Knicks 104, Spurs 100
|Carmelo Anthony, SF 41 MIN | 3-12 FG | 3-4 FT | 12 REB | 3 AST | 9 PTS | -2
It was more than a little terrifying seeing that pre-tap graphic pitting Melo opposite Dujuan Blair, even though the latter was denoted as “center” (little known fact: in Texas, football and basketball positions are used interchangeably). After a few early Blair-on-Melo isolations on the block, it wouldn’t have surprised me if the final buzzer found arena crew shoveling Melo’s remnants into a wheelbarrow for a trip to the Beef Con Queso wing of the Pace factory. Such was the shoulder-and-elbow violence with which Blair attempted to loose-meat Melo.
Alas, our hero was met with an endless barrage of bodies (Blair, Leonard, and Trill being chief among them) wherever he wandered, as Coach Pop essentially dared someone else – anyone else – to best his troops. To his credit, Anthony fought back not with stubborn heroics (although his instincts got the better of him at times), but rather the kind of prescient passing and conscious decoying indicative of a star truly gaining a groove. He lunged for boards, dove for loose balls, and – with the exception of a few early half-assed hedges – manned up on D. It might take some time for Melo to command the low-post respect and the requisite stripe trips he deserves, but it’s nice to know that the presence of a formidable foe can keep him from trying to pout his way to calls.
|Ronnie Brewer, SF 18 MIN | 4-8 FG | 0-2 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 9 PTS | +6
After spending the last few days locked in a death-dark dungeon with a robotic octopus strapped to his swollen knee, Ronnie Brewer could’ve done little more than tie Gregg Popovich’s sandal straps together and it would’ve been found money. As it turns out, Brewer’s early buckets — two of which came off beautiful fed cuts from up top — helped ease his team into things. He would play sparingly down the stretch, but his handful of lane-hawks and superior overall D in the second half helped forestall a couple of would-be Spur runs. LOL “runs.”…. Wait, Clepto Bismol? That shit’s trademarked.
|Tyson Chandler, C 33 MIN | 4-8 FG | 5-7 FT | 11 REB | 0 AST | 13 PTS | +8
It’s been bandied about more than a bit that Chandler seems a step or six slow in the early going, and tonight – at times anyway – only seemed to compound that notion. It’s not so much the one-on-one defense as it is the switches and help, although a team as wildly proficient as the Spurs could probably make Achilles look flat-footed.
…. This was written before the last half of the fourth quarter, in which Chandler did pretty much the opposite of all that. Both of Tyson’s pinnacle offensive moments came courtesy of Raymond Felton — first when the keystone pivot responded to Tim Duncan kneeing him in the balls by doubling over in obvious pain for a good five seconds on the baseline, in-bounding the ball to Felton, pausing again, and letting the ball roll harmlessly back to Felton at half court without a second lost before thrashing home an oop on the other end moments later; and with an equal opportunity clot-out flush off a Ray-Ray missed free throw in the game’s chaotically waning seconds. Both of which I’m pretty sure make up for getting pistol whipped by Tiago Splitter on eleven straight possessions and generally moving like you’ve eaten nothing but baked beans for five days.
|Jason Kidd, PG 34 MIN | 5-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 14 PTS | +2
Those first few minutes were pretty unnerving, if only because Kidd looked to have hopped a mental time machine to a YMCA Co-Ed League future where dudes aren’t allowed in the paint, spotting San Antone’ four early points via Danny Green back-door buckets.
But holy shit, those crunch-time threes. Say what you will about a “veteran leadership” meme that’s had the meaning fracked out of it — sometimes that shit really does matter, even if “sometimes” don’t dance with the stats. Fact is, we wouldn’t have been sitting here slapping our keyboards in incoherent code had it not been for JKidd’s impossibly timely threes at the start of that epic closeout run. Ditto the crafty late-shot-clock steals and trio of wiley blocks. It’s almost as if Jason’s played the Spurs before.
|Raymond Felton, PG 35 MIN | 10-20 FG | 3-5 FT | 3 REB | 7 AST | 25 PTS | +1
Let’s get this out of the way first: Raymond Felton was huge tonight. If any one of his clutch D on Parker (this was late in the game, after Parker had piroutted around him like a concrete traffic cone for the better part of three quarters), powerful takes to the tin, or — most wizardly of all — brilliant spin-around dish to J.R. Smith for a late lead-taking three hadn’t happened, I’d be making nothing but totally unfair fat jokes right now.
Caveat: I could be wrong here, but if teams really, really want you to shoot, you probably shouldn’t be shooting all that much. It’s true that Iso Fatso (Just put that one in your pocket for later) has been kind of a trend the last few games, as teams are realizing that, for all the legit merit behind this year’s resurgence, Felton’s supreme brand of confidence can easily morph into a hero ball far more disastrous than Melo’s bouts of heat-checks. It didn’t get quite that bad tonight — and credit Ray himself for pulling back from the urge a few times down the stretch — but Woodson shouldn’t be hesitant in imploring his renaissance soldier that there’s a big difference between “good shots” and “better shots.”
