Knicks 106, Hawks 104
|Carmelo Anthony, SF 44 MIN | 15-28 FG | 3-3 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 42 PTS | -4
11 minutes into this one he was 0 for 4 from the field with a couple of boards and a turnover. The Hawks will hereafter look upon that moment with kindness. The rest of the way: 15 for 24, 9 for 11 from deep, 3 for 3 from the line, 40 points. Thats 80% true shooting and a cartoonish 81.3% eFG. Even his heat checks had heat checks, and the readings that came back ranged from “20 laps in an Olympic sized deep fryer” and “Ball of pure energy rolling down the cyanide hills of the Underworld.” His 9 three-point makes tied a Knick record (we’re talking Toney Douglas territory here, people!) and he employed a quick first step, a gorgeous lefty handle, and a strong, confident finish in torching Josh Smith for the game-winning and-one.And yet, I came out of the game thoroughly uncertain about the grade I would give him. He joined the majority of his teammates in a relatively disinterested defensive effort and, though the blame for this doesn’t all fall at his feet, the portion of the credit his defensive intensity received for the Knicks’ early-season success on that end suggests an equivalent and opposite effect when his defensive performance comes up short. He took a technical in a brutal spot and while the trigger on it may have been a little quick, his habit of giving officials the opportunity to make such calls is troubling. And while his outside shot was tremendous, his shot selection remained somewhat uneven. His attempts consisted more heavily of catch-and-shoots than in recent games (partially attributable to strong showings from Felton and Prigioni) but had he made, say, 5 of his threes instead of 9, tonight’s game would fit in with the rest of his recent performances that have been criticized as much for his approach as for the results.
So, let us thrill in his hot hand and enjoy his sublime game-winning finish while at the same time realizing that one big-time performance does not solve all the issues that have recently plagued a sometimes disjointed offense.
|Tyson Chandler, C 36 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-2 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | +5
Reports after the game had him dealing with some neck pain throughout the duration, a diagnosis that matches his general inability to impact the goings-on. If the injury is the explanation then you can excuse an off-night but, judged purely on the merits, he was completely, utterly, and jarringly invisible. Atlanta got to the rim with ease en route to a 29-for-42 showing on two-point attempts and rebounded over a quarter of their misses. Take your pick between eyes and numbers: Chandler simply did not affect this game.
|Jason Kidd, PG 5 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +3
Decided not to write up this paragraph. Just feel like I need to rest. Either that or I have a shattered spine. I’ll let you know at a later date.
|Raymond Felton, PG 38 MIN | 5-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 10 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 12 PTS | -1
More like it. Hit the Knicks’ first three shots of the game before settling in as a distributor. Here’s one of the evening’s more interesting stats: 8 of Felton’s 10 assists produced three-pointers — a number that makes sense in light of the Knicks’ general abandonment of the pick and roll in favor of a big helping of iso and a side order of drive-and-kick. This season has seemed to only have two kinds of games: the kind where it seems like we don’t have a point guard and the kind where it seems like we have too many point guards. This was the latter.Defensively, his lack of lateral quickness paired with Woodson’s continued insistence on matching him up against the other team’s point guard remains a particularly irritating problem. Keeping Felton away from the likes of Jeff Teague and his wing-ed high-tops seems to me a desirable goal and – against an opponent that played Kyle Korver for 41 minutes and the ghost of Devin Harris for 21 – a downright attainable one to boot. I’m coming to grips with the fact that the Coach must either disagree with that assessment or be torturing Felton as a way to exorcise some grudge (maybe he told him that Mrs. Potato Head tastes like Sour Cream and Onion chips?).
Either way that’s more on Woodson than Ray but you’ve gotta dock a guy a bit when he gets eaten alive and Teague dropped 27/6/5 on 9-for-15 tonight so there you have it.
|Iman Shumpert, PG 19 MIN | 3-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 8 PTS | -4
After the Knicks announced pre-game that he was cleared to play, Shumpalumpagus Shumped his way to just 19 minutes, Shumping both of his three point attempts (an utterly delightful trend) and a couple of steals. Maybe Woodson’s trying to bring him back slowly by matching him on lesser offensive players (he mainly drew Korver, some Harris, zero Teague). Hardwood Paroxysm’s Jared Dubin waxed perplexed on Twitter, questioning the completely backwards decision to use of an excellent on-ball defender who has trouble with screens on a spot shooter like Korver. To paraphrase Joshua Lyman, I make it a point never to disagree with Jared when he’s right. Shump was good though and continues to show no ill effects of his knee injury.
|Amar’e Stoudemire, PF 29 MIN | 6-9 FG | 6-8 FT | 8 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 18 PTS | 0
Amare’s play the last couple of weeks demands its own long post and I’m hoping I will have the time to write it this week. His offense has been excellent despite the Knicks’ stubborn ignorance of him as a pick and roll finisher. This evening he had his inside and mid-range game going, got to the line on the reg, killed it on the offensive glass.His defense — really not bad. He still has moments that display a baffling lack of awareness but his rotations have been sharper, his close-outs quicker, his work facing up ball-handlers more effective. Again, this needs a longer post. But if my range of expectations for Amare’s first month back was represented by a 1-10 scale, I’d say Amare’s at about a 14 so far.
|Kurt Thomas, PF 4 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +8
The reaction among Knicks’ fans across cyberspace when Kurt checked in tonight was such that I compared him to a 500 pound bag of oranges in the “Godfather” movie of the Knicks’ season. Caught the ball twice on the right wing, maybe 18 feet out, and in each case look absolutely bewildered until such time as a teammate ran right over to him so that he could basically hand them the ball. Didn’t shoot, picked up a board and a steal and, somehow, led the Knicks in +/-. Ain’t the world a wonderful place?
