Regardless of what anybody thinks, here’s a little truism I sincerely believe in: You can’t convince someone to do something that they don’t want to do. You can force them, maybe, but you can’t get them do it willingly. No, “convincing” works only when you’re trying to talk the person into doing something they already want to do. It’s kind of like getting your buddy to stay at the bar for another beer. If he’s not interested, he’s going to leave no matter what you say or do. But if he already wanted one more beer – or two, or three, or however many – then chances are you’ll be able to persuade him to do it. Just stay away from the Coor’s Light, okay? That stuff tastes like toilet water strained through a dirty sock.
Anyway, that’s how Mike D’Antoni’s teams work. The Spurs, they force other teams to play their game. There’s no choice. They slow the pace down to a grinding halt and then slowly crush their foes to to a gasping, shuddering death. But D’Antoni’s squads sway their opponents by offering them the opportunity to play the game the way every basketball player secretly (or not-so-secretly) wants to play it. It’s a siren’s song. I mean, who wouldn’t want to sprint up and down the floor without playing defense while firing away at a rate that gets six or seven players on each team 10 shots or more? Conversely, nobody wants to be chased all over the court and constantly tripped, shoved and grabbed on the arm. Except maybe Ron Artest. But that dude’s crazier than a barbed wire sandwich.
The Seven Second or Less (SSoL) style is addictive because it’s so much fun and relatively pain-free. But it can result in sloppy play and rushed shots, particularly in opponents unused to operating that way. That might explain why the Bulls shot so poorly (42.6 percent) despite New York’s complete and utter defenselessness. Oh, sure, the Knicks ended up with some steals (7) and blocked shots (6) in the box score, but, for the most part, the Horned Ones got as many open shots as their hearts desired, usually off one pass. Or less. But it was a cold rain. According to the shot chart, Chicago squeezed off 94 field goal attempts, 70 of which were from the outside. They connected on only 23 of those tries. I won’t bore you with the math, but that’s not a good percentage.
The Bulls were also careless with the ball, committing 17 turnovers and handing their enemies 24 points in the process. Meanwhile, the Knicks – clearly used to SSoL – committed only 11 turnovers that netted a mere 11 points for the Bulls. I’d say that being -13 in points off of turnovers would be a pretty big deal in a four-point loss, wouldn’t you?
And smack dab in the middle of all that running and gunning was Chris Duhon, discarded like an old wad of chewing gum by the Bulls last summer and then quickly snapped up by the Knicks. D’Antoni loved the guy, and Mikey’s gushing appreciation forced a giant, collective “Huh?!” out of the Chicagoland fanbase. What he saw in Duhon nobody around these parts could rightly grasp. But I know of several people who were ready to laugh at watching Duhon imitate Steve Nash for 82 games.
Now who’s laughing? Duhon is having a career year (12.3 PPG, 8 APG, 40.9 percent shooting from downtown) and the Knicks are only a couple games behind the Bulls in the standings (although, neither team’s record is anything you’d want to tell your mom about). And C-Du – despite painful backspasms – had a fantastic game: 19 points, 7-for-14 shooting, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 turnover and 2 steals. Moreover, he sparked a 9-0 fourth-quarter run that turned an 81-79 deficit into an 87-81 lead. Later, Duhon hit a tougher-than-it-looked left-handed layup to give the Knicks a 99-98 lead with 31.2 seconds remaining. That shot ended up being the game-winner, even though Duhon helped seal the deal with a couple free throws with 22.8 ticks on the clock.
Regarding Duhon’s revenge game, Knicks teammate David Lee said: “Playing his former team, it had to be a real motivation whether he’ll tell you that or not. He’s a warrior.” It sure seems that way, doesn’t it? I wish we could have brought that out of him when he was in Chicago.