Game analysis: Why New York’s defense was especially leaky vs. the Spurs

A look at New York’s injured list before the game showed the kind of night it was going to be for Mike D’Antoni’s team.

Tyson Chandler was counted to become the Knicks’ defensive enforcer when he was picked up as a free agent from Dallas.  Jared Jeffries can jostle a little bit in the paint, too.

But with Crawford out with a left hamstring injury and Jeffries nursing a sore right knee, it provided a virtual all-you-can-eat offensive orgy for the Spurs at the rim in their 118-105 victory over the Knicks.

“Tyson is one of the best defenders in our league. He’s a key guy defensively on their team,” Spurs guard Tony Parker said.  “I tried to take advantage of that, going hard to the basket and being aggressive.”

He did that and more as he was what Gregg Popovich called “the ringleader” in the offensive attack that hung 60 points in the paint against the Knicks.

Rookie Josh Harrellson, famous during his career at Kentucky for his massive weight loss and ability to repeatedly remain in former coach Billy Gillispie’s doghouse, was thrust into the starting position. It played out with expected results as the Knicks had trouble keeping track of Parker’s pick-and-roll movement to the hoop with the other Spurs throughout Wednesday’s game.

“Me personally, I wanted to be aggressive because Tyson Chandler was out,” Parker said. “So I wanted to take advantage of that.”

Parker went out of his way to say that playing against heralded guard Jeremy Lin didn’t hold any extra  motivation for him.

Besides that, Jeremy Lin has been playing very well helping the Knicks have some great games,” Parker said. “He’s doing a good job for them and he had a good game tonight.”

As good as the Knicks’ defense was porous in the finest tradition of some of D’Antoni’s stop-challenged teams from Phoenix over the years.

“Take a guess,” D’Antoni told reporters of his chances of winning against the Spurs without Chandler and Jeffries. “They anchor our defense. Tony Parker is one of the best in the league. We didn’t have our guys who could slow it down a little bit.”

The game, simply stated: The Knicks had no answer for the Spurs’ offense, which ripped them for 60 points in the paint and made life miserable for their woeful interior defense.

Where the game was won: After Landry Fields gave the Kinicks a 30-28 lead with 10:31 left in the second quarter, the Spurs hit them with eight straight points keyed by a three-point play by Gary Neal with 8:07 left to give them a 36-30 advantage they never relinquished.

The clincher: The Spurs finished the first half with a 22-6 run capped by a fadeaway jumper by Manu Ginobili with less than a second left in the half that boosted them to a 58-41 halftime advantage. Their lead was never below double digits in the rest of the game.

Player of the game I: Parker erupted for his second straight big game with 32 points and six assists. It marked his fifth game with at least 30 points this season.

Player of the game II: Tim Duncan provided a strong all-around game with 17 points, eight rebounds and three assists.

Player of the game III: Ginobili appears to be rounding into shape with each game. He had his best game back since his comeback from an oblique injury with 17 points, six assists and four rebounds and provided the team a solid offensive and defensive lift when he entered the game.

Most unsung: Popovich went out of his way to praise the defensive contributions of Richard Jefferson, who failed  to score and missed all five shots. But Jefferson was active and aggressive and had a big part in the strong early defensive effort that help ground the Knicks.

Attendance: With Lin coming to town, there was more demand for Wednesday’s game than any other to date this season. Another sellout crowd of 18,581 at the ATT Center turned out — the Spurs 12th sellout in 18 home games this season, including nine of their last 11 games and fifth in a row.

Did you notice I: Ginobili’s ability to make spectacular plays was seen on a couple of passes in the first half. He bounced a pass through the legs of Harrellson leading to an easy basket for Tiago Splitter. And later in the third quarter he delivered a perfect bounce pass that led to a basket by Kawhi Leonard. That element of excitement has been missing for the Spurs this season when Ginobili was injured.

Did you notice II: Popovich picked up one of the more unusual ejections of his career when he vociferously argued a foul call on Splitter with 59.9 seconds left in the third quarter — even with an 89-65 lead — a margin that matched the Spurs’ largest of the game. Referee James Williams saw enough of Popovich’s sideline show, ejecting him for the first time this season.

Stat of the game I: The Spurs’ 60 points in the paint matched their single-game best for the season, set in their Jan. 21 loss at Houston.

Stat of the game II: In the first half, the Spurs were 23 of 33 from the field from 2-point range (69.7 percent) and 1 from 8 from beyond the 3-point arc (12.5 percent).

Stat of the game III: Parker is continuing his recent shooting surge, hitting 63.0 percent from the field (29 of 46) and averaging 24 points a game over his last  three games.

Stat of the game IV: The Spurs extended their nine-game winning streak over the Knicks in San Antonio. New York’s most recent victory at the ATT Center came on March 18, 2003.

Stat of the game V: After being pummeled by Denver with a minus-9 edge in rebounds (49-40) in their most recent game, the Spurs turned it around and outrebounded the Knicks 47-37.

Stat of the game VI: With his 10th point Wednesday night, Ginobili surpassed Mike Mitchell and moved into fifth place on the Spurs  all-time NBA scoring list. Mitchell scored 9,799 points during his seven seasons with the Spurs. Ginobili has scored 9,808 points in nine-plus seasons with the team.

Weird stat of the night: Carmelo Anthony had some unusual success against the Spurs, who traditionally have been the toughest for Anthony to score against of any Western Division team (20.3 points per game in 25 games). Anthony scored 27 points Wednesday night, most against them since he scored 31 as a member of Denver on Dec. 16, 2010.

Weird stat of the night II: Anthony had 24 field goal attempts and only one free throw attempt. It marked only the third time in his career he’s had at least 24 field goal attempts and one free throw attempt or fewer. It was the first time for him since March 17, 2006 (a 116-102 loss at Memphis) when he produced 25 field goal attempts, one foul shot and 33 points.

Weird stat of the night IV: The Knicks are 2-5 since Anthony returned to the lineup after straining his right groin.

Not a good sign: There was little to fault for the Spurs, although allowing the Knicks to shoot 58.3 percent in garbage time in the fourth quarter  was a step back from outstanding defense in the first three quarters.

Best plus/minus scores: Ginobili was plus-17, Parker was plus-16 and Jefferson was plus-13.

Worst plus/minus scores: Danny Green and Leonard were minus-5 and T.J. Ford was minus-2.

Quote of the game: “He (Parker) owns the team. He knows, and we know, that almost every possession goes through him. And when you play and you feel like that it makes you play with a different serenity and cool,” Ginobili on Parker’s development leading the team.

How the schedule stacks up: The Spurs’ homestand continues with games Friday  against the Los Angeles Clippers, Monday against Washington and March 14 against Orlando. The Knicks’ road trip continues Friday in Milwaukee before returning home Sunday afternoon against Philadelphia before a Monday night game at Chicago.

Injuries: .J. Ford, who missed the entire 2004-05 season with a spinal cord injury, had to be helped off the count midway through the second quarter after sustaining sustained a stinger in his back. He remained on the floor for more than three minutes. Ford struggled to regain his footing and eventually was helped off the court by two trainers. He didn’t return to the game, although he sat on the Spurs’ bench during the second half. The Knicks played without Chandler (hamstring), Jeffries (sore knee) and Bill Walker (sore left elbow).

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