|Carmelo Anthony, SF 36 MIN | 12-22 FG | 3-3 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 31 PTS | +18
Happy Chrimbus, everybody! What did Winter Man leave you under the Chrimbus Bush? Well, for me, it was a healthy, net-splashing Melo. It’s exactly what I wanted. For all of the hullabaloo about the “New Melo”, there are really only two substantial changes to his game. One, when he’s doubled—and at the start of the 2nd half, Brooklyn went so far as to begin sending every bipedal life form at him literally at midcourt—he’s looking for open ‘mates on the weak side as opposed to forcing a contested shot. Two, the move to power forward (as many a wise wag predicted) creates a mismatch no matter who’s guarding him. His dodgy ankle may have kept him from driving the lane as with as much vigor or as frequently as he was prior to getting pretzeled by Dwight Howard (Nope. Not over that yet. Eff you, Dwight!), but when he’s hitting 4 out of his 8 bombs from downtown, it almost doesn’t matter. Oh, and remember to keep your Chrimbus Bush trimmed and wet for Winter Man!
|Ronnie Brewer, SF 15 MIN | 1-5 FG | 2-4 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 4 PTS | -13
Remember the double-teaming I mentioned one player capsule ago? (I really hope you do. Otherwise you’re suffering from some serious short-term memory loss. Please consult your physician immediately. Then get Oliver Sachs on the blower, pronto. He’ll write up a picayune chapter about your debilitating plight in his next tome.) The reason the Prokorovs felt so comfortable smothering Melo whenever he got his mitts on the rock was that all the early-season delightful twine-tickling from Ronnie is nowhere to be found. And what remains is a series of bricks and ghastly, hesitation-filled attempts that’d make Landry Fields look like Jesus Shuttlesworth. To top it off, Brew seemed to have a really hard time sticking with any and every Nyet he was assigned to cover. Get well soon, Shump. There are bushels of minutes just waiting for you to snaggle.
|Tyson Chandler, C 37 MIN | 7-11 FG | 2-2 FT | 12 REB | 2 AST | 16 PTS | +21
We’re starting to run out of superlatives for this cat. Amazingly enough, 7-11 actually represents an off shooting (as it were) night for Tyson, but just as impressive as the rim-rattling alley-oops where each one seemed to possess greater and greater ferocity and acrobatic difficulty, as if there was a wayward East German judge from the Olympics sitting courtside, determining if Tyson would win the Gold, are the tip outs and the ability to prowl the lane, covering for each and every defensive gaffe on the perimeter like an overly-caffeinated middle linebacker. He’s the most irreplaceable player on the Knicks’ roster. Oh yeah. There’s also this.
|Jason Kidd, PG 35 MIN | 2-9 FG | 1-2 FT | 8 REB | 5 AST | 7 PTS | +6
Anyone else think Jason’s been reading his own press clippings? Methinks he saw what the ink-stained wretches have been scribbling regarding his sudden transmogrification into a dead-eye three-point marksman. Maybe Isola/Berman left him a message in the bottom of a bottle of Manischewitz or three, and in the midst of an overly-sweet wine hangover, he’s forgotten that a great deal of his long-range success owes to the fact that he’s really only been shooting the widest of wide-open threes. Mind you, all of the dynamite “Sage of the Hardwood” type things that have so endeared this former foe are still in effect—the faster-than-light flicks of a wrist that deflect the ball away from a less-than-cautious ballhandler, the nifty rebounding and especially the way he found Melo as a trailer on the break to keep our star a’ scorchin’ when the Brooklynites were in the midst of deploying their ABC (Anybody. But. Melo.) defensive strategery. That said, in the LA/Cleveland/Houston and now Brooklyn contests, he’s started to heave the leather skyward even when there’s a cat half his age mere inches away from his grill. I’m not complaining (Okay, I am complaining), but mebbe you want to rein it in a bit, kay? Pretty please?
