Knicks 103, Cavaliers 102
|Ronnie Brewer, SF 18 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 2 PTS | -4
I have precious few beefs with Woodson’s handling of the rotation this year. I also understand the temptation to overcompensate for Melo’s absence by maximizing minutes for guys who can create their own offense. Having said that, I do think Coach could do a better job identifying Bad J.R. games early and giving Brewer more burn on those nights. Which is not to say that Brewer was anything special tonight but he knows his own limits and provides much needed wing defense.
|Chris Copeland, SF 19 MIN | 4-5 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 11 PTS | -1
Filled in gamely for Fallen Leader. Has no business defending any athletic bigs with even a modicum of skill — got taken off the dribble a couple times by Tristan Thomspon and looked pretty helpless in the process. But started hot (8 points in the first quarter), shot wisely and efficiently (4/5, 2/3, 1/2), and ultimately fought his 19 minutes roughly to a draw (-1).
|Tyson Chandler, C 34 MIN | 9-10 FG | 5-7 FT | 10 REB | 0 AST | 23 PTS | -8
Maybe if I accompany his A- with a statement of assurance that I don’t think he’s better than Patrick Ewing the claims of grade inflation will be more of the “low murmur” than “rising tumult” variety? Missed 1 shot and scored 23 points at his alley-oop pounding best. Wasn’t his greatest defensive effort but on a night when the Knicks’ front line was decimated by injuries he anchored the interior on both ends.
|Jason Kidd, PG 37 MIN | 3-14 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 8 AST | 9 PTS | +5
Jason the Kidd sipped his whiskey and cast an eye toward the saloon door. Still. Quiet. Too quiet.
“Might be he forgot,” said the barkeep, “Might be he’s spooked.”
“He’ll be here,” quoth the Kidd, and spat to cleanse his palate of even this fainest reference to his rival. “Say what you may about him. But he ain’t yellow.”
Then did the floorboards rattle without an earthquake, the door blow open without a gust, and a form appear at the threshold of the saloon, tall and lean, measuring 6 foot 8 in boots if he were an inch.
Wild J.R Smith had arrived.
|Raymond Felton, PG 38 MIN | 9-20 FG | 4-4 FT | 5 REB | 7 AST | 25 PTS | -2
Swaaaaaaaaaag. Say what you will about Ray but his teammates seem pretty convinced that he’s their go-to guy when Melo is out and, while his results in such games have been wildly mixed, his desire to answer that call is a constant. Had absolutely no chance of staying in front of Kyrie Irving tonight which is the primary reason for the lowish grade but all that does is give him something in common with, oh, everyone. All-in, his offense was stellar (1 turnover in 30 possessions? 25 points on 20 shots? Yes please) and he chipped in on the glass (5 boards). Blocked shot on Kyrie to close the first felt like a second-half tone-setter until Irving came out of the locker room and turned into The Thing That Ate Midtown.
|Kurt Thomas, PF 14 MIN | 1-2 FG | 2-4 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 4 PTS | +9
Back in the Ewing/Oakley days, a favorite two-word identifier of my father’s was the “Manly Rebound.” Generally this referred to hard-won rebound that relied less on athleticism, positioning, skill, and more on brute strength and desire. Two decades later, give or take a year, this description seems a bit less PC, I will rarely invoke it out loud and when I have kids of my own I may not pas it down. But it still crosses my mind when I see a play that qualifies. And here, very much in public, before the watchful eyes of the Knickerbloggerati, I submit for consideration Kurt Thomas’ five rebounds this evening. They belong in the Manly Rebound archives so that posterity may know what the phrase meant.
|Steve Novak, SF 33 MIN | 4-9 FG | 1-2 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 13 PTS | +5
So rumors of his jump shot’s demise are pretty well dead at this point yes? Having connected on 48% from deep since the calendar turned to December, Steve has put the Mayans on notice that he does not mean to go quietly.
|Pablo Prigioni, PG 12 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 0 PTS | +2
In the immortal words of Stringer Bell, Prigioni is giving us way too many 40-degree days.
|J.R. Smith, SG 35 MIN | 6-20 FG | 3-4 FT | 3 REB | 4 AST | 16 PTS | -1
(…Continued from Above)
“Fancy if it ain’t the Kidd. Didn’t think you’d turn.” Wild J.R. made the bar in 3 long strides, tapped sharply on the mahogany, drained the cloudy brown that appeared at his knuckles in a single swig, wiped his sleeve across his mouth, and coughed deeply.
“Best not waste much more time with talkin’, Kidd. Best be gettin’ to why we’re here.”
|Rasheed Wallace, PF DNP SORE LEFT FOOT MIN | FG | FT | REB | AST | PTS |
Foot Don’t Lie.
|Carmelo Anthony, SF DNP SPRAINED LEFT ANKLE MIN | FG | FT | REB | AST | PTS |
|James White, SG DNP COACH’S DECISION MIN | FG | FT | REB | AST | PTS |
DNP-CD in a game with only 9 active players does not speak well for Flight’s long-term PT prospects. Just 62 days until the Slam Dunk Contest.
Five Things We Saw
- Kyrie Irving. We saw KYRIE. IRVING.
- Seriously though: Holy crap Kyrie Irving! In 12 to 18 months, he will be the consensus second best PG in the league and all arguments to the contrary will seem silly. And frankly, given the perenially uncertain state of Chris Paul’s health, the odds of him being first might be better than the odds of him being third. In the Name of the Russell, and of the Wilt, and of the Holy Erving, please somebody get him a real supporting cast.
- “1,001 of My Favorite Calls the Cavs Didn’t Get because of an International Conspiracy against Everything Good and Pure,” by Austin Carr. On shelves soon.
- This Knicks team is such an adaptable bunch. I’m aware that they almost gave this thing away and it would have been a brutal first home loss if they had. But the point isn’t just that Melo is their best player and they won without him; it’s how different their offense has to be when he isn’t there. Felton and JR are the only guys who show any degree of creativity on the perimeter so the game becomes about precise off-ball movement, constant vigilance in identifying open shooters, and an increased emphasis on finishing what easy looks become available at a very high percentage. And for 3 and a half quarters today the Knicks succeeded in each of these pursuits. And then they basically wet themselves for 5 minutes while Kyrie Irving played one-on-one with the immutable march of time. Time won (it usually does) but, to Kyrie’s credit, only barely and with the help of an Anderson Varejao missed free throw. The players change but the game stays the same.
- (…Continued from Above)
Wild J.R. turned on a dime, strode to the door, cocked his head and walked out into the crisp December day.
“You don’t gotta do this, Kidd” said the barkeep, “they say he’s the quickest shot in town. Sometimes it’s about knowing when to live another day.”
The Kidd smiled coolly. “You’ve been a friend, long and true. Sometimes it ain’t about what’s smart, or even what’s right. Sometimes it’s drawing yourself so all can know who and what you be. And then you fight — you fight for the lines you’ve drawn, you fight when someone tries to say they ain’t real. Because they’re more than just real. They’re all you got.”
The Kidd wiped his hands on his trousers and rose from his stool. He walked out into the fading light and met his rival face to face. “You know the rules,” said The Kidd.
“Bet your breeches I do. 23 feet, 9 inches and shoot.”
“Then we best be getting to it,” said the Kidd.
And in the flickering dusk, the two hombres got to shooting. Backboards thudded and rims clanked. Wind whispered as leather flew unabated, shy of its target. The town surrounded them, tense, their silence broken only by occasional “Aiiiiiiirballllll” chants.
And the two buckaroos fired into the night, shot for shot, miss for miss. A duel honorable for its intentions, but bloodless for its inaccuracy.