|Carmelo Anthony, SF 35 MIN | 13-26 FG | 4-4 FT | 9 REB | 3 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 32 PTS | +20
First, the bad: the shoulder’s clearly still bothering him—the noticeable wince after a 1st half dunk being exhibit A. Also, maybe it’s just me, but his shot seems like it’s flatter than it was during his April showers (see what I did there?). And now, a sack of good: More than the flurry of soup-tastic buckets in the 2nd half, even when he was striking enough iron to compose his own xylophonic opera, he was quick and decisive with his shots, hunting out space on the floor mainly via a few nifty screens and looking to dish out of isolations to weak side shooters. That’s how you cobble together your first better than 50% shooting night since April 12th; precisely the Melo this team desperately needs if they want to win this scrum. I’m sure you caught the kerfluffle yesterday regarding Bernard King’s supposedly hacked Twitter account. If you didn’t, someone hath twat, “Carmelo’s shoulder is hurting that bad — work the paint — drive and dish — become a facilitator — it’s a TEAM game,” and, “I was always taught — Take High Percentage shots — don’t force it — don’t be a one man show — don’t over dribble — ball movement.” I’d add the links, but I can’t because the account’s been deleted (assumedly by the powers that be in the bowels of Cablevision)and King claimed he never wrote them, that it was an “associate” of his. Well, Anthony Weiner was right. Melo followed the mysterious stranger’s advice to a T and it worked like a charm. That’s it. Tomorrow I’m hacking into Walt Frazier’s account and ripping J.R. a new orifice. Couldn’t hurt, amirite?
|Iman Shumpert, SF 29 MIN | 7-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 16 PTS | +5
Watching Shump get all growded up right before our eyes is pure, unadulterated funz. It’s not just that he’s rediscovering the rudimentary pick and roll pocket passes that we saw back in January ’12 (Is it just me, or does that feel like a lifetime ago in Knicktime?), it’s not just the Twitter-smashing, orgasmic putback dunk in the 2nd that sent the Garden crowd into a fizzy-lifting drink-level tizzy,or the deft crossover that flatfooted Hibbert in the 1st quarter, it’s the sense that, just as was the case for Marcus Camby in ’99, this spate of stellar play and his transformation into a serious threes-athleticism-and defense guy, is the start of something bigger and better. Granted, he wasn’t at his Shumptastic best on D, but rather his knack for coming up with a rebound or a steal gets the Garden fired up like…well…Camby back in the 20th Century. Let us give thanks to whatever Deity or Deities or Inscrutable Forces we supplicate ourselves to, that WE DID NOT DEAL SHUMP FOR J.J. REDICK OR JARED DUDLEY. That woulda been real bad.
Oh what they, let’s peep the dunk again. Only stop and return to your regularly scheduled recap when you can unclench the rictus of a grin that I assume is plastered on your face.
|Tyson Chandler, C 31 MIN | 4-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | +21
Speaking of large gentlemen who hoop for a living in NYC and are still at less than 100%, something’s still clearly bothering Tyson. Save for a stretch towards the end of the Boston grindhouse, he just hasn’t looked remotely like the player we’ve seen this season, let alone 2012’s DPOY form. He did a better job keeping Hibbert from imposing his will on the glass but those wide-open dunks where he paused to gather himself before jamming it home? Ick sandwich. It was as disconcerting as a fundamental flaw in the laws of Physics suddenly revealing itself and as clear a sign as any that his neck really hasn’t fully reattached itself to his spine.
|Raymond Felton, PG 27 MIN | 5-9 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 14 PTS | -2
Oh for Flying Spaghetti Monster’s sake. Of course, now that Felt’s putting together the best stretch of play since he was QB’ing D’Antoni’s 8th Avenue knockoff of Seven Seconds or Less, he twisted a flipper during the 3rd/4th quarter face-melting run. Karmically, maybe that’s what you get for throwing up a showoff-y off-the-backboard pass on a breakaway at the end of the 3rd to KMart. Even though he was seen hobbling/waddling around the locker room, the beat guys were slinging the usual pabulum about Felton being “fine” and “vowing to be ready for the next practice/play in the next game.” Our collective skepticism/fear/paranoia with regards to the Knicks and their debridled/mangled body parts must certainly once again (gah) be invoked here. Prigs’ heroics notwithstanding, anything less than a fully soaring, scampering, pick and roll managing, yeoman-defending flightless waterfowl would be a serious setback. Stick him in a sealed hyperbaric chamber ‘till Saturday, Kay?.