|Raymond Felton, PG 32 MIN | 4-15 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 4 AST | 8 PTS | +15
Oh Ray. The fact that you’re leading the league with 24 alley-oop tosses to your bestie Tyson is swell and the whole limiting turnovers to the absolute minimum (zero tonight) is a huge part of what makes the ‘Bockers so durned efficient but there has to be a better option when the defender goes under the pick and roll than lofting a fadeaway 15 footer or a floater where I can’t tell if it’s a pass a shot or what. To wit: in years past, Felt averaged 3-4 FT’s per 36 minutes. This year, it’s down to 2. Now Bob, you’re probably thinking. What’s the big diff between one fewer trip to the charity stripe? Well, [Insert Your Name Here], it’s the difference between drawing fouls at an average rate for a point and being Jose Calderon, without the Spaniard’s shooting ability. It’s certainly possible that his injured paw(s) is/are bothering him more than he’s letting on, (Bulldog Mentality, dontcha know) but if so, someone should let Ray know that he’s actually hurting the team by not getting right now. If memory serves the exact same thing happened during our first go round with Ray. He started off shooting in the mid/high 40’s, got hurt, and tried to battle through the injury, only to see his shooting percentage plummet to around .411 before he was forced to fill out one of those annoying change of address forms with his local post office. Ray, if you’re reading this, take a game off and chill. Prigs can man the tiller whilst you slather your mitts in Vaseline and cover them with rubber gloves, like the great Dennis Potter had to do daily because his eczema was so bad the skin on his hands would actually crack when he tried to type during a particularly bad outbreak. Everything will be exactly where you left in when you return, I super-promise.
|Kurt Thomas, PF 8 MIN | 0-0 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 1 PTS | -3
At the end of the first half, Kurt got bonked during his slower-than-Molasses-being-shown-in-slow-motion dives to the hoop, resulting in some fidgeting with his contacts. When the camera returned to Kurt sitting on the bench, maybe it’s just me, but it almost seemed as if the aforementioned whack uncrossed his eyes. DON’T SMACK THE CRAZY OUT OF OUR KURT. WE’S GONNA NEED IT FOR THE PLAYOFFS.
|Chris Copeland, SF 23 MIN | 3-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 8 PTS | +10
Steve had an upset tummy today (as friend-of-the-blog Seth Rosenthal noted, it’s highly likely that when Stevak hurls, he does so into a bucket placed exactly 23’ away, just so his form doesn’t suffer during his illness-induced absence) so Cope got to spin with the second unit, managing to perform a reasonable Novakaine imitation, save he actually hit a shot and in the painted area and the fact that, visually-speaking, he may resemble Steve Novak less than any other sentient being with opposable thumbs.
|Pablo Prigioni, PG 14 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 2 AST | 6 PTS | -4
That was Prig’s finest stint since the game when he logged some serious minutes back on I’m too lazy to comb through basketball-reference.com and look it up. For the majority of the year, he’s seemed to have an iron-clad 12 minute limit on his floor time, regardless of how well the erstwhile starter is doing (YES, RAY, YOUR EARS SHOULD BE RED. I’M DEFINITELY TALKING ABOUT YOU.) but tonight, the bulk of the game-changing 23-7 run extending from the middle of the third to the beginning of the fourth occurred when the comely Argentine gentleman scholar was at the wheel and Son of Wood, shockingly, let the man play on. I’m just spitballin’ here, but maybe, after a good 15 years of starting in Europe, Prigs is just hard-wired to absorb the flow of the game before getting his shwerve on, rather than gunning from Jump Street, like one would hope of a quality sub. In any case, it’s always fun to watch Prigs thrive. Right, Coach?
|James White, SG 2 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -4
It should be noted that our athletic swingman suffers from a slight case of body dysmorphia.
