Knicks 102, Cavs 97
|Carmelo Anthony, SF 14 MIN | 1-5 FG | 4-4 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 6 PTS | -15
Well ain’t that just a barrel of squid shit. There’s nothing about Melo’s actual performance that warrants much more than a hyphen-hugged recap – he couldn’t hit Lake Erie from a barge and checked out immediately – so we’ll cut to the chase: As of this printing, we don’t know the extent of Melo’s second quarter knee injury, which he sustained after tripping at half court while attempting to break off an outlet pass. The fall looked career ending or relatively benign, depending on whom you ask; it’s hard to tell whether Melo merely tripped over his own foot, or if the dime stop caused his knee to buckle. His walk off-court wasn’t a heavy limp, but we’ve all heard enough in the way of anecdotal horror stories to know that doesn’t really amount to much when it comes to knee injuries. (Remember when Rajon Rondo WARMED UP before that game with the Heat, only to have word leak his was season ending? Again, nothing to screw around with.)
Part way through the third, Tina Cervasio relayed word that the Knicks had “no plan to conduct on MRI on Melo’s knee because their medical staff consists of nothing but oral hygienists.” Now, that could easily change tomorrow, when the Knicks – who travel tonight to Detroit – have had more time to watch Melo move around, hopefully without having to crawl. Still, this kind of media voodoo is getting to be a bit old, with this particularly terrifying instantiation inviting the inevitable question: If a Knick knee breaks on the court, and no MRI is there to scan it, did it really happen?
|Iman Shumpert, SF 19 MIN | 3-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | -1
There’s a whiff of doghouse about Shump’s lack of playing time, though the specific straw remains unclear. A pair of early threes – each of which exhibited the textbook form and full extension accessible to him – started things off on the right foot. There weren’t many obvious defensive transgressions, but then again I barely remember where I am half the time. The limited burn he spent on Irving met with mixed reviews; the on-ball fundamentals and quickness were there, for the most part, but so was the all-world talent on the other end of the string.
|Tyson Chandler, C 35 MIN | 4-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 9 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 8 PTS | +12
Chandler’s early struggles served as the team’s nightmare start in miniature: a bunch of botched bunnies, late rotations, and unfortunate give-ups. The difference, of course, being that Tyson was actually TRYING to swim out of the bloodbath, while his teammates seemed content to drown. The stat line might not incite popped eyes, but the last-ditch dump Chandler took on Irving Irving – textbook low stance, speedy shuffle, and perfectly time swat on a crafty lean-in three – was monstrously gorgeous and smelled like angel food cake. And yes, I realize it doesn’t make sense to love Chandler for his defensive stop while blasting Felton in spite of his. So I’m giving Tyson an F, just so y’all will feel better.
|Raymond Felton, PG 33 MIN | 3-9 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 10 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 3 TO | 8 PTS | +16
I don’t care if he dropped ten dimes. I don’t care if he came up with another clutch block at the end of another wire-tight game against yet another all-world match. RAYMOND FELTON’S BEEN TERRIBLE! In fact, here’s a short list of things I’d rather have than Raymond Felton right now:
1) The flu
In a sense I feel bad for the guy – for 28, he looks about as fluid as a pile of rust flakes. His 10 assists where wholly misleading (very few came off of prodding penetration) and his jumper couldn’t be more broken. He can’t convert layups in traffic – the lack of touch just sends the ball careening into orbit – and his defense is slow and flat-footed far too frequently.
A thirty second stretch sequence encapsulates perfectly what’ I’d like to call The Raymond Felton Experience: Foul Kyrie Irving on continuation; grab the defensive rebound; turn the ball over; block Irving’s shot in transition; turn the ball over; grab another defensive rebound. Again, the block on Kyrie was coldblooded, and his offense play showed flashes of penetrative poise. It’s not that he’d beyond redemption — he’s not. I just…. I need to lie down.
|James White, SG 4 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | 0
James White Angram Fun: JAM EH SEW IT
As a side note, someone needs to tell Woodson that this isn’t a Harlem Globetrotter Old Timers Tour – you’re not required to give anyone honorary seven minute starts. Particularly if they don’t require a Rascal.
|Amar’e Stoudemire, PF 32 MIN | 10-15 FG | 2-2 FT | 6 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 4 TO | 22 PTS | +13
On any other night, STAT performance would’ve amounted to the typical give-and-take – offensive splendor coupled with the occasional glimpse into the defensive rigor of a waterless moat. But with Melo felled and his team desperate, Amar’e beasted the Cavs at just the right times, showcasing a vintage repertoire and reminding everyone anew that Melo isn’t the only power forward capable of blowing stuff up.
Remember Woodson saying he was instituting a strict 30-minute limit on STAT because if he went over his head would roll off? Mike Woodson is a filthy liar. He only went three over, but it’s hard not to argue that – offensively, anyway – the Knicks needed every nanosecond. His final bucket – a hard-nosed take, near miss, perfectly-timed OREB, and eventual put-back – was mensch enough to make me sweat just sitting on my couch. I have no idea what getaway car the Knicks fired up to get the hell out of Ohio, but whatever it is, Amare’s driving it, and he’s blasting Fiddler on the Roof as loud as he fucking wants.
|Steve Novak, SF 20 MIN | 4-7 FG | 3-3 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 15 PTS | -3
If Novak’s four-point play with the team down 22 was the comeback flint spark, his three to give the Knicks their first lead – 79-78, and what felt like 50 years after the opening tip – was the apocalypse. In a good way. The defense was as cartoonishly crippling as always, but the stroke was mostly pure, with the makes snapping instead of rattling.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind you that tonight we bore witness to Novak’s most athletic display ever: A rip-through foul-draw towards the end of the third quarter which saw Steve do three things in sequence: 1) jump; 2) flail all four limbs wildly; and 3) land without dying.
