It was certainly a great day at the Garden. The Knicks had absolutely no answer for the Sixers, on either end of the floor. The only time in the second half the Knicks even came close to competing was when their "superstars" were glued to the bench. A trend that can't be considered coincidence in NYC anymore. Game four of the Evan Turner Experience was another roaring success. Great road win. (game capsule).
Here's your rotation chart. Note the "closing time" run in the second which swung the game in the Sixers' favor. The unit at the end of the third (when Lou absolutely went off) that put the game away, and the unit that let the Knicks back into the game prior to the half:
Two thoughts dominated my mind on the way home from this game (1) Having Turner in the starting lineup playing like this changes everything about this team, their ceiling and their limitations. (2) The New York Knicks are completely screwed and damned near hopeless.
Let's start with the Knicks. It's abundantly clear to anyone who has watched even a little bit of their play over the past 20 or so games that they are a much, much more dangerous team when Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire are planted firmly on the bench. Jeremy Lin is a very good player. He's a playmaker with excellent vision, a knack for drawing contact in the lane and a decent jumper. He makes mistakes with the ball, to be sure, but he also connects on a number of "home run" plays and makes the guys around him much better. When Lin has the ball in his hands, in D'Antoni's system, the guys he plays with don't need to be offensive dynamos, they just need to be able to hit open jumpers and finish on spoon-fed opportunities on the inside. So if you take Lin and surround him with a bunch of guys who can hit shots and defend, you've got a good recipe. Sounds good, right? It should be. The problem is the Knicks have $200M tied into two guys who simply are not capable of playing roles within that type of scheme.
Carmelo Anthony is completely wrapped up in his offensive game to the point where he may as well be playing five-on-one. He gets the ball, dribbles 10 times and then takes the same shot everyone knew he was going to take as soon as he caught the ball. He's got enough talent to hit more of those bad shots than he's going to miss, but with Melo on the floor, the guys around him get worse, not better, unless teams do something foolish like overplaying Melo early instead of waiting and doubling him late once in a while. To make matters worse, Melo could care less about the defensive end. Amare used to be the type of guy who could play off a good PG, now he simply doesn't have the athleticism to finish on the inside anymore. So you've got an average finisher who won't do a lick of the dirty work on either end of the floor.
Here's the rub. The Knicks have $200M tied up in fringe-star guys who kill the only thing the team excels at. If D'Antoni's goal was to win as many games as possible, he'd use Melo as instant offense off the bench. A role like Lou Williams', and he'd only use Amare as a backup at the five to play against other team's backup centers. Neither guy would play more than 20 minutes/game, unless they were insanely hot, and he'd make this team about Lin orchestrating the seven-seconds-or-less offense, with a shooter and three defenders on the floor with him at all times. But Mike D'Antoni can't and won't do that. Maybe the Knicks can find some kind of deal out there to get a decent package for Melo (I don't think anyone other than Otis Smith would be interested in Amare's un-insured contract), but I seriously doubt they'd turn around and trade Melo at this point. It's hopeless in NYC, and they're probably not going to make the playoffs unless something changes. An injury to Melo and/or Stoudemire would probably be their best chance to cling to their #8 seed.
As for the Sixers, well, I've got something in the works for Monday afternoon to expand upon my thought above, so I'll keep you in suspense. Suffice it to say, Turner got the player of the game, but it could've just as easily gone to Lou or Iguodala, and when you have three guys playing monster games, well, you're going to beat the Knicks handily, and that's just what they did. 38 points in the third quarter...unbelievable.
Player of The Game: Turner. 9/14 from the floor, 6/7 from the line, 15 boards (14 defensive), 2 assists, 1 steal and 24 points. The only blemish on his line was the 5 turnovers, but I'll forgive those unless they become a trend. If the rest of his game stays the same, I may forgive them anyway. Lou was uber-efficient today, 28 points on 19 shots. Iguodala was Iguodala. On the other end of the spectrum, Jrue couldn't throw the ball in the ocean (there's a slight silver lining, see below) and Meeks barely got in the game (7 minutes). An interesting side note, I'm pretty sure only one play was called for a three in the entire game. Out of a timeout, Collins ran a play to spring Jrue for a good look at a three, which he missed badly. Otherwise, all the threes came off the dribble, or off penetration and a kick. I'm sorry I missed the chance to say AI944! in the game thread. By the way, I think if there's even a question about POTG and Turner keeps up this string of brilliant play, he's getting it. Tonight, it was the rebounds that put him over the top, besides the trend.
Team Record: 25-17
Up Next: The #5 seed Indiana Pacers, on Wednesday. If the season ended today, the Sixers would have home court over the Pacers in the first round of the playoffs.
Jrue's Goal: Probably the only thing Jrue did right on the offensive end today, 7 FTA to only 2 turnovers.
One final note: No PT for Lavoy at all in this one, which is odd. And Collins went basically with a seven-man rotation. Odd.