|Carmelo Anthony, SF 28 MIN | 12-22 FG | 3-3 FT | 6 REB | 4 AST | 29 PTS | +24
For all of the well-deserved laurels and plaudits and whatnot that were tossed at Melo’s feet for “getting it” “becoming an all-around player” “making his teammates better” “hoary sportswriting cliché”, we’d yet to witness one of those games where he whipped out his calling card – a blood-soaked path of devastation where he leaves a pile of bodies in his path etc. Welp, we can check that off our Thanksgiving wish list. Melo was just an un-guardable offensive weapon in the first quarter, banging home threes, bullying anyone and everyone on the low block either via brute force or a Larry Johnson-esque satchel of moves, shredding the Hornets’ interior game (as it were) with a series of low post moves and when it was all said and done, had outscored the Cajuns by his lonesome at the end of one, 19-17. He had one of his patented, “I ain’t running back until I give Referee X a mouthful of guff regarding his truly awful job performance” moments but all in all, was a vocal, active defender. A slew of heat-checking heaves in the 2nd half brought his efficiency/shooting percentage down, but Melo looked (as has been the case all season) like a star who could carry a team to the title. Boffo.
|Ronnie Brewer, SF 23 MIN | 2-5 FG | 4-7 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 10 PTS | +17
You’ll see this as a recurring theme throughout this recap, but like his mates, Ronnie continued to do all the nifty things he’s been doing in the prior eight games: He moved without the ball, cut to the rim with aplomb, played smothering defense, (rendering a vastly improved Al-Farouq Aminu nigh-invisible, and banged home the Shawne Williams special (and the Landry Fields bête noire) when left wide open. Dig your old vinyl Talking Heads LP’s out of the back of the closet, don your best size 58 white suit and sign along, kiddies, “Same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it ever was…”
|Tyson Chandler, C 19 MIN | 2-2 FG | 3-5 FT | 12 REB | 0 AST | 7 PTS | +20
Granted, he wasn’t exactly facing Moses Malone, Wilt Chamberlain, Shaquille O’Neal or some monstrous half-man, half-tree made of the recombinant DNA of the three previously listed individuals and a California Redwood, but it was nice to Tyson at last year’s board-dominating best. A flurry of ticky-tack fouls and the resulting passivity in the 1st half delayed our man Tyson’s Tysoning but he rebounded (literally and figuratively) quite nicely in the 2nd stanza.
|Jason Kidd, PG 25 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 4 AST | 3 PTS | +16
If I were a fan of the Dallas Mavericks, I’d be royally peeved. Whether the lockout caused Kidd to slack on his conditioning or the fact that teams played about a a baker’s dozen games in a fortnight adversely affected him or what, Jason Kidd did NOT play like this last year.
Maybe you haven’t noticed, but across the spectrum of New York sports, there’s been a persistent and ongoing, “I’m a fading star picking up a last paycheck or two and the Knicks/Rangers/Mets/Jets will pony up the ducats because for some reason the individuals who fill out the W-2 forms seem to think that we fans crave ‘stars’ whether or not the ravages of time have made that designation no longer apt,” thing. So when Kidd managed to secure a three-year deal, it was hard to miss the collective chortling and poking of ribs and nudge-nudges at our expense, particularly from the Lone Star state (and your humble correspondent). Egg, meet face.
Even in a ho-hum affair, his final line belies how crucial to the winning formula that Son of Wood has cobbled together has been. It’s also a near-guarantee that there’ll be 3-4 plays a game that are so dizzyingly beautiful and seemingly conjured straight out of thin air, you almost can’t believe what you just witnessed. It’s like seeing a truly great magician. (Don’t laugh. Such things exist. Just because David Blaine and Chris Angel and G.O.B Bluth have bespoiled the cultural zeitgeist doesn’t mean guffaws should be your default setting w/r/t the poetry of magic.) To wit, there was a moment in the 3rd when Kidd snatched a steal on the run, stripping the ball and then saving the ball by flinging behind his back on a dime whiles possibly pulling a hanky out of Austin Rivers’ ear. So durned purty.
