Knicks 113, Jazz 84
|Kurt Thomas, PF 9 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | +4
I wonder what Kurt Thomas thinks of the single-digit, fake-starter spurts he’s been dragooned into. Does he think it’s demeaning? Does he himself question Woodson’s decision? I doubt he’d say anything but standard-brand, “Just happy to be here. I’m ready to play whenever my number’s called. Whatever the team needs” sports cliché bukkake if asked by a wayward journalist (and it’s possible that that’s the whole truth), but I’m curious as to what he’d say if given a serious dose of sodium thiopental.
|Iman Shumpert, SF 27 MIN | 1-3 FG | 8-10 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 4 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | +18
Shump appeared to have more burst than we’ve seen in a while. He used the return of his powers to perform series of attempts at the rim that got more and more outlandishly difficult and tