Knicks 106, Magic 94
|Kenyon Martin, PF 28 MIN | 5-6 FG | 1-3 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 11 PTS | +20On, the unending game of Whack-a-Mole! Time swings the mallet, Injury, and yet the heads of quadragenarian power forwards keep popping up out of orange and blue jerseys, ready to provide defense, rebounding, and “edge” and — on the right night — more makes than misses. Tonight, with Kurt Thomas laid low, it was Kenyon Martin’s turn. Starting at center, K-Mart clogged the lane, helped on to penetrators, took what was given him on offense. Docked a half grade for a lack of rebounding — the whole team protected the defensive glass poorly — but recognized here for providing what the Knicks needed on a night when their frontcourt was beyond thin.|
|Carmelo Anthony, SF 33 MIN | 7-14 FG | 4-6 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 21 PTS | +21Was immediately apparent that he was able to move better tonight than he has in weeks. Fought for position off the ball, bullied Arron Afflalo on it, forced doubles and — despite a goose egg in the assist column — passed out of them smartly. Didn’t force his shot but when he did take it, didn’t show much rust. Defense was good on the perimeter, not quite as good in the pivot. All in, an encouraging return. The home and home with Toronto will provide a test for his knee.|
|Iman Shumpert, SF 14 MIN | 2-4 FG | 2-2 FT | 0 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 7 PTS | +2Really liked Shump’s effort tonight. Hit a corner three and had a nice finish in transition after receiving the ball just inside halfcourt. Played a big role in how ineffective the Nelson/Afflalo/Moore trio were in the first half. Had a lovely drive-and-kick in quarter number two that promised of the kind of expanded skill set for which we’re all watering at the mouth. Came up limping on a strained knee at the end of the first half and sat out the second. We hold our breaths.|
|Raymond Felton, PG 25 MIN | 3-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 7 PTS | +21Quiet aside from a lovely reverse layup off a baseline cut. 4 assists without a turnover though, plus-21 in 25 minutes, and some of that bulldog defense we hear so much about was there for real tonight. A fitting symbol of the night’s general theme: “Unexciting but effective.”|
|Pablo Prigioni, PG 20 MIN | 2-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 5 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | +13Somehow Prigioni has become the best shooter in the Knicks’ entire stable of backcourt players. He’s also toned down the predilection for cartoonish turnover totals that plagued him in the early part of the season (he had only 1 in 20 minutes tonight). Combine his line with Felton’s and you get 13/9/6 with a steal and only 1 turnover in 45 minutes (on 5/10 and 3/6 from deep). The played well together (comprising the starting backcourt and staking the Knicks to a 22-7 lead) and apart (taking turns at the point as the Knicks held on in the second half); Prigs was the slightly better of the two.|
|Chris Copeland, SF 20 MIN | 4-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 9 PTS | -5His value is inversely proportionate to Carmelo’s health. When we are absent another player who can create his own shot, you can put up with the defense and the chucking and the general lack of any non-scoring value. But when Melo is Melo-ing, all the negative stuff in Copeland’s game stands out. He’s basically the Taco Bell to Melo’s Chipotle: I’m happy to give him minutes either when Melo isn’t available or when it’s 4 AM and I’m drunk.|
|Steve Novak, SF 26 MIN | 4-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | -3Look who hit some threes tonight! Novak is back to being as exciting as the insurance company commercial that he loves so well. Cool defense, though, bro.|
|Marcus Camby, C 7 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | -7Nooooooooope.|
|Jason Kidd, PG 23 MIN | 2-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 5 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 5 PTS | -9The recent theme with Kidd, I guess, is that he’s still good when we don’t give him much to do. A few months ago he was the third or fourth most important guy on the team. Now we basically need to marginalize him for him to be effective, which seems like a paradox but is the best way I have of articulating it. Perfectly fine tonight — opportunistic on defense and mistake-free on offense — but no longer a player who seems to be at the center of everything that’s going right.|
|James White, SG 6 MIN | 3-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 7 PTS | -5Glimmers of life from Flight this evening. God knows we could use some more depth on the wings but it’s more likely that this was a one-time thing, juxtaposed as it was against the backdrop of an Orlando team that was well-beaten by the time he got involved.|
|J.R. Smith, SG 38 MIN | 8-16 FG | 4-5 FT | 7 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 22 PTS | +12We’ve been very quick to turn on Earl since things have gone south for the ‘Bockers and from a statistical perspective (and from plenty of other perspectives) our frustration is perfectly legitimate. Here is what I know: His efg% is 48% with Melo on the floor and 45% without him. The Knicks outscore opponents by 6 points per 100 possessions with JR and Melo playing together, that number goes down to an even zero with JR out there sans-Melo. He knows his role when he’s playing next to the guy who has been the alpha dog for most of his career; when he doesn’t, Bad JR is badder and Good JR is scarcer. He won’t give us 22 on 16 shots with 7 rebounds every night, but as long as the team is at or near full strength and he’s playing the role he should play, we can all calm down.|
|Mike WoodsonCredit where due. Made a bold choice to start Felton and Prigs together: it worked great. Went with a 0 PG look for a stretch of the 2nd quarter, it didn’t work, he adjusted at the half and went away from it. He sat Shump when his knee acted up and got Melo plenty of rest once the game was out of reach. Yes, this was a game against lowly Orlando, but he managed it well and got them a victory with minimal collateral damage (during a stretch when getting through a game without a broken foot or a torn MCL feels like a victory).|
One Thing We Saw
- Speaking of broken feet, it looks like Kurt Thomas’ injury is more than just bone spurs. The 41-year-old big has a stress fracture in his foot, one he thinks he’s had for the better part of a week. He’s very likely out for the year and, if you’re betting on him playing another game in the NBA in his career, I hope you’re getting the odds.If this is the end for Kurt, let’s remember a player who came to the Knicks a decade and a half ago as a foul-prone banger who had shot 37% in just 24 games in the two previous seasons in Dallas and Miami. He was a role player during a Finals run, added a mid-range jumper, and became an improbably critical player on both ends of the court for three more playoff teams.
- He was traded for the rights to Nate Robinson on Draft Night in 2005, an evening that changed the face of the Knicks as much as any other in the past decade. Thomas played for six teams after leaving the Knicks, most memorably including a deep playoff run in San Antonio, and returned to New York this summer as a throw-in, included in the Raymond Felton deal due simply to the vagaries of the NBA Salary Cap. Injuries vaulted him to a role of unexpected importance, a humbler ascent than in his first Garden stint, but one no less unlikely. He was occasionally useful, frequently apprehensive, constantly old.
- But at the end, on what looks like it may have been his last night in a Knicks jersey, he stepped up on a foot he knew was broken, fought through 27 minutes in a game that the reeling, depleted Knicks had to have. He set screens, protected the rim, impacted the outcome in ways that far exceeded his statistical line. Did it all in pain that he downplayed so that he’d be allowed to do it.
- If Kurt Thomas exits now, he exits a Knick and he exits a fighter. And that is absolutely the farewell that he deserves.