|Raymond Felton, PG 30 MIN | 5-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 6 AST | 15 PTS | +30
Quite the display of chuckery by Ray. The general perception is that he’s been shooting the lights out this year, but, numberz-wise, (not including the tick upward via tonight’s NBA Jam “On Fire” status) he’s pretty much been at his career norms. That said, given the attention that Melo draws and the team’s dedication to ball-movement, those shots will be there all season. Whether or not he can keep this up, (and big jump in three-point shooting proficiency is highly improbable in his tenth season of professional play) the things that are (and have been) sustainable – the deft passing, the feisty defense, and particularly limiting turnovers – have made Felt a serious upgrade at point guard for this team. Wow. I got through that without a single fat joke or Lin invocation. Yay, me!
|Rasheed Wallace, PF 18 MIN | 2-8 FG | 2-2 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 6 PTS | +13
Not much was required of everyone’s favorite ‘crazy’ Uncle tonight but speaking of season-long trends, I’m starting to think Knick opponents are purposely missing free throws just so they too can state that they had the privilege of hearing Sheed bellow, “BALL DON’T LIE“, like a New England Bed and Breakfast posting a tablet claiming George Washington hunkered down there in the midst of a Revolutionary War campaign or Emerson once befouled their commode.
|Steve Novak, SF 25 MIN | 3-12 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 8 PTS | +2
Okay…my attitude towards Novak has slowly disintegrated from, “Shots aren’t falling. It happens,” to, ” He might be rushing his shot,” to, “Something is seriously, seriously wrong here. Like maybe the cataclysmic magnetic pole shift that scientists/the tinfoil hat crew have been fretting about actually occurred and the floods and tectonic events and who knows what else are imminent. Steve Novak being able to build a medium-sized brownstone in Park Slope with his bundle of bricks certainly feels like it presages an earth-destroying apocalypse” I had absolutely no problem with Steve trying to shoot his way out of the slump during the extended temps-du-poubelle, but the fact that nothing was falling was just plain depressing. Granted, that’s the way our formerly oh-so-sweet, long-range cookie has been crumbling all season, so at least the over-arching theme of tonight’s summary remains intact. Small consolation, indeed.
|Chris Copeland, SF 3 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 2 PTS | +1
|Marcus Camby, C 10 MIN | 0-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 0 PTS | -9
Marcus mainly got to spin when the game is out of hand. There will be evening’s when his glass-patrolling is far more necessary than Sheed’s shouting, but this wasn’t one of them. Stay limber, Marcus. I know a guy who gives good Alexander Technique, if you’re interested.
|Pablo Prigioni, PG 13 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 0 PTS | -9
Prigs is still navigating a balance between his innate unselfishness and the mini-Woodson that lives in a quadrant of his cerebellum, bellowing at him to shoot. Tonight, the former won this psychic battle and the Second Unit really struggled when he was manning the point.
|James White, SG 15 MIN | 3-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 7 PTS | +4
No “Hi James!” for you. That was certainly the best we’ve seen of Flight, including the Summer League/Preseason. He’s a long-limbed, athletic defender and if he’s making jumpers, Novak might cede him some playing time. Along with all the well-earned plaudits this team has one, that idea would have been absolutely unfathomable as recently as three weeks ago.
|J.R. Smith, SG 30 MIN | 6-14 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 15 PTS | +1
That wasn’t J.R.’s best effort. He was certainly as culpable as the rest of the reserves for the spasm of rushed shots and shoddy closeouts that eradicated a double-digit lead. He had some stat-padding, fadeaway 20-footers and better all-around play as the game wore on, but in honor of the new normal that is this sack of super-knickitude (that’s a real word now.), I’m grading J.R. on the curve.