|Pablo Prigioni, PG 21 MIN | 4-4 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | +23
For those of us who’ve been clamoring for more playing time for our fave Argentine expat, tonight was sweet, creamery vindication. I mean, hearing the MSG faithful drone, “Pablo…Pablo…Pablo,” in a manner reserved for athletes in the Strawberry-ian pantheon? Bliss, motherscratchers. Straight bliss, no chaser. Two early fouls (and Woodson’s decision to keep him on the court) seemed to indicate yet another wholly effective yet brutishly short outing, but with the Penguin flapping his wings on the bench, our man in the Pampas plumb took over the game. I tells ya, they might still have won, but the ‘Bockers certainly wouldn’t be walking home with bits of blood-soaked Pacer flesh still hanging from their sharpened canines without Prigioni’s performance. His pest-y defense (on Indianans big n’ small) was ratcheted up a few notches to a pestilence akin to the plague of Cicadas currently besieging Gotham. He banged home treys without the usual Hamlet-like pondering/hesitation. He dished, swiped and boarded like an over-caffeinated fiend. He lofted a gorgeous floater and fed Tyson for a monstrous alley-oop. He even managed to block a Paul George heave (Paul George is one of those guys who you’d never call “Paul” or “George” or a clever nickname. It’s always, “Paul George.” We all have friends w/names like that. It’s just odd when a star basketball player defies shorthand nomenclature.). Why Woodson refuses to play him when it’s patently obvious to any human with a functioning cerebral cortex that good things happen whenever he’s on the court is God’s own perfect mystery.
|Kenyon Martin, PF 18 MIN | 5-6 FG | 0-2 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 2 BLK | 0 TO | 10 PTS | +16
I love Kenyon Martin. There, I said it. Like a hackneyed sitcom plot where the two leads fight and bicker and scuffle and verbally joust for eons (think Ted Danson and Shelly Long, Bruce Willis and Cybil Shepherd, or even Kate and Petruchio/Beatrice and Benedict for all you pointy-headed elitist swine) before realizing that all of that hate is actually a cover for the true lust that lies simmering beneath, I must state categorically that I wish nothing more than be betrothed to one Kenyon Martin. It’s not just that, right now, he is a better, more effective player than Tyson Chandler (Still gobsmacking to write that sentence. Nope, not having a particularly disturbing Ketamine flashback. This is real), it’s the little things that he does day in and day out. F’rinstance, he’s really mastered the art of allowing a penetrator to think there’s a lane to the rim before pouncing for a testosterone-deflating block. That 15-18 footer may look powerful fugly, but because of his willingness to hoist one (Are you listening, Tyson?) when the defense sags in the lane, he’s creating space for future dives and pick and roll finishes. I love you, man. When this is all over, we should totally get an apartment together.
|Chris Copeland, SF 10 MIN | 0-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | 0
This may seem like an inflated grade for an oh-fer outing, but I dug Cope’s decisiveness with his treys and he scrapped decently on defense. Speaking of which, after the game, he remarked that there was a lot of scratching going on in the painted area. Anyone who has a little sister knows just how evil that is. Stoopid Corn People are totally provoking Chris, Mom! It’s so not fairrrrrr!.
|Jason Kidd, PG 17 MIN | 0-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 4 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 0 PTS | +20
He still hasn’t scored
|J.R. Smith, SG 30 MIN | 3-15 FG | 1-2 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 8 PTS | +27
Melo may have managed to resurrect his dormant game but his partner in crime still reeks of bottle service and Axe cologne and pneumatic women of questionable social morays and whatever other unseemly odors that cling to the body in the midst of a horrific slump. He’s now 7-30 over the first two games of this series and tonight, a slew of the shots he missed were wide open heaves off spot ups—exactly the kind of chuckery that’s been the hallmark of many a Good J.R. outing. For the most part, I get Woodson keeping him in (Okay, I really don’t. The fans even went into a, “We want Shump,” chant at a point when the lead hadn’t ballooned to ridonkulous levels in the 4th. +27 notwithstanding, he’s rilly hurting the ball club.). I can’t imagine that he isn’t going to reignite at some point in this series. It always seems like he’s a bad step back or a ferocious drive away from going berserk (in the best sense of the word, not the “Elbowing an impish, smarmy gnat like Jason Terry” way). I’m speculating like a mofo, but I assume Son of Wood feels that his unassailable confidence in Earl, even at his absolute nadir, will help bring him back to full flower, and that sticking his tuckus on the pine will only make things worse (if that’s possible). I’m sure something’s going to end this evil hex that someone (Jason Terry?) hath put on noble Earl. Perhaps an evening out with the ladies at one of the city’s finer establishments might clear his…STOP. FORGET I SAID THAT. UNRING BELL. TOOTHPASTE BACK IN TUBE
Six Things We Saw
- Great win. I don’t know about y’all, but it was hard to relish this one because it went from what looked like absolute doom to rapture in the blink of an eye. The first quarter was practically a carbon copy (Ok, no one uses carbon paper any more.) of game one. Melo still couldn’t buy a hoop, but pick and roll penetration and deft ball moving was leading to great open looks, especially for Ray Felton, the Knicks’ most consistent weapon and future Prime Minister of Estonia, if this level of improbable events continues. They changed up their defense on the perimeter, trapping more frequently and forcing the Pacers to cough up the rock six times in the 1st quarter, leading to 14 points, while for the most part avoiding the Lucy/Charlie Brown/football-type futility of ramming full speed into the paint where Hibbert et al. greedily awaited them. That said, the Midwesterners were still scoring pretty much at will as long as they could get a shot off. The switches and the quick rotations, while gaffe-inducing, were also allowing for a ton of open looks on backdoor cuts or the perimeter.
