Knicks 110, Sixers 88
|Carmelo Anthony, SF 30 MIN | 7-16 FG | 6-6 FT | 7 REB | 2 AST | 21 PTS | +20
Look, we know a Carmelo Anthony who carefully picks his spots, regularly finds the open man, and knows when he’s about to hoist one too many was bound to be as sustainable as a Soviet tar factory. He might not read every headline, but Melo absolutely knows when his game – and thus his stock amongst the viewing public – is peaking, and as a result can hardly help himself from trying to push that luck further up the index ladder. That’s basically what we saw tonight — early on, anyway. But at least the slow starts and stretches of blind hoists are being coupled with board pounding and fleet-footed rotations on the other end, and a more discerning shot selection as the game wears on.
You wanna know the best part? You can actually hear Melo on the defensive end. It’s total barking nonsense, but after a hundred or so games of far-too-regular glazed-over indifference, we’ll take it.
|Tyson Chandler, C 28 MIN | 5-9 FG | 4-4 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 14 PTS | +14
So I guess Tyson puking all over the place yesterday wasn’t just a figment of our collective imagination; dude actually had the flu or strep throat or SARS or something. He looked noticeably better tonight, and wisely took advantage of Kwame Brown’s latest NBA outbreak by freely roaming off him and daring whatever guard was in Tyson’s vicinity to try and thread an impossible needle. Luckily, Sheed’s remarkably quick ascendance from second rate summer league carnival barker to serviceable NBA soldier made it possible for Tyson — who still managed to tally a few genuinely terrifying stops and throw-downs and pair of very fluid-looking mid-range jumpers before departing — to get out of the game and chug some Nyquil. Are kids still doing that?
|Jason Kidd, PG 18 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 3 PTS | +12
We should’ve known Kidd would sandbag the whole of this year’s preseason slate, only to turn it on just in time for one last stab at the mountaintop. His first three games were tempered flashbacks to a bygone brilliance, minus the uncanny combination of speed and strength and plus a few dozen brow furrows. Woodson wisely limitd J-Kidd to 18 cursory minutes in this one, which was perfect because Jason was gonna be late for Silver Platter Night at Perkins. His ability conduct players to proper spacing in spite of atrophied skills, and man up respectably well on dude’s twice his size and half his age (one stand against Spencer Hawes sticks out) have been nothing to scoff at.
|Raymond Felton, PG 23 MIN | 6-13 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 8 AST | 16 PTS | +12
As Jared Dubin aptly pointed out on the Twits, Ray Ray had yet to turn a solid first stanza into a totalizing four-quarter performance. He might well have done so tonight, had he not been yanked in lieu of a fresher Pabby Prigs in trash time. While he was out there, Ray did a much better job checking Jrue “Contract Year” Holiday, caressed a few fabulous lobs Tyson’s way, converted on a couple of powerful drives, and snagged some crafty rebounds. We’ll let him live for now.
|Ronnie Brewer, SG 33 MIN | 5-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 10 REB | 0 AST | 13 PTS | +16
One of these days – when he finally gets his sea legs back about him – Ronnie won’t need to approach every layup like there’s a 12-sail mobile windmill roaming the paint. Speaking as someone who’s returned to the court after missing a game with a really bad hangover, it sometimes takes a while before your peripheral awareness reaches even keel – until then it’s pretty easy to psyche yourself out with thoughts of limbs that simply aren’t there.
Still, Brewer’s quickness is coming around, particularly on D, where he’s figuring out how to effectively funnel his man into low post trouble. Despite some subpar post-injury hops, Ronnie seems to have a well-honed knack for where the rebound is headed, and has been especially adept at quickly finding the proper outlet man in transition. And the three point shooting? Who saw that coming? QUICK, SOMEONE BREAK HIS OTHER ARM!
|Kurt Thomas, PF 6 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | +5
Kurt still can’t crazy-eye the basket into a friendly bounce, but dude’s remained eminently serviceable regardless, and has absolutely mastered the art of just shoving bros out the way on defensive rebounds. I have no earthly idea how the refs don’t see it, but there it is.
Really though, the most worrisome thing about KT that I’ve noticed thus far is that my wife can’t tell him and Ronnie Brewer apart. I thought Ronnie’s gold molar was a dead giveaway, but whatever…
|Rasheed Wallace, PF 14 MIN | 4-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 10 PTS | +3
At this rate, by December Rasheed Wallace will be opening the arena doors, assembling the floor, microwaving the nacho cheese, moving out the baskets, operating the pre-game smoke machine (the one that’s not a sawed off milk jug), and playing all 48 minutes while coaching the team and rubbing everyone’s quads.
