Knicks 106, Suns 99
|Kurt Thomas, PF 19 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 2 AST | 2 PTS | +13
I’m still not sure what the arrangement is here, but at least Kurt contributed things with actual statistical relevance – a nice charge-take in the early going and a 16-foot jumper that would’ve been far more impressive had Kurt not used the same force and trajectory on a wide open layup a few moments later.
Immediately after the game Kurt could be found in a darkened corner of the MSG hallways accepting a satchel full of cash from Woodson, which apparently constitutes the other half of the deal.
|Ronnie Brewer, SF 25 MIN | 3-8 FG | 1-3 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 8 PTS | +7
I haven’t seen someone do this many little things since The Wizard of Ass AMIRITE!?!?
… Following up missed jumpers for and-ones, hawking dribble-drives, keeping possessions alive – this is why we signed Brewer, and he’s delivered in spades so far this season. Plus, you could easily make the argument that he’s still not fully recovered from that preseason meniscus tear. Plus, Landry Fields is making six million dollars this year, is averaging 2.4 points and 3.2. rebounds with a PER of 1.3. Plus, we’re paying Ronnie Brewer his entire salary in cans of vegetable stock.
|Carmelo Anthony, SF 38 MIN | 11-27 FG | 8-8 FT | 6 REB | 2 AST | 34 PTS | +16
If you’re going to throw caution – and good ink – to the wind and come out chucking, I suppose this was as good a day as any. Yet another torrid start was followed by 30 or so minutes of heat-checking, but damn if a number of them didn’t fall through anyway. And really, we needed pretty much every one of Melo’s 34, just like we needed his pair of loose ball dives (the first of which Melo smiled his way through, court burn and all) and chase-down blocks. With Ray-Ray ailing and the slate about to get a lot tougher, Melo’s all-around brilliance might soon include polishing up on his point-forward skills, upon which the Knicks haven’t had to depend since our one-time mustachioed generalisimo was calling the shots.
|Tyson Chandler, C 31 MIN | 6-8 FG | 3-4 FT | 13 REB | 1 AST | 15 PTS | -1
Another day, another blood clot shot chart (pretty sure that’s just one of J.R.’s eyes hanging out on the three point line). It’s not simply the efficiency at, near, or inside the rim; it’s the uncanny deftness with which every non-dunking tip-in is finessed – the perfect amount of spin and English every time. He had his hands full with Gortat (who played an astounding 41 minutes), and was left a few too many times to clean up the mess of lost assignments (Shannon Brown’s put-backs off of misses come immediately to mind), but all in all not too shabby after a pair of early fouls.
|Raymond Felton, PG 39 MIN | 10-17 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 7 AST | 23 PTS | +4
By far Ray’s greatest performance since 25-cent wing night at B-Dubs a few weeks back. It wasn’t just that the J was singing; but that said jumper seldom came with more than half the shot clock remaining. When he wasn’t cookin’ poop from outside, our burly bellwether time and again put pressure on the Phoenix D with his purposeful takes, which almost always resulted in good things.
Now for the shitty part: It looks like Felton was favoring that left hand after inadvertently slapping the weed grinder hidden under Beasley’s knee skin – both at the end of the game and in the locker room afterwards. He’ll likely have an MRI done later today or tomorrow, and holy hell let’s pray that doesn’t reveal anything serious like a fracture or a fully formed twin in his stomach. With two days rest ahead of Wednesday’s tilt in Charlotte, hopefully Ray can keep it under wraps (literally) and be ready to go.
|Rasheed Wallace, PF 1 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -2
Sheed just assumed the a make your own Mimosa station and half-off corned beef benedict brunch was a better use of his time than playing basketball, and garnered two immediate first quarter technicals to see that plan through. The first one – an unnecessary hammering of Luis Scola after the former had already been whistled for a foul – was certainly legit, but I’m not sure I want to live in a world where “Ball Don’t Lie!” can get you summarily tossed from the arena.
|Steve Novak, SF 32 MIN | 4-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 12 PTS | -4
The shaky shooting that pocked the early part of the season has seemed to vanish into the rear-view mirror, and Stevak continued his pinpoint shooting – sparked anew in his Wisconsin homecoming barrage a few days ago – with four fingers worth of net-snapping shots. Tack on a pair of ‘bounds and steals, you have yourself a veritable tour de force outing from our pasty marksman.
|Chris Copeland, SF 10 MIN | 4-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 8 PTS | +6
Called to early action thanks to Sheed’s ballistic freakout, Cope was as responsible as anyone for helping extend the Knicks’s second quarter lead and giving them the necessary cushion to coast the rest of the way. He hit a few outside jumpers, swiped a steal (which he very nearly nullified by trying to throw it back across the half court line to Prigs), and swung the ball nicely on offense, which made up for a few flat-footed stands at the other end.