- You know how Gladwell talks about it taking 10,000 hours to become an expert at something? We’ll I’m not there yet, but I’m definitely in the high four digits as far as watching the Knicks goes. That hardly makes me an expert with regards to the game of basketball, but it does, I think, give me a certain degree of perverse insight into our favorite basketball team. So when the Men In Yellow ran off an 8-0 run to trim it to a mere five at intermission, chills went up my spine. You and I have seen this scenario many, many times before. The Pacers were flat outplaying the Knickerbockers and it was just a matter of time before they snatched the lead. Like Harry Dean Stanton looking for that blasted cat in Alien, you’re gripping the edges of your seat, begging him to stop, run away, do something, anything, even if you know your desperate plaintive cries have absolutely no ability to halt the inevitable, acid-drooling doom that’s right around the corner, crouched in the darkness, ready to rip you to shreds.
- And after a couple Stephenson/Hill three pointers splashed the net, I was penning an obituary for the 2012-13 season in my head/girding my loins with adamantium and rationalizing like a mofo: “Well, it’s been a good year. Maybe they can come back in Indy. There are far more important things in life to get worried/depressed/enraged over/ like [fill in impending, disastrous-level political event here]. But then, 3rd quarter clock struck 3:04 and it was as if the magnetic poles of the world suddenly flipped. Black was white. Up was down. Dogs and cats were living together in peace and harmony.
- Amazingly, the monster chose to self-immolate. The Pacers had the ball, were up by two, , seemed to be heading towards ending (yet another) quarter on a soul-crushing run, and were bringing the ball up the court, brimming with the confidence of a fighter that just knows he’s/she’s got his/her opponent on the ropes, when Vogel called timeout, presumably to take out Hibbert, who, in the 3rd had returned to performing his Great Wall of Indianapolis shtick, to insert one Jeff Pendergraph, he of zero minutes played so far in the series, into the fray. Wait, what? Granted, Mahinmi had looked fairly wretched thus far, but at least he’s going to do Hibbert-esque things. Without a reasonable facsimile of an oh-so-imposing interior defender, Anthony drove by West for what felt like his first relatively easy interior bucket of the series, followed hard upon by a momentum-regaining furious flush for an and-one in the overmatched Pendergraph’s (Note to Jim Cavan: Feel free to add “The Overmatched Pendergraphs” to your list of potential Indie Rock Band names) grill and a possibly sketchy moving pick on – guess who – Jeff Pendergraph.
- From that point on, the Knicks went on an unreal 36-4 run, with the Nap City folk going a mind-altering full 12 minutes without registering a made field goal. The ball movement, that had oh-so mysteriously vanished after the Knickerbockers went up 47-34, returned with aplomb. The Pacers continued to stumble and get slippery-fingered with the ball. The Knicks’ frantic, scrambling defense kept the ball out of West’s oversize mitts in the post. Everything and everything about the deadly Knick attack we’d grown to adore during the final weeks of the season came back into the room, sat down on the couch with a big bouquet of flowers and a box of chocolates and said, “Honey, I’m home!” Well, except for J.R. He still went 0-5. J.R.’s gone, kids. He went out for cigarettes and ain’t ever comin’ back. He don’t love us no mo’.
- So instead of three days of hateful, gut-wrenching articles that morbidly pick apart the Knicks’ corpse piece by piece, we have a honest-to-goodness series on our hands. Hooray! Better yet, that snaggle-toothed, lying, pernicious Ferengi going under the nom-de-guerre of Reggie Miller was there to witness the horrific collapse by his former team. Didja hear the chants in the 4th, buddy? I know you did. Just like you know you shoved Greg Anthony in ’95. Here’s spike with some swell trolling. For once, I approve.
Game on. Go Knicks!