Knicks 102, Pacers 88
EDITOR’S NOTE: Apologies for the delay in getting this up. I was at choir practice. Like, all night.
|Carmelo Anthony, SF 30 MIN | 6-13 FG | 3-7 FT | 4 REB | 3 AST | 16 PTS | +9
Three games into the Woodsonian era, still no imminent signs of Melo suddenly reverting to a 30-shot-a-game chucker in the Mamba mold. Like a dutiful, guilt-ridden Catholic, Melo continues to share the wealth on offense, playing within himself, looking for the open teammate, and generally making nice with everyone. Which I suppose is a pretty decent M.O. when you’re still trying to figure out how to wipe the blood off the dagger…. Too soon?
His defense on Danny Granger was equally fervent, with Anthony forcing the Pacer Captain into settling all night for perimeter jumpers….. I’ve just been told hat’s basically what Danny Granger does anyway.
|Amare Stoudemire, PF 32 MIN | 4-8 FG | 8-8 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 16 PTS | -3
Stat stormed out the gate en route to perhaps his finest first quarter of the season, scoring 10 while not allowing a clearly atrophying David West to have his way inside or out. We’ll see whether Stoudemire can effectively connect with a coach who is inevitably going to ask far more of him on the defensive end than any skipper ever has. But if tonight’s hustle and focus are any indication, maybe Woodson is starting to get through to the traditionally cheesecloth Stat.
|Tyson Chandler, C 32 MIN | 3-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 9 REB | 3 AST | 8 PTS | +1
A night after channeling his All-Star snubbing into an astonishing beat-down of Roy Hibbert, Chandler was largely bested in the second round. That doesn’t mean his interior presence wasn’t crucial — his three blocks and shot-altering prowess were huge — But when the former Georgetown cornerstone is locked in, it’s hard to stop him. Doesn’t matter though; after last night’s drubbing, there’s a 600000% chance Hibbert never accepts another at-large All-Star invite again, so long as he and Chandler are playing in the same conference.
|Landry Fields, G 20 MIN | 3-7 FG | 3-4 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 9 PTS | -4
Regardless of where on the floor it’s coming from, Landry’s shot is broker than a Dublin wharf drunk — it’s too slow, his feet are never truly set, and his wrist constantly finds new geometry-defying angles at which to flail. If you’re a shooting guard who can’t manage to hit 60% from the free throw line, you have a confidence issue. As such, methinks the time is nigh for Woodson to literally chain Fields to Novak 24-7. Before we know it, Landry will be putting the hand in the cookie jar right proper.
The good news is Landry’s tin-charging prowess has never been higher. As long as he continue to attack, defenders will start to sag off. Which is why fixing his shot will be of the utmost importance going forward.
|Jeremy Lin, PG 33 MIN | 6-10 FG | 7-8 FT | 7 REB | 6 AST | 19 PTS | +3
The most important stat: 2, as in the number of cough-ups surrendered by our pugnacious point. Lin did a masterful job of handling the Pacers’ uber-physical, trap-prone defense, choosing the right pass over the flashy one, while hitting a number of improbable fade-away and mid-range jumpers. Mike Woodson might be known for fitting his point guards with razor-studded choke collars, but as long as Lin can play like this, there’s no reason to believe Woody can’t devise sets that take full advantage of his lane-probing prowess. With Baron Davis suffering from ham problems…. Hamstring? Whatever…. Lin’s minutes will probably see an uptick over the next week or so.
|Mike Bibby, PG 10 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 5 PTS | +6
Coupled with Boom Dizzle’s ouchie, Lin’s early foul trouble made an extended cameo from Bibby as necessary as it was terrifying. All in all, it turned out to be a shockingly solid outing from the 79-year veteran. Although I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t alarmed by whatever it was Bibby was wearing on his shoulder / forearm — some kind of light green substance. I’m just going to assume it’s flesh rot.
|Jared Jeffries, PF 15 MIN | 1-5 FG | 4-4 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 6 PTS | +9
I thought about turning JJ’s playing time into a drinking game — the prompts being throwing his body in front of 200-plus pound men running at full speed — but worried I might end up driving my house into a tree. Jeffries probably should’ve been credited with four charge-takes, all of which ended up going the other way. He once again had his share of bunny misses, but he was absolutely huge on the windows, with four of his five ‘bounds coming on the offensive end.
|Steve Novak, SF 16 MIN | 2-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 6 PTS | +10
He wasn’t quite Friday gangbusters, but his off-the-dribble pull-up from the right wing in the second quarter was a thing of beauty. Dude still can’t defend a lamp post, but banking on him to do so is a like expecting a really good lawn mower to wash dishes.
|J.R. Smith, SG 30 MIN | 4-12 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 11 PTS | +20
This was quintessential Smith: A torrid start, followed by inexplicably bad shots that left rubber streaks on the rim, followed by a couple inexplicably bad shots that managed to tickle the twine. After the win, J.R. may or may not have been found celebrating St. Fatty’s Day at a local gentleman’s club.
|Iman Shumpert, G 22 MIN | 1-6 FG | 4-7 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 6 PTS | +19
Look, I love the kid, but Shumpert shows less vision on his drives a 90-year-old woman with cataracts. Thus far, it doesn’t seem as though Shump truly understands who his new coach is, and how quickly said coach reacts to boneheaded plays with a very sharp stage hook. But Woodson also knows he has in Shumpert a dynamo defender that could be devastating in certain, strategic trapping situations, so he’s probably liable to give the youngster a few more inches on the leash, for now.
Five Things We Saw
- The ‘Bocker bench was once again the key catalyst in New York’s scoring surges, spearheading a pair of 17-4 runs — one in each half — while outscoring Indiana’s pine riders 34-17 on the night. Sooner or later Woodson’s platoon strategy will run aground, but right now it’s looking like a pretty sound strategy.
- On paper the Pacers committed 15 turnovers, but it felt like 15,000. With the exception of a laisez faire first stanza, the Knicks were aggressive and active on the defensive end, deflecting dishes, disrupting passing lanes, forcing the Pacers middle before quickly collapsing. Meanwhile, the orange and blue — who still ranked near the bottom in turnovers committed heading into Saturday’s showdown — managed to only cough it up 11 times. Which by my count is three less times than my buddy, who is still whispering sweet nothings to the toilet bowl.
- The Knicks did a pretty good job of keeping the Pacers — ranked fifth in the league in total rebounding — off the glass. In fact, since being bludgeoned on the boards by the Bulls, the Knicks have out-bounded their opponent in each of the last three games. Like Cromwell driving my people West of the River Shannon, it looks like we’re finally figuring out how to box out.
- While Lin — and to a deader extent, Bibby — was duly tasked with running the show for most of the game, down the stretch, the outcome mostly but by no means completely decided, Woodson put the ball in Melo’s hands. Anthony responded with a pair of deft dishes, and very little in the way of “getting his.” It’s too early to tell whether this will develop into any kind of long-term strategy, but the idea of “Melo-as-closer” certainly jives with Woodson’s decidedly more half-court, conservative offensive philosophy.
- It might’ve technically been a day before the Ides, but there was certainly enough in D’Antoni’s sudden departure to invite a Shakespearean comparison or twelve. But as with that most masterful of word weavers, sports are rife with as many tales of redemption as tragedy, and as many ironies as tears. The manner in which D’Antoni high-tailed it ex-Gotham, combined with the way in which the team has responded — some might say miraculously — to new leadership, covers pretty much all of these bases. It’s that kind of drama that makes sports such a strange diversionary endeavor, and why you can never be too sure how certain tragedies will ultimately play out.
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.