|J.R. Smith, SG 37 MIN | 7-11 FG | 4-4 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 19 PTS | +24
Well hi there, early season J.R.! Welcome back. Whether it was the yeoman defensive effort, the wrangling of many a long rebound, the sopping-wet jumper, the Euro-steps to the tin or the oh-so-gorgeous feed of Tyson Chandler as the shot clock was about to expire, that was definitely Earl’s best outing since…now it’s way too late to check old boxscores on basketball-reference. What are you doing awake at this hour, anyway? Go to bed. Get some rest, already. No, no…there isn’t any leftover pie. You’re going to eat pie at 2 in the morning? You know what that does to your stomach. Besides, J.R. Smith will be dropping by in a few hours after an evening of carousing and I’m saving the last slice for him. He deserves it after tonight’s performance. Love you too, Sweetums. Kiss.
Five Things We Saw
- Is it just me, or does it seem like these teams play each other every week? The old saw about familiarity breeding contempt certainly comes to mind. There’s part of this still-embryonic rivalry that feels like so much artificial, PR/Media-inspired hogwash, but as I’ve said before, there are 3-4 Men in Black who get on my nerves like fingers on a blackboard while chewing on aluminum foil and hearing an impatient five-year old ask, “Why?” to the point that you just want to bellow, “BECAUSE, THAT’S WHY.” As such, it was nice to whomp on our fellow Big Apple residents, but not in a manner in which it seemed any overdue effort or exertion was required. It was a solid, professional win; the kind of victory that the traditional powers—Miami, Boston, San Antonio—enjoy with the casual indifference of a good, regular bowel movement.
- You know who else doesn’t like the Nets? Chris Copeland, that’s who.
STARING CONTEST, MOFOS!
- The Nets D is…er…not good. It’s not like this was some Spock-type, multi-level chess shit either. Brooklyn decided they had to stop Melo if they were to prove triumphant (an odd conclusion, considering they were only down four at the half). For the beginning of the third, though, it seemed like a genius maneuver, mainly because they were funneling the ball into Ronnie’s bent arms. Once Woody subbed Earl back in (and yeah, that took waaaaaaaaaaayyyyyy too long to occur) the floor was once again properly spaced for the Felton-Chandler pick and roll at the top of the key. I need to watch this chunk of the game again, but I’m pretty sure the ‘Bockers ran the exact same play for 5-6 consecutive trips down the floor, each time resulting in a Tyson smash or a pinging of the ball around the perimeter to an open three point shooter. Call me crazy, but it seems like there’s a pretty basic countermove available: the defender goes under the pick and gives Ray-Ray the wide open 15 footer. Whether they couldn’t deduce what was going wrong or simply don’t possess the talent to execute properly remains a mystery. In either case, these guys ain’t too good, defensively-speaking.
- Just wait. To paraphrase John Paul Jones, I have not yet begun to rip the Nyets. Sure it’s mean to kick a fella when he’s down (They’ve dropped 8 of the last 10.) but who said I was just your garden-variety nice Jewish Boy? On offense, throughout the first half, they were having a goodly amount of success running both the Joe Johnson/Deron and the Brook/Deron pick and roll, leading to some face-to-the-desk moments from your humble correspondent when the Knicks (predictably) switched and/or doubled freeing up wide open shooters like the immortal Keith Bogans banging home trey after trey. But when the 2nd half started, they gorted a couple of threes and for some reason, decided that ISO-Player X was the path to their salvation. By now you’ve probably seen Deron’s slambook of Avery’s play calling. Honestly, after witnessing what went down tonight, I might be inclined to agree with ol’ Neckbeard.
- And that’ll just about do it. For any of those who were worried after yet another drubbing by the Houston RockLins, tonight’s game was a welcome reassurance that all is right and noble and holy and good in Knickville. We’re 19-6. The last two times the Orange and Blue started out that well? Oh, just during the 1969-70 and 1972-73 season. If memory serves, those years ended well, n’est pas?
See you on Friday. You know, as long as the world doesn’t end. That’d really suck.