By the time he hit his preposterous fading three from the top of the key to close out the third, Sheed was on a 74 –per-36 clip, and his gray spot had signed a lucrative endorsement deal with Just For Men. We kind of figured the shot would come around; what we weren’t sure of — and what we’re pleasantly surprised to see — is how well Sheed could manage himself on the defensive block. He had peeps jumping over, through, and around him a few times down the garbage stretch, but the help defense was in pure Piston form.
|Steve Novak, SF 22 MIN | 0-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 PTS | +3
It’s weird how ridiculously sad I get whenever Novak misses – my shoulders slump and I sigh and fart and just feel horrible about myself and life in general. Which, unfortunately, has been the case the past couple games, as Stevak’s typically true aim has been a few degrees off. No need to panic, however, especially if he can keep from getting hammered into bonemeal on the defensive end.
|Chris Copeland, SF 3 MIN | 1-2 FG | 2-2 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 5 PTS | 0
CHRIS COPEL-ANAGRAMS: Lead his corn PC.
|Pablo Prigioni, PG 25 MIN | 3-5 FG | 4-4 FT | 1 REB | 6 AST | 11 PTS | +10
Mike Breen seems fairly certain that Prigs is “an irritant,” to the point where he repeated it ad nauseum throughout the first half. Every time Mike says this I like to think of him arriving for his pregame shootaround banter with Clyde, as Pablo careens shot after shot off the rim and into Mike’s knees, and Mike turns around just as Prigs grabs the ball and says “lo siento” without making eye contact…
Anyway, it feels like Prigs is starting to find some kind of geriatric rhythm a mere handful of games into his NBA career: he’s measures more confident with his dribble, and showing a frighteningly early acumen for hawking passing lanes. But from Priggie Slim’s first eight outings can even come close to watching him pick off a pass on the wing, drive to the rim with a defender in each pocket, leave the floor for a layup knowing that if he puts it up it’s going to get sent THROUGH the backboard, before flicking it around the airborn defenders at the last possible second, the ball bouncing aimlessly towards half court before J.R. Smith picks it up on the fly and carries it the rest of the way for an and-one flush. Prigs deserved seven assists for that – one for each bounce.
|James White, SG 3 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | 0
As far as I’m concerned, if James white doesn’t step on someone’s head, it was a DNP.
|J.R. Smith, SG 34 MIN | 7-15 FG | 1-1 FT | 7 REB | 5 AST | 17 PTS | +15
After a breakout 20-point performance Sunday afternoon, J.R. Smith came out swinging. Literally. Like, he almost hit Royale Ivey in the face. As he did yesterday, Smith began with a few errant looks and an air of general skittishness. That all soon subsided, however, as J.R. turned in one of the finest all around performances I can ever remember seeing from him — hounding defense, deft dishes, good rebounding, and an overall assassin’s discretion on the offensive end.
Five Things We Saw
- Seriously, that first quarter had some of the ugliest stretches of basketball I’ve ever seen – like 10 ATOs decided to cap off a night of buttchugging with some garbage can basketball in a basement where everyone’s falling over all the other buttchuggers trying to dribble a taped up bunch of sucks. Chalk it up to a back-to-back coupled with a tangible malaise of familiarity. Things got a little more professional thereafter, thank God, but now you can go Google buttchugging and make it a truly capital evening.
- Once again the help defense and ball-slap-ery were both remarkably taut, though there were a few more lapses than were witnessed yesterday. This remains the most encouraging development of the young season, to be sure. But what’s made it truly special is the quickness with which the Knicks are able to shake off a sluggish start and hunker down. Whereas in seasons past it would take a quarter or more for the defensive communication to get clicking – if it ever clicked at all – this year Woodson seems to have really drilled home the idea that there’s really no good goddam good reason at all why you should ever have an “off” night on defense.
- The arena crew had to replace a net right before the third quarter, an inconvenience Breen naturally blamed on Prigioni.
- For the third consecutive game, the Knicks were damp from downtown, hitting 13 of their 32 hoists. Which helps mask maladies such as getting out-boarded by 11 and getting to the strip seven fewer times than your interlocutors. We’ll ride this train so long as it’s chuggin’, obviously, but defense can’t be the only thing we fall back on when the rim gods get fickle and the shots aren’t falling.
- As pretty much everyone is probably aware by now, the Knicks are 3-0 for the first time since the millenial season of 1799 — the year star pointe white man Zebediah Adams led the Knickerbockers to their first ever Colonial Sheepsgutball title over Malcolm “Fire Hair” McGillicutty and the heavily favored Providence Rum Dandies… Actually Encarta’s telling me they did it again in 1999. Which doesn’t seem like all that long ago, until you consider that the following were real things:
* Wikipedia was Encarta
* Chumbawumba made millions of American dollars
* Anthony Davis was SIX
* South Park was in its third season
* I drove a beige Mercury Sable and never once changed the oil
* You had to page someone if you wanted some jazz cigarettes
So, yeah, it’s been a while. None of us have any idea how long this bonkers manna will last, but it sure is fun. I don’t know what kind of Jedi shit Woodson’s been spittin’, but he’s clearly got this team’s ears and asses right where he wants them — and their hearts right where we all always wanted them to be.
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.