Thursday, December 30, 2010

N.Y. Knicks: "The Stretch" is Over; How Ya Like Me Now?

The Media dubbed this "THE STRETCH".

So what do you think about 'em now, Knick fans?

If anything, we were entertained; and I think that's understating things..  There were definitely moments, plays, quarters, very good halves and some complete Basketball games over the last eight scheduled match-ups dubbed The Stretch that truely excited, and during the home games, shook the roof.

We held our own to start things off on the right "Chuck Taylor" against 'Melo and the Denver Nuggets.  Maybe seeing how well the Knicks played them will dissuade him from ever signing that extension with Denver.  We followed the Nuggets game with a gripping Regular Season Classic that put everyone through the ultimate high and disappointing low with a last second thriller against Boston that had everyone feeling good about the Knicks despite losing a very exciting, near-buzzer beating contest at the Garden.  And who wasn't feeling even better about our situation during the first half against the Heat?

OK...So the next six quarters weren't as good.  The second half against the Heat and the entire game against the Cavs kinda sedated fan enthusiasm a bit.  Actually, that Cavs game was rather disappointing.  Don't ya think?

But the Knicks returned with wins against Oklahoma City and Chicago before we got singed by the Heat again for Christmas.

If I remember all the scuttlebutt correctly, I recall the experts saying if the Knicks could manage a 3-5 record over That Stretch, it would have proved the Knicks indeed made real strides.  Anything above 3 wins and the Knicks would have to be considered as a legitimately competitive playoff team.  They were all calling this a litmus test to see how they stacked up against the League's better teams.

Well?  What do you think?  We went 3-5.  Who's saying they went 3-4 with a push against Boston?

We beat Denver when they weren't at full strength.  They didn't have Kenyon Martin (he's one of my favorite players) on the floor but their best player was.  So it was a victory well earned.  Wins against Oklahoma City and the Bulls were, I think, appropriate.  We've handled the Bulls and Derrick Rose quite well this season.

Are you going to give the Knicks an E for Effort against Boston?  I'm willing to.  C'mon, just compare that game to any game prior to this season and going back long?  The Celts didn't have all their guys for that game like the Nuggets didn't.  Is a win just a win?

Was getting BURNED by the Miami Heat twice expected?  Be was right?  Sure it was.

The only real point of contention I think we will all agree on was that no-show against Cleveland.  It will stand out as the low point, for me anyway, of the last 8 games (including tonight's game with Orlando).  What would the high point be?  You know what?  They did a lot of things well worth mentioning.

There's no denying the Garden was electrified during the Boston game.  We lost, but we got OUR HOUSE back in order.  MSG became a mecca again that night.  And like I said, that first half against Miami on our court was furious too.  Is that odd I picked two games we lost?  No.  It just shows we are doing things correctly, more often.

Tonight, the Refs kept themselves front and center.  They ruined what could have been a great game-within-the-game between Amar'e and Howard.  But instead of letting them play and the fans getting to enjoy a great match-up,  Stoudemire remained in foul trouble all night.  Amar'e was playing with five fouls while Howard still only had three called against him by the fourth quarter.  Both he and Howard were served with Technicals in the first half also.  Incidentally,  Howard and Amar'e are one and two in the League receiving Techs.

After Amar'e received his third foul in the first half and had to take a seat, we found Wilson Chandler and Shawne Williams playing center?  Really?  Don't get me wrong.  Wilson Chandler is winning-over more and more people everyday, but he's no center!  Tonight he was carrying the Knicks.  We have to give him that.  But then Shawne Williams at Center?

Let's be happy with the way this stretch of games went.  There were an awful lot of positive things to converse about.  But this stretch was also a reminder Donnie Walsh still has some work to do.  Of course, my biggest hang-up is not having a legit center.  But something has to give.  Ray Felton and Amar'e need help from this bench.  That's Donnie's job.  This team needs another piece...obviously.  I said it once before, I Tweeted it tonight and I'll say it again now. When Ray Felton (14 points) and Landry Fields (zero points) do not score in double digits together, the Knicks do not win. Period.

Donnie has gotten us to this point; to the point where apathy isn't welcome at the Garden anymore.

Does Donnie Walsh have something brewing for the very near future or will a move have to wait till the deadline?  Both are fine by me.  Donnie Walsh deserves as much credit for the last eight entertaining games as the players and Coach D does.  Put the "L's" aside for a sec on this one.  Yes, more moves must be made but we all saw the Brand is much better.

Back to the litmus test?  The Knicks-Magic game just went final.  Knicks lost 112-103.  The Knicks got as close as 2 points with 4:10 to go.  But the Magic maintained a 10 point lead on the Knicks for most of the night.  If you want to connect Stoudemire's foul troubles with the Magic 6, 8 and 10 point leads, I'm definitely game for that.

I think The Stretch turned out to be an accurate barometer of who the Knicks are and where they are as a team.

We could very well be on-par with Denver and we have a couple of wins over the Bulls now.  I'll say we are better than the Thunder, and if it weren't for too many whistles, Amar'e and Howard may have banged bodies towards a closer score.

Are we as good as Miami or Boston?  No.  But we did show if they aren't careful, we can give them a lot of problems.  I also think we proved we can now "talk without laughing" about securing one of the eight playoff spots in the East.

Next month, the New Year gives us a little dose of the Western Conference.  That means the Lakers and Spurs.  I'm a big Tim Duncan fan, and I'm dying to see if we have an answer for him.  Quite honestly, I think there's still a lot of great Basketball in his big body and I feel like he's going to put us through a clinic.

I welcome you to prove me wrong Boys!

Let's Go Knicks


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