With Bobcats vs. Knicks as the heavyweight Friday night game capping each team's preseason slate, the championship between one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference and the New York Knicks had lofty consequences for both franchises.
With the relocation of New York City and the regional allegiances of all local rappers on the line, the Bobcats toyed with the Knicks for a while before bringing them back beneath their thumb in the final two quarters.
The Bobcats defense gambled a lot to close off the paint often at the risk of giving New York wide open looks at three-pointers, a strategy that hurt dearly in the first half when the Knicks shot 7-for-11 from downtown. With the Bobcats collapsing inside and the Knicks swiftly and deftly moving the ball inside out, the Bobcats let the Knicks run out to a 21-point lead early on. However, in the second half, the Knicks' shots from afar stopped falling, hitting a mere 3-for-15 from the perimeter.
The Bobcats offense often struggled but their defense found its grip in the second half immediately, holding New York to 12 points in the third quarter, bolstered by a last-second heave at the buzzer by J.R. Smith. By my count, the Knicks shot 4-for-20 in the third quarter, including 2-for-15 from outside the paint. The Bobcats contested shots well and didn't let the Knicks get easy shots.
Meanwhile on offense, the Bobcats looked ugly. New York's defense hounded them in the first quarter to a bad start and only Josh McRoberts looked like he had a handle on the game, opening up with 6-for-7 shooting in the first half for 14 points. Nearly everyone else struggled to that point outside of him and Ramon Sessions, who penetrated through the Knicks perimeter defense for some floaters and layups.
The third quarter was clearly the turning point as the Bobcats outworked the Knicks heavily on the glass for offensive rebounding opportunities and getting a couple threes as New York's offense sputtered. Both teams had difficulty scoring for a while, at one point combining to miss 21 consecutive field goal attempts, the score stuck at 59-42 for about four minutes of game time. Then the Bobcats went on a 15-2 run on the shoulders of 3-pointers from Gerald Henderson and Josh McRoberts. To finish out the quarter, Cody Zeller hit a jump shot and drew contact to go to the free throw line, though he missed the freebie. Before Smith's running three at the buzzer, the Bobcats had cut the Knicks lead to four points.
Though the Bobcats defense eased up in the fourth quarter, their offense really clicked in the final period. They didn't hit any threes but knocked down 8 of their 13 shots from outside the paint and four of their six shots inside it. Between Henderson, Jeff Taylor and Kemba Walker, the Bobcats went from down 76-68 to tied at 81 in a matter of four minutes. Taylor, who struggled mightily to hit anything the whole night, hit a midrange baseline jumper and capped the comeback by finishing a long alley-oop from Walker to tie the game.
The Knicks, conversely, couldn't get anything going in the paint and turned the ball over a couple times as they got complacent to take long jump shots.
As Walker dismantled the Knicks with stepback jumpers and floaters from about six feet out, the Knicks seemed helpless to defend him, giving up a two-point lead with a little over a minute remaining. The Bobcats' fumbled the chances to put nails in the coffin but the Knick couldn't take advantage of costly missed field goals from Walker and an offensive goaltending violation from Biyombo.
With five seconds left, down two, the Knicks final play was of course Carmelo Anthony in isolation from the left elbow. The shot caromed off the rim and the Bobcats had won the city of New York.
Odds and Ends
- BIYOMBO! BIYOMBO! Bismack finished with 20 rebounds, six of them offensive. From the box score it looks like he got a little overconfident with the ball on offense, but a bunch of those were last-second desperation shots at the end of the shot clock resulting from loose balls or missed shots from teammates.
- Jeff Taylor had a really rough night, finishing 3-for-11 from the field and missing all four of his shots from behind the arc. But he helped play decent defense on Anthony, who finished shooting 4-for-17.
- Zeller finished with a decent statline, but he was not easy to watch last night. He turned the ball over a few times, had a couple instances when his hands didn't seem to want to comply with his brain's orders and he struggled with contact. Also, his free throw shooting has been rough. He went 3-for-7 from the stripe in the game to finish preseason with 17-for-31 shooting, or about 55 percent. Yikes.
- Amar'e Stoudemire may have the knees of Methuselah but he put some nice moves on Biyombo in the post for a few scores.