THAT happened after this.
|Marcus Camby, C 7 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | -6
Not much of note from Old Man Cambs, although his brief first half appearance included by far the Knicks’ best strategy for combatting Cleveland’s silly run up to that point: Punting the ball into the stands.
|Pablo Prigioni, PG 8 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 3 PTS | +1
Having plucked butt splinters the last two games, it seemed everyone was pretty pleased when Prigs shed the warm-ups. He looked fairly spry, which hopefully dispels the injury rumors. A timely three, faint hints at a newfound tin-attacking aggressiveness, avoiding having Kyrie Irving eat him and used the bones for meat stock – can’t really ask for much more than that.
|Jason Kidd, PG 30 MIN | 3-7 FG | 3-4 FT | 8 REB | 1 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 12 PTS | +5
Fresh off Sunday’s sickening loss, it wasn’t exactly shocking to have Kidd’s first on-screen moment be greeting his bewildered mates out of a timeout down a thousand points holding a heating pad and clip board. Truth told, Kidd himself was witness to much of the early massacre, before tides turned and the ‘Bockers burnt getaway rubber out of town.
Saying this was Kidd’s best performance in a long while – and it was – is like saying DMT makes you feel weird. Whether the solid stat line means Kidd might be finding his niche off the bench, it’s far too early to say. But for a second night on a back-to-back 30 hours after starring in the Heat’s latest snuff film, J-Kidd looked downright vivacious. The off-balance dagger late in regulation might win on heroics, but the steals, deflections, and timely boards are what made his +5 the final tally’s mirror.
|J.R. Smith, SG 38 MIN | 6-17 FG | 5-6 FT | 7 REB | 7 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 18 PTS | +3
I’ll be honest – I’m too tired to write about J.R. Smith right now. Haiku?
Our hero felled by air
Five Things We Saw
- At one point early in the second quarter, the Cavaliers – after going 14-19 (including 3-4 from deep) in the first – were shooting 81% from the field and looked poised to send the Knicks back to New York in hanging out the back of a Waste Management truck. Thunderous dunks, wide open threes, contested mid-range jumpers– the Cavs just couldn’t miss. Mareese Speights made his first 10 shots for god’s sake, almost all of them on horrible 17-20 footers. Even Mike Breen was at a loss for comps, calling it “one of the most spectacular shooting performances I’ve seen in a long time.” The Cleveland Cavaliers. In 2013.
- Both teams were being flagrantly irresponsible with the ball in the early going – throwing worse deep balls than Joe Kapp and dribbling off their own tongues to the tune of 11 combined first quarter turnovers. But the Knicks were able to limit their transgressions down the stretch. Which, yeah. There’s another bullet point.
- Advantages in two realms proved the undercurrent to tonight’s win: Rebounds (40 to 31 in favor of the good guys) and threes (the Knicks hit on 12-30, the Cavs just 6-20). The Cavs field the league’s 28th overall defense, after all, so getting buckets – and open threes – was probably never going to be the chief struggle. Both teams entered the game in the middle of rebounding pack, however, so it was good to see the guys pounding glass, especially Kidd (8 boards) and Smith (7).
- We all know Melo is irreplaceable – on this team, anyway. And it stands to reason that, even if he’s out a while, J.R. Smith’s will be a flawed facsimile. But for a few stretches in the second and third quarters, units featuring Smith and STAT generated some pretty nifty stuff. I’ll have to take a gander at the play-by-play numbers a little more tomorrow, but if we’re going to sans the services of number seven for a stretch, it behooves Woodson to tape as far as feasible into whatever juju Smith and STAT have.
- I’ll spare you the Rockne rah-rahs and Ewing Theory platitudes: If Melo’s injury is as serious as some seem to suggest (and by “some” I mean “people whose Twitter avatars include flipped bills and enormous scorpion bowls with all seven straws in their mouth”), we’re screwed harder than a Louvre chandelier. That’s not to say we wouldn’t rattle off to hold fast to a top-five seed; I still think we’re deep enough – and boast enough fresh legs unduly benched (Copeland) – to make it interesting. But there’s just as good of a chance that whatever failsafe Woodson leans on will be solved in a second, and that our offense – as of this point our only ticket past the first round – might sputter and stall completely. Obviously such speculation is as morbid as it is moot, at this point, and as such means less than squat. For now we’ll take the win and Steve McQueen getaway and move on to Detroit, where Wednesday the Knicks take on the Plucky Pistons. The East race fast becoming vise tight, it’s another we’ll need to bag, Melo or no Melo.
Beyond his work for KnickerBlogger, Jim is a contributor to the New York Times Off the Dribble NBA blog, ESPN.com, and The Classical. He is currently working on a biography of Robert Silverman, titled "Clownin' and Astoundin.'" Follow him on Twitter @JPCavan.