Weirdly, Woodson refrained from calling Cope’s number the rest of the way, a move Coach didn’t go too in depth in explaining. While we’re understandably dealing with a pretty small sample size, I don’t think there are many out there who’d argue with more than passive flair that Thomas deserves to start over Copeland. To the extent that continuing to bring Sheed off the bench will give you a presence at once stabilizing and potentially lucrative scoring-wise, it makes sense to keep Wallace as the sixth or seventh man. But Thomas has shown almost less than nothing, while Copeland – for all the flashes of green clumsiness – seems ready to contribute. I’m hopeful there’s a method to this madness; it’d just be nice to know what, exactly.
|Pablo Prigioni, PG 9 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | +3
With Felton’s late-game hand injury, Pablo’s narrative went from one of charming luxury to “holy shit he’s our starting point guard” rather quickly. After nine minutes of mostly spotty play, Prigs’s nose was busted open by an errant Sebastian Telfair arm, and that was pretty much the last we saw of him. I tried to interview the blood after the game for a little insight, but MSG PR personnel insisted on being present so I just left.
Let’s hope Felton’s OK and Prigs can remain in his spot-duty role, because it’s difficult to say what exactly he’d be able to provide if forced into 30+ minutes of regular action.
|J.R. Smith, SG 37 MIN | 1-11 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 4 AST | 4 PTS | -7
J.R. didn’t just go out last night: He went out after pre-game warmups, during all full and TV timeouts, at halftime, and – amazingly – even when on the court. To give us a much-needed window into J.R.’s thinking (and speaking) on these often rough Sunday matinees, MSG was kind enough to mic up the mercurial guard for parts of the game. Let’s take a listen:
“AYH waiASECondz I thot WOODz wzz cALLin my numberon tTHHat one!”
“AAhhe COpE! i’Z just STOopin in Thez PAYNT fo, BuT AAAY! YOU GOTTDSA git ofer FASTER!”
“MmAN I NEEed some NACHOZ Y’all! AYHH COPE! Get a BrutHEr some ChIPZ ‘N CHeeeeze ‘n BriNG ‘EM BACK here in theBarBIe bag.”
“AYHH WoODZ! YEE shuLd STHart thz Kid not CrZY EYs!”
Three Things We Saw
- Critics of New York’s often raccoonshit-level defense will point to two things: the Knicks’ late-game near-collapse; and the fact that the lowly Suns shot 49% from the field (they were above 50 most of the way). But that’s OK if you’re forcing 17 turnovers and taking care of the ball at the other end (my math says the coaches will have to run six sprints tomorrow, or the equivalent of half a cup of coach sweat gravy). Even when it got close down the stretch, the ‘Bockers demeanor was one more of bemusement than legitimate fear. Sooner or later that kind of approach is liable to get you smoked. Let’s just hope it doesn’t happen when it matters.
- The Knicks were once again tickling twine, knick down 12 of their 29 attempts — right around their season’s average in both hits (11.7 per game) and clip (41.4% today, 41.9% on the year). Last season it felt like our three point shooting was a devil’s gamble; we’d live by it or die by it, and very rarely be close without it being a go-to arrow in the quiver. Contrastingly, this time around the threes seem like an added bonus; the cherry on an already smoothly flowing sundae. And while it’s not unreasonable to expect a gradual – or even sudden – flee towards the mean, the shots we are getting from deep are for the most part coming within the flow of the offense or by way of fairly consistent movement.
- The Suns being a terrible basketball team ought not detract from the fact that – in years past – there would’ve been a 50% chance of the Knicks completely barfing away a game like this. Prior to Woodson’s ascendance last year, the Knicks were 10-10 at home. Since then, they’ve gone 18-1. Credit Woody’s insistence on protecting Garden turf, a much-improved personnel, more engaged crowd – whatever you want. But even when Phoenix commenced its stubborn second half runs, the outcome never really seemed in grave doubt. In short, the Knicks expect to win at home, even on slow Sundays when the play is lazy and the Saturday night bass is still throbbing in the dome.
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.