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Wednesday, December 22, 2004

NYC Press on The Rout

I'm gonna surf the NYC papers anyway, figured I'll link any decent stories I find for others to enjoy ...

Excerpted from the NY Daily News, Frank Isola's game story included ...

Last night, Thomas was patting his players on their backs, telling them to "stick together."

"I look at the way the guys tried to play," Thomas said. "They tried to do as well as they could tonight. It just wasn't there."

Thomas was being rather kind because it is debatable whether the team actually tried. The Mavs led wire-to-wire, opening a 12-2 lead that ballooned to 75-36 by halftime.

"It felt like an NBA video game," said Josh Howard, who led all scorers with 26 points.

Stephon Marbury stared at the scoreboard as the Knicks were being blown out in the first half and couldn't believe his eyes. "I just said, 'We're getting our (butts) kicked,' " Marbury said. "It's kinda like when your mother is giving you a spanking and you just can't wait for it to get over. Then she starts thinking about more stuff to spank you for. You just keep getting whupped and whupped and whupped and eventually it's over with."

The Knicks were booed off the court at halftime and most of the crowd stuck around until the start of the fourth quarter when the Knicks fell behind 101-64. Those who stuck around cheered loudly when reserve center Bruno Sundov scored his first points of the season. They chanted, "Brew-no, Brew-no" as Sundov scored seven points in garbage time. Now that's entertainment.

At least Sundov played with passion. Some of his teammates could be found guilty of not showing up. Kurt Thomas went scoreless in 29 minutes, missing all seven shots while trying to chase around Dirk Nowitzki. Jamal Crawford scored seven points on 2-for-11 shooting with one technical foul. Marbury finished with 12 points, seven assists, four turnovers and missed nine of 12 shots.

Nowitzki scored all of his 23 points in the first half and Michael Finley had 21 for Dallas (17-9). The Mavs' 75 first-half points were nine shy of the record by a Knicks opponent set by the Lakers on Jan. 15, 1966. Nowitzki and Finley outscored the Knicks in the first half by four points.

Nowitzki opened the game by hitting a three-pointer and the Mavs never looked back.

The Knicks missed seven of their first eight shots and were content to shoot jumpers rather than attack the basket. Long jumpers turned into long rebounds that the Mavs converted into easy transition baskets.

Throughout much of the first half, James Dolan, the Garden chairman, sat slumped in his chair as the onslaught continued. At one point, he left his seat and chatted with Thomas, who was standing in his customary spot, the tunnel at center court.

Dolan and Thomas were both smiling. Perhaps the owner was reminding the Knicks boss that it was performances like this that prompted the franchise to go out and hire Thomas in the first place. "Clearly," Thomas said, "this isn't what anybody wanted to happen."


The NY Post called it 'Madison Square Garbage' ... LOL ...

December 22, 2004 -- A year ago, Isiah Thomas took over the Knicks. A lot has changed since then, but it's obvious his club still can't hang with the NBA's big dogs.

Last night, the Atlantic Division leaders stunk up the world's most famous arena with a disgraceful performance during a 123-94 bloodbath win by the Mavericks.

Dallas ran rings around the Knicks and shot the Garden's lights out, while the home team arguably produced their worst "effort" in years.

They avoided the worst home loss in franchise history — a 43-point defeat to the Hornets two years ago — and barely outdid a 34-point defeat in their home opener to the Celtics this year because of a garbage-time comeback.

But they didn't avoid embarrassment.

"We just got our [butts] kicked tonight. Period," Stephon Marbury said.

Dallas built a 30-point lead and doubled up on the Knicks (13-12) before halftime, leading 75-36 at intermission on 61.9 percent shooting. After the home team went to the locker room to a chorus of boos, some Christmas shoppers undoubtedly were wondering if they could make a fast break for Macy's.

In one year, Thomas has remade the roster almost completely, turning the Knicks into a normally exciting squad with the star power of Marbury and the promise of Jamal Crawford. Both guards were invisible when they weren't dismal, much like their teammates.

Although it's an unfair one-day barometer, the inability of the Knicks to even compete against has-beens Alan Henderson and Shawn Bradley during the second quarter was telling. Last night showed they can be dominated both physically and psychologically even at home, exposure that must infuriate Thomas privately.

Publicly, he flashed his characteristic smile and downplayed the disgrace.

"It just wasn't there," Thomas said, displaying no anger whatsoever. "They were better.

"We're still in first place. It's just one of them nights."

Dallas' ball movement simply exposed the Knicks' limitations. Early in the second quarter, Lenny Wilkens put out a quintet of Allan Houston, Michael Sweetney, Jerome Williams, Moochie Norris and Trevor Ariza.

Was that the substitution lowlight, or was it Vin Baker getting off the bench in the first quarter?

Wilkens hated the energy his team showed in a seventh straight loss to Dallas.

"We weren't there mentally in the beginning," Wilkens said. "Guys were trying. We weren't happy with our effort ...

"It's surprising we came out as lax as we were. You gotta play with energy."

The Mavs built a 41-point lead on Erick Dampier's bucket within the first minute of the second half and reached the century mark by the end of the third quarter.

When Dirk Nowitzki drained a 3-pointer from the right wing less than a minute into the game, the Knicks' worst nightmares began. Nowitzki turned into his usual problem: a matchup nightmare.

He managed all 23 of his points in the first half on 7-of-11 shooting, each time taunting the Knicks' inadequate defenders with his long-range accuracy.

"We all shoot the ball well, and they have to leave someone open," Nowitzki said. "It didn't really matter who they left open, we really stroked the ball good."