|Ronnie Brewer, SF 0 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | 0
Excluded from even Club Trillion due to the cruel vagaries of “rounding down” as applied to his minutes played. That crap is all political Ronnie, don’t let it get to you. I once tried to order a turkey club sandwich and got waitlisted.
|Steve Novak, SF 13 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -1
*Spreads floor* *Collects paycheck* *Thumb!*
|Pablo Prigioni, PG 10 MIN | 2-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 6 PTS | +3
Played an inspired stretch of second-quarter ball in which his full repertoire of skills as a playmaker were on full display and his OH-MY-GOD-I-HOPE-THIS-BUCKET-OF-SAND-PUTS-OUT-THIS-GREASE-FIRE!!! stroke was uncharacteristically pure. Also outplayed Felton in the all-important category of “attempting to at least vaguely hinder the guy that Shumpert should be guarding.” His one miss was a 90-foot heave that made NBA history by employing the exact same shooting form as his 18-footer. All in all, an effective stretch of point guard play and a rollicking good time.Naturally, he spent the rest of the game in the witness protection program. It was that kind of night in the floating city of New Woodsonia.
|J.R. Smith, SG 37 MIN | 7-15 FG | 3-4 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 18 PTS | 0
The final stat line is pretty garden-variety JR and that isn’t a long shot from what we saw on the court. Was nice to see him back on track after a 2-game stretch that included 3 heroic minutes amidst a trail of garbage scattered Hansel-and-Gretel-style across a few hundred miles of the Northeast Corridor. Way too iso-happy for some stretches (not sure how much is him and how much is Woodson but I could do without so many clear-outs for in big spots). Hit a big tie-breaking three from the left wing at around the 4 minute mark in the 4th quarter and then missed the rim completely on the next time down which pretty much conveys the experience.Starting to drift too much on defense and look for steals, a departure from some of the more disciplined defense that we’ve seen from him over the past few months. The secret’s out: we know the guy can play defense. He’s gotta keep doing it.
|James White, SG 4 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +1
In a bold stroke, Woodson changed things up tonight by starting him in the second half instead of the first before marginalizing him. I wonder if he thinks JR Smith would get confused and lose control of his bodily functions or something if he didn’t spend 3 minutes on the bench getting his bearings before taking the court.20 days until the Slam Dunk Contest.
Five Things We Saw
- Iman Shumpert chasing Kyle Korver around screens and standing aimlessly in the general vicinity of Devin Harris while people who weren’t Iman Shumpert tried to guard Jeff Teague. In other words, the same defensive strategy that allowed a career night for Jrue Holiday 24 hours prior in a game that I refuse to mention other than to make that point. The Hawks scored 104 points in 86 possessions — an Offensive Rating of 120.9 for a team that averages 101.7 on the season. Every team in the league knows they can get basically any mismatch they want by gently prodding the Knicks to switch. They’re starting to exploit it. Lets hope some adjustments are forthcoming.
- An ill-conceived, iso-heavy offense that was bailed out by an impossibly hot performance on threes, not simply from Carmelo Anthony but from the entire team (they shot 16 for 27). 106 points on 87 possessions for the ‘Bockers (121.8 O-Rating) is of course outstanding but that is entirely a product of their effectiveness from deep. If you think the Knicks can keep producing good enough looks to hit half of their three-pointers or more, be happy with the way they played offense today. If you think that a very good number like 40% is more realistic, dock 15 to 18 points from what they put up tonight and ask yourself how much you would like this offense on a non-hellfire kinda day.
- Tyson Chandler guarded Jeff Teague on the last play of the game, leaving no real help guarding the rim. Iman Shumpert was on the bench despite the play coming out of a timeout and thus an opportunity to go offense/defense. Draw your own conclusions.
- Tyson Chandler sat out the Knicks’ last offensive possession. It’s possible that this was an accident, foisted on Woodson as a result of his aggravated neck (a new one, injury-description-wise). It’s also possible that this was the result of a conscious decision by Woody and, if so, it was an extremely gutty one that may have won the Knicks the game. Woodson went with a Melo/Novak/Amare front line and sat the latter two 20+ feet from the basket, completely emptying the lane and leaving no help behind Josh Smith. If Melo beat Smoove off the dribble, the Knicks would win the game. If Smith got the stop, the Knicks would have virtually no chance at an offensive rebound. Melo made his move, finished clean, and took the harm to boot. The possibility that Woodson conceived of this tactic, trusted his star, and stuck to his guns on it despite something of a dumpster-fire of a performance up to that point is worthy of commendation and saves him from a failing grade here.
- Make no mistake: this was a bad win. The Knicks beat an inferior team at home by a narrow margin despite unsustainable shooting from distance. The good news? Bad wins are luxuries. Only good teams can register bad wins because teams that aren’t good have to take what they can get. I’ll take a bad win over a good loss any day. I say this not to be unrelentingly negative (it was actually a fun game, if you check out my Twitter I think it will be clear that I enjoyed a lot of it) but because the Knicks have an opportunity in the coming weeks — with a soft schedule and a healthy squad — to run off a whole bunch of wins and put themselves in a pretty killer position for the stretch run. They are entirely capable of doing this. But it won’t happen if they play like they did today. This game was a wedding gift from a relative you don’t particularly like; this recap is a thank you card that I hope won’t make them think I want them to come visit any time soon.