Five Things We Saw
- Well, that was (the big) easy. Facing an undermanned Hornets team without Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon (remember him?), I wholly expected an annoyingly sloppy, down-to-the-wire scrum in which we all ground our teeth down to the nubbin and fretted ourselves into a tizzy as we bemoaned the Knicks; inability to put away an inferior foe early on the first night of a back-to-back while a non-entity/imp of the perverse like Lance Thomas or Brian Roberts went bat guano crazy. For a putrid, sloppy stretch in the 2nd quarter, it seemed like that was exactly how the scenario would play out. I assume y’all have viewed Annie Hall multiple times but if not, there’s a scene where the Woodman ducks out of a posh gathering of the city’s intelligentsia to watch a game. When his significant other comes in to fetch him, he says. “Two minutes ago, the Knicks were ahead 14 points. Now…(clears through) they’re ahead 2 points.” Tonight was just like that, save a lack of canapes and/or discussion of modes of alienation. Fun fact: it never made the final cut, but the scene continued on the teevee machine with Frazier et al. v. all the great thinkers of history
Knicks ball – out of bounds – Jackson to Bradley – shot! No good! Rebound – Kierkegaard. Passes to Nietzsche – fast break to Kafka! Top of the key – it’s Kafka and Alvy – all alone – they’re both gripped with anxiety – and guilt – and neither can shoot! Now Earl Monroe steals it! And the Knicks have a four on two
But this ain’t yer iconic filmmaker’s Knickerbockers and they quickly righted the ship in the 2nd half and the morbidly obese XX-chromosome bearer began donning her viking horns and doing vocal warm ups.
- I’ve babbled before about the lessons a team has to learn if they’re to don the mantle of “true contender” and it looks like they’re acing another important one – not letting an inferior opponent get the nutty idea in their heads that they can make a game of it. An NBA season is an incredible grind and it’s absolutely vital to conserve one’s energy for the truly titanic tilts that await down the rad.. I’m the furthest thing from a professional athlete, but I do have some experience of performing whilst on tour and I can tell you, there are nights when you’re tired or bored or their was some idiotic clusterfuck with the hotel or your rental car was cramped or any of a million other petty grievances which can lead to a subpar outing. If they really are in this for the long haul, you grind an outfit like ‘Nawlins into a semi-solid paste right quick and get to garbage time as soon as possible. Done and done.
- If you wanna poke holes in what has been a stretch of unfathomably fine hoopery (and I am quite the adept and eager hole-poker) the one worrisome aspect to the ‘Bockers defensive dominance has been the slippage in letting penetrators beat them off the dribble, leading to either layups flurry of open three point shooters (you know, similar to what the New Yorkers do on a nightly basis). On a night like tonight, where Tyson’s pine-bound or passive due to foul woes (let alone in a game against the Chris Pauls of the world) that’s a baaaaaaad idea.
- Perhaps because the game was such a laffer, but for those who aren’t able for whatever reason to get the MSG feed, we were treated to some truly delightful Clyde-isms. He unleashed a brand new rhyme. “He’s gotta can that left hand,”, (re: Sheed), called Tyson the “MYP of the Defensive Player of the Year Award”, repeatedly referred to Greivis as “Vas-KWEZ” no matter how many times Spero Dedes semi-corrected him and was bedecked in an all-mauve/chartreuse ensemble that wasn’t epically garish, like any of his animal print duds, but was just unfathomably ugly.
- And that’ll do it. I suppose I can stop scribbling things like “I was so shocked that,” given how remarkably consistent this team has been. But history is a difficult thing to slough off. Given how scarred the fanbase has been by the last twelve seasons of not only execrable play but the daily, laugh-so-I-won’t-cry humiliations that the front office provided, I’m sure a gnawing sense of doubt will be with us throughout the season, like waiting for an addict to fall off the wagon or someone to suffer a horrific crash on his/her motorcycle. In both cases, it IS going to happen. It’s just a question of where and when and how bad it is.
But things can change. People can change. As has been unerring the case, this Knick team plays stifling defense, moves the ball to the open man, doesn’t cough up the ball, and rips off soul-crushing runs when the treys are falling. This is who they are, period. Not to kvetch, but as a writer, it’s getting a little bit boring. There are only so many ways I can write, “AWESOME. WE RULE! KISS MY HEINIE, HATERZ!” but that’s certainly a price I’m willing to play for some textbook, unfailingly beautiful ball from our guys. I have no doubt y’all are as well. It’s still early and 73 games is practically a lifetime, but for now, even yours truly, a pessimist of the Eeyore School, it’s getting harder and herder to deny that we’re on the verge of something downright great. Gulp.
Tomorrow, Dallas! To the Book Depository!