Caveat to a caveat: I’d totally have sex with Raymond Felton right now.
|Rasheed Wallace, PF 15 MIN | 4-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 10 PTS | -4
I can’t decide whether the fact that Rasheed Wallace had missed 13 consecutive three pointers (like, in actual NBA games) says more about Rasheed Wallace as a basketball player or me as a basketball analyst, mostly because I honestly hadn’t noticed — like, at all. Both of his two second quarter trays were much-needed, however, as was that preposterous, momentum-staving third quarter dribble-drive that is still producing mild geological aftershocks int he Metro San Antonio region as we speak.
It must be noted that Tiago Splitter — who torched Sheed and Chandler in equal measure during a magical fourth quarter spurt — went 4-4 from the stripe during Wallace’s rocky fourth quarter stint. Really? Not even a “YEAH SPLIFFER”? “YEAH SPAULDING”? “YEAH RIO DIJON MUSTARD”?
|Steve Novak, SF 21 MIN | 2-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 5 PTS | -1
Basketball zoologists have been charting the charmingly clockwork behavior of the Novak — a rare, bi-pedal hoofed beast with a spit strong enough to light a candle and propensity for relying on no more than three, very specific grazing spot– for years now. But nothing could’ve prepared them for what they saw tonight, when a full-grown rut-ridden male shrugged off a would-be mounter and thundered to fill the lane — like a beached manatee trying to run down a Frisbe — on a 2-on-1 break, converting a pump-fake lay-in mid-way through the second quarter.
Which would be great, if that’s what we were paying him for. Unfortunately, Novak’s done gone sticking his hand in the dog biscuit jar. Cold spells happen to the best of us, sure. But when the “take” to your sweet-shooting “give” is a Jain’s defensive urgency, slumps can’t last longer than the Six Day War.
|Pablo Prigioni, PG 7 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 2 PTS | +4
I had to zip over to Synergy to make sure Prigs’ 15-footer turning off a P&R in the second quarter didn’t melt the site, but damnit if he didn’t actually hit that. Pablo made a couple nice reads on offense, but it didn’t take long for Popavich to recognize the armor’s crack and turn Parker to barbecue poor Prigs over a heap of candied hardwood.
|J.R. Smith, SG 37 MIN | 6-13 FG | 4-5 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 17 PTS | +6
Honestly, I’m not sure what I would’ve done last year had I known J.R. was going out to party “every other day.” What kind of in-game signs does one look for in that scenario? Baggy eyes? Booze breath? Tiny zygotes wandering out on the floor?
What’s funny about J.R.’s narrative about-face is that, had he put up a game like this a year ago — or two years ago or five years ago, for that matter — we’d have been singing the poor man’s praises. Don’t get me wrong, we’re still doing just that, and his HUUUUUUUUUUGE three, psychotic D, and overall wolverine’s tenacity are the reasons why. But it’s interesting to see precisely how rapid these kinds of shifts in expectations can move. I’ll sure as shit keep watching.
Five Things We Saw
- Given how finicky (great, just not consistently so) both offenses had been to date, I expected this one to assume a pace akin glacier sex. Glacial sex? Glacier sex?… Anyway, that’s not what happened, at all. The teams combined for a video game first quarter points of 64% on 9000% shooting. The pace thickened quickly, however, with both sides clamping down on D and the zebras following suit by eating their whistles…. Just in time for a gangbusters fourth quarter that helped make this easily one of the best games of the year. For all the schizophrenic about-shifts in pace, neither team marshaled a lead greater than 10 points the whole way through. It may be that it’s only after you’re matched up on a team that so epitomizes discipline that realizing it in yourself becomes acceptable, but a mere seven turnovers and six Woodson puke sprints later, that’s exactly where we seem to find ourselves.
- Holy shit are the Spurs good at forcing mismatches. Every time I saw a San Antonio picking action (on-ball, off-ball, whatever) end up with Jason Kidd on Tim Duncan or Steve Novak on Tony Parker I just wanted to cry tears of vomit. They made us pay a number of times, but thank Prince those 9-foot rafter-grazers stopped falling down the stretch, otherwise even my tantrum-proofed living room — replete with wall-stapled pillows — wouldn’t have stood a chance.
- Let me tell you a little something about Tiago Splitter. Two years ago I took him in like the fifth round for a fantasy league that couldn’t have had more than six teams. Needless to say I’ve been voodoo stabbing him ever since, which is a big reason his ridiculous fourth quarter stretch was so fucking infuriating. There’s just something about watching a rigid, seven-foot blond-haired Kraut-Brazilian make mincemeat of your front court that makes you not want to live on this planet anymore.
