A Daily Babble Production
A second consecutive Friday night trip to Madison Square Garden featured a second straight visiting point guard tearing up the Knicks' porous imitation of defense. I like this pattern.
Jarrett Jack averages 9.7 points per game for his four-year professional tenure. He is a 33.9 percent lifetime three-point shooter having a good year from deep at 38.2 percent on threes this year. In 271 career games prior to Friday night's visit to the Sizable Apple, the guard had scored at least 20 points in a game exactly 18 times, breaking 25 on only four of those occasions.
But it certainly didn't look as though any of that were the case while the guard tore it up in the Pacers' thrilling 105-103 win over the host Knickerbockers.
It didn't take long for it to become evident that this was going to be a rare night for Jack. Be it by design because of his lack of a reputation for a three-point touch or more likely the fact that the Knicks by trade don't guard people, the 'Bockers left Jack open from the outside on multiple occasions in the first quarter. He made them pay. On the game's first play, Danny Granger drew a double team at the left elbow and kicked to Jack outside the circle on the left wing. Wide open. Bottom. Two and a half minutes later, the scene repeated itself on the right wing side. Granger to Jack, swish. By the six-minute mark of the first quarter, he had added another trey and had nine points on 3-for-3 shooting.
Jack didn't stay at quite that pace, going scoreless for the rest of the quarter. But he did put up another 10 points through the second and third periods while playing largely off the ball alongside T.J. Ford in the Pacer backcourt. During that time, Jack got in the lane effectively for a lay-up and a baby jumper, and he also knocked down all three freebies after Chris Duhon fouled him in the right corner late in the third quarter.
But it was crunch time that brought out the best from the 25-year-old guard. He scored eight points in the final two and a half minutes, starting with a foot-on-the-line jumper from the right corner to bring the Pacers to within one at 98-97. Jack stole a pass from Duhon (who is his cousin, hat tip to Indy Cornrows), setting up a tip-in for Troy Murphy that put the Pacers ahead. The Knicks got a bucket from Al Harrington, to continue the seesaw, and all the Pacers not named Jarrett Jack were done scoring for the night. But that last fellow wasn't.
With just outside a minute to play, Jack forced a switch that left him isolated with power forward David Lee at the top of the key. He crossed over and stepped back for a 19-footer from just beyond the right elbow. Pure. Pacers by one. On the next possession, Jack made his step-back move as though to set up a similar jumper from the left side. But as he did, he saw a defensive oddity that is anything but rare in New York. The white shirts in the lane parted for no apparent reason. Jack raced past his man and into a completely vacant lane for an all but uncontested lay-in to put the Pacers up three with 24 seconds to play.
The Knicks would tie it on a Wilson Chandler dunk plus the foul (more on that later) that brought the crowd to its feet with 12 seconds to play, but the home folks' new life would be short-lived. Jim O'Brien waved at his Indiana players to play through without calling timeout after Chandler's free throw, and there was never any doubt as to what the Pacers were doing. Jack dribbled the clock down atop the circles, then made his move against cousin Duhon to get right to nearly the exact same spot he had beaten David Lee from a minute earlier, this time with less than a second left on the game clock (this is also about the time at which I screamed, "Jack...for the win!", much to the chagrin of the several Knick fan friends with whom I attended the game). Swish. Pacers 105, Knicks 103.
A 20-second time out and a Nate Robinson desperation heave later, it was over. Jack finished with 29 points (the third-highest scoring effort of his career) on 10-of-14 field goal shooting, including 4-of-7 from deep. He put up 10 points in the fourth quarter, including the Pacers final six. And the Knicks didn't have the first clue as to how to stop him.
It was Sebastian Telfair last Friday. Jarrett Jack did it this this time. Here's to January 23, when Kyle Lowry projects to join the ever-expanding list of mediocre-to-decent point guards to torch the Knicks at the Garden in front of the weekend crowd.
And perhaps that Rondo fellow might take some action of his own against that Knicks' defense this very Sunday evening.
Other random thoughts from Friday's trip to the Garden, complimentary once again courtesy of my pal J and his contacts at Deutsche Bank:
- As noted above, Jack's parting-of-the-Red-Sea lay-in put the Pacers up three with 24 seconds left in the game. For most coaches, the standard dilemma in these situations is whether to look for a quick two and then try get a steal or extend the game by fouling, or to use the clock to try for one good look at a three-pointer. But Mike D'Antoni isn't most coaches. He chose Option C: the old-fashioned three-point play. Credit him for drawing up a play I'll presume was titled "Wilson dunk-and-one," which, surprisingly enough, involved the Knicks using nearly 12 seconds before having Wilson Chandler drive the lane for a dunk plus the foul.* How the Pacers were dumb enough to both commit a foul and allow the basket on this play, I'll never know. Is it even remotely possible that the timeout prior to the play consisted of anything besides Jim O'Brien telling his players, "Guard the three-point line tight, no fouls"? Yikes.
*Yes, the part of the paragraph until the asterisk is said with tongue firmly planted in cheek.
- The regularity with which a player would either turn the ball over or miss a shot and then respond to it by turning to complain at a ref while making no effort to move back down court with the rest of the play was stunning. Even by NBA standards. This also increased exponentially during the fourth quarter. Duhon, Marquis Daniels and Nate Robinson all earn special recognition in this category, although they were far from alone.
- Former Dukie Josh McRoberts played just four minutes, but his moment for the night came in the pregame shootaround. After successfully executing a windmill slam from the right side while the team was in lay-up lines, McRoberts tried some similarly difficult bit of acrobatics from the left. The ball wound up bouncing around near the stands in the right baseline corner since McRoberts didn't hit anything on the attempt. Fun times.
- Jared Jeffries continues to be a terrible basketball player. The biggest surprise of this game was looking at the box score afterwards to find out he got credited with four blocked shots. That aside, he is still far from the defender the Knicks thought they were getting when they gave him $26 million over four years, and he is putrid offensively. His jumper looks as bad as any in the game, and he is no danger to attack the rim either. Another crisp 0-for-5 effort in 29 minutes for Jeffries, who was a minus-11 on the night.
- Al Harrington looked great offensively down the stretch for the Knicks. He scored 11 of his team-high 27 points in the fourth quarter and did so on an impressive array of spins, step-backs and outside shots. Nice work.
- David Lee gave the Knicks another excellent effort (12-of-15 shooting, 26 points, 11 rebounds), and he brought the crowd to his feet when he went behind his back to break down an Indiana defender and then finished a dunk on the fast break.
- Roy Hibbert was only on the floor for 11 minutes, but the Knicks didn't have a prayer of stopping him. Against the Knicks' array of power forwards forced to masquerade as centers, the 7-2 Hibbert had his way in the paint, scoring on a couple of turn arounds and lay-ins. Ten points in 11 minutes (5-of-8 shooting) is some nice production.
- Dining at the beautiful establishment that is Gyro II (across the street from the Garden, see last week's piece for details) is still the highlight of any MSG trip. Good living.