Josh Howard (26 points) and Michael Finley (21 points) were nearly as deadly and posed the same matchup problems.

Bruno Sundov's third appearance of the year in the fourth was actually a highlight, as he scored seven points to chants from the remaining fans in the stands.


Also in the Post, DIRK SINKS TEETH INTO LISTLESS KNICKS ...

December 22, 2004 -- Dirk Nowitzki had a couple of brand new teeth in his mouth last night at the Garden and if his performance against the Knicks was any indication, the Dallas big man might want to get fitted for new choppers before every game.

"That happened before to me," Nowitzki said. "It's no big deal."

Nowitzki lost a pair of teeth in a collision with Jason Terry and Jason Collier Saturday against Atlanta and played his first game last night with the replacements in, which only seemed to improve his already-impeccable long-distance accuracy.

Nowitzki, challenging to become the first Dallas Maverick to win an NBA scoring title, dumped in 23 points in 25 minutes of work in a dominating 123-94 win over the Knicks.

So thorough was the beating Dallas laid on the Knicks, Nowitzki played only eight minutes in the second half, saving the home team further embarrassment and allowing his assorted bumps and bruises some extra time to heal.

"He was banged up," Dallas head coach Don Nelson said. "It was just what the doctor ordered."

Both the teeth and a balky ankle had slowed Nowitzki lately — after scoring 53 points in a game earlier this month — but last night there was nothing slow about the giant German sharpshooter, who came into the game third in NBA scoring behind only Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson.

Nowitzki made a mockery of the Knicks' defense, hitting back-to-back threes in the late minutes of the second quarter from the same spot on the floor to give the Mavs a 57-31 lead. And on a night the home team was lifeless, Nowitzki drove the biggest spikes in their hearts.

He went 7-for-11 (4-for-6 from beyond the arc) in the opening half, in which he mostly victimized Kurt Thomas inside and out of the lane. In his limited second-half action, Nowitzki missed all four shots he took.

"They put the clamps on him," Nelson said.

Yeah, when it was far too late to really matter.


In Newsday, they wonder ... Should be some teeth gnashing over letting Nash walk ...

They still talk a lot, at least twice a week. Dirk Nowitzki will flip on the television in his hotel room, see Steve Nash leading Phoenix's high-octane offense to another big win, and then reach for his mobile phone.

"I call him all the time," Nowitzki said of his close friend and former teammate. "What he does with that Phoenix team, the way he penetrates and gets everyone involved - they're a fun team to watch. He's doing really well."

There's a decidedly nostalgic, almost sad tone to Nowitzki's voice when he talks about Nash, the point guard he played with for six years in Dallas. Nowitzki freely admits he thought they would grow old together, that they would be their generation's Karl Malone and John Stockton.

Instead, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who had never before balked at dipping deep into his wallet, decided not to pay the big bucks to retain the 30-year-old point guard. Nash signed a $53 million, five-year free agent contract with Phoenix. And Cuban, looking to build a younger, more defense-minded team, once again reconfigured his roster - adding Erick Dampier and Jason Terry while trading Antawn Jamison and Jerry Stackhouse.

The results of Cuban's most recent roster remake have been mixed, though you might not know it from the way the Mavericks destroyed Knicks, 123-94, last night at Madison Square Garden.

At this point, the Mavericks are not a championship contender.

Yes, they're better defensively, but they still don't rank anywhere near the top defensive teams in the league. Their offense, for the most part, is decent only because Nowitzki is an MVP-quality player.

Last night, the Knicks couldn't do anything to slow Nowitzki.

He did absolutely everything he wanted to in the first half - he drove, he dunked, he hit a three-pointer on his way to 23 first-half points. Nowitzki entered the game as the league's third-leading scorer with 26.0 points a game. Yet, he also entered the game with a lot of questions about his team and where they were headed. "I think we have a lot of potential, but we haven't been showing it over the last 10 games," Nowitzki said. "We've already dropped like seven at home. We only lost five home games all last year."

The Mavericks headed into last night's win with a 16-9 record, which is not bad, but the Mavericks were looking to be much better than not bad. If the Mavericks have any hope of going deep into the playoffs, they can't be losing to Golden State at home like they did last week. "With this team, we can't be satisfied with the record we have and the way we're playing," Nowitzki said. "We can't settle for that. We've got to be way better than that."

The Mavericks would have been much better than that if they hadn't traded away Nash. Cuban didn't want to keep Nash until he was in his late 30s, but it's hard to look that far down the road when you think about how good they could have been now if they had Dampier, Nash and Nowitzki in the starting lineup.

Jason Terry may be a good young point guard, but right now Nash is the best point guard in the league. With the way he's resurrected Phoenix, he's an MVP contender. That would be some kind of irony if the two good friends were separated only to both finish high in the MVP balloting.

Nowitzki knows how much the team misses Nash.

"It's hard," Nowitzki said. "We have a lot of new guys. Steve was with [coach Don Nelson] for so long. He knew the system. He knew what Nellie wanted. It's been rough, but our record has not been bad. We need to find a way to win a couple of games." Last night's win against the Knicks might be just what they need to start them on their way.


The NY Times story wasn't even worth pasting, but this Cuban quote was kinda funny ...

Noting the importance of the New York market, Cuban said a good Knicks team was good for the league. "Purely from a business perspective, there's more media coverage here than anybody else," he said. "It's a win-win situation when the Knicks are better. Do I think the N.B.A. would do anything to help that along? No. I don't think they'd know how if they wanted to."


BTW, what's with all this white stuff fallin' outta the sky?

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