March 02, 2011
New York Knicks head coach Mike D'Antoni gave Shawne Williams(notes) the dubious honor of starting at the five-spot on Tuesday evening, which meant the former first-round flameout-turned-reclamation project-turned rotation player spent a fair amount of his night getting beaten up by Dwight Howard(notes). "Gee, thanks, Coach."
Guarding the Orlando Magic's beast of a big man is a tough gig for most professional pivots of near-equivalent size; for a miscast hybrid forward giving up at least a couple of inches and 20 to 25 pounds of muscle, it's a near-Sisyphean task, as noted by a commenter in the Knickerblogger game thread. In the first quarter, Howard feasted on the mismatch, bulldozing his way through Williams into the paint en route to a too-easy 17 points (hitting five of six field-goal attempts and knocking down seven of his nine free throws) that paced Orlando to a 32-21 advantage after 12 minutes.
Williams was a game defender — he did what he could to disrupt Dwight's rhythm and prevent the bigger man from establishing dominant post position, frequently setting a low base while pressing into Dwight's lower back in an attempt to hold ground. And Howard did quiet down considerably over the game's final three quarters, though the Knicks (despite a stretch of spirited opposition in the second and third quarters) had less to do with that at times than Stan Van Gundy's squad looking elsewhere for offense.
Really, there's only so much that Shawne Williams is going to do with the NBA's best center; Dwight finished with 30 points and 16 rebounds in Orlando's 116-110 home win over New York. Williams was never not going to get dominated last night; the result of a matchup like that is all but preordained before the opening tip.
That's what makes moments like Williams' third-quarter baseline bang over Howard all the sweeter.
You could argue that it's not truly a dunk because, like Rudy Gay and Dwight himself, Williams' hand never touched the rim, or that it's not a dunk on Howard, because he didn't leave the floor to contest the shot, choosing instead to stay planted and try to push Williams away from the hoop with his off arm (hence the heave). But it was still an instance of Williams exerting his will in the paint rather than just being continually ground down by Dwight.
There was reversal here; the moment was kind of cathartic. Williams was never able to stop the rock from rolling back down the hill, but for a second there, he was able to transcend that dismal scripted storyline. He wasn't pushing anymore; he was playing. Even if only for a second.