- Can we talk about rebounding? Great, let’s talk about rebounding. Well, we’re not very good at it — tied for second to last with Crapramento, as a matter of fact — and tonight was no exception (48-40 was the final tally). It’s probably too early to push the panic button on this front, as any combination of pace, offensive efficiency, defensive efficiency and the fact that the Spurs also suck at rebounding can be used to discount tonight’s numbers. But what happens when a team like Memphis (currently 5th in the league in that category) abuse us like Tecmo Super Bowl Patriots on the windows? We might soon find out.
- Robert: Wow
Jim: I’M PREGNANT WITH THIS TEAM’S LOVE SPAWN
Robert: Good point. Please proceed
Jim: that’s it. that’s the argument
Robert: No, I meant “proceed with your acceptance of the Knick-sperm to
form your weird basketball love-baby in a non-weird way”. Duh.
Jim: luckily the body has ways of shutting the whole thing down
Jim: Seriously though, this team…
Robert: But you weren’t legitimately sacked by the Knicks. You were askin’ for it
And yes, time to let this go
A SMART TEAM
That’s a new thing
Jim: are you calling mardy collins unintelligent?
Robert: If the Knicks are good. And not just good, but a smart, composed
team that doesn’t beat itself, I may have to reexamine every other
tenet or ethos I’ve clung to for the first x years of my life.
Maybe God does exist
Maybe I should vote Republican.
Jim: Stop it Robert
ROBERT STOP IT
Robert: I’M QUESTIONING THINGS, DAMMIT
Black is White
Up is Down
Dogs and Cats, living together
Jim: Afflalo is Aflac
Robert: EXACTLY. Maybe every baller secretly has an insurance-based
nickname. And Sheed should have yelled out “GEICO” when Splitter was
at the line. AMIRITE? I’m back in the Lin-screamy place where my roommates
think I’m either strangling someone or injuring myself
I keep waiting for the Sword of Damocles that’s been hanging
over this team’s collective head since time immemorial to drop.
BUT IT HASN’T. IT’S GETTING BETTER
Jim: can you strangle yourself without injuring yourself?
Robert: Yes. David Carradine would say no, but yes, it’s doable.
You see, you need a good, strong, leather belt. Wrap it around
your neck and then…I should probably stop. This is a family blog,
Jim: all i kept thinking was what kind of havoc a healthy Shumpert
(or a healthy Brewer for that matter) could’ve wreaked on Parker. He
very near killed us, no?
Robert: I was writing the Dime Recap and I had a whole bit on how the
Knicks’ inability to keep Parker out of the lane (or any PG this
season so far) has been the one weak link in their stout D. That and
how the EFFING FREE THROW SHOOTING in the fourth killed the Knicks.
But they clamped down in the last seven mins. Having Shump to sic on
players like that is gonna be yoooooge. Especially if he’s paired
w/Kidd in the backcourt. Or even opposite Ray-Ray, who did cover
Ginobili for much of the final frame tonight I was semi-thinking
(pre-run) that it might be smart to go uber-small. You know, A
Felt/Kidd/Brewer/Smith/Tyson unit, just to stop the pick and roll
havoc that Parker was wreaking. Mais non. Il n’était pas nécessaire.
Parce que les Knicks ont gagné!
Jim: This is no time for Dutch, knock it off
Robert: Thanks. These wooden shoes are killing me.
Jim:I feel like that would’ve played right into Pop’s hands, though.
Jim: You cover yourself on most switches, but that just means a
rolling Duncan doesn’t have to worry about lengthy help defenders.
Robert: Size-wise, it’d only be a Brewer-Melo swap on my itty bitty
Knicky committee team. Melo’s D was sterling and he certainly was a
swell decoy on offense, but I don’t think you’re losing that much in
terms of length. Plus, Duncan was pretty cold entering the fourth.
It’s a moot point, anyway. I’ll be really interested to see what they
come up with v. Mike Conley, who’s been killing it this season.
Plus they’ve got that Grizzly Beef frontline. That’s right, I’ve already
forgotten this win and I’m moving on to tomorrow. And there’s absolutely
nothing at all homoerotic about the phrase “Grizzly Beef.”
That’s not true. Do NOT Google search “Grizzly Beef” if you’re reading
this recap at work
Jim: You don’t just say “don’t Google something” and expect it to
not be Googled. All I got were pictures of bears and Randy Savage anyway.
Why can’t I copy and paste this convo?
- Six bullet points tonight, because why not? Because the motto of this team should really be Why Not?. Not We Persist, like they’re proud of the fact that they have one quality in common with dirt. Why Not? There’s a difference, you see. The former assumes an almost moral deference of one’s lot in the world — an acknowledgement of a failure to meet expectations. Why Not?, on the other hand, is by almost by definition inviting — it practically begs you to prove it wrong. That’s what’s made this team so gosh darn special so gosh darn quickly: They’re busier defending the rim when it counts than their own reputations when it doesn’t; more sure than scared of the spotlight; and more eager than any I can remember to bring us along for the ride, questions and all.
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.