incapable of generating easy buckets. I don’t know if that’s the sets or Collison or what. But way too often when the opposition decides to lock down, the offense falls apart. It’s amazing how many shot clock violations and last second heaves the Pacers end up with per game. There is also still a ton of bad decision making going on. Also far too often the Pacers go for the ‘killer shot’. By that I mean they are trying to stage a comeback or end a run by the opposition and their answer is to chuck up a mediocre shot early in the clock. This is a combination of coaching and immaturity. I think every time the Pacers do this Vogel needs to call a TO and stop it because it’s a bad habit that kills a lot of runs.

    But all that is said in the article is true. This is a roster with a lot of 2nd and 3rd year players. We underrate the Knicks because of their badness this year, but they are a veteran team loaded with talent. They should be winning their divison, not so many games under .500.

  • Dario

    I agree with much of what has been said——great points on inconsistent results—-I think GC is what he is, and that is not a distributor, good point on dunleavy not dante, Mike would be helping in many areas this year, as would Mcbob, both let walk for relatively small money.Even murphy could play a solid 5—–I think the issue with those guys was the money, not the ability—paid like level one players, and the were good solid top of the heap 2nd tier players—— And you would think there would be a “big” floating somewhere on the wire for the picking——-Price, I love the guy, but excellent point made, he needs to lead from the point and pass to get pt—–maybe the backups aren’t moving and end up dumping back in his hands to do something.—Danny plays so much better on offense when he goes to the basket, then guess what, later on the threes are open—-pg needs to stay in when he is playing well, power forward position needs to be taking advantage of mismatches—-maybe power forwards are playing too much low post to rest roy? I think Hill is what he is also—-a scorer and spark off the bench—–too much playing the point will only get him confused in his role and leave us worse off for it. I think Lou and roy together would work well—Barbosa, a quality pickup, but I can’t see where we will use him unless he just backs up Hill, or we make the aforementioned switch to hill at point.—-a solid playoff team barring implosion,yes, but we have to play to our strengths to be a second round playoff team!

  • Dario

    Sorry—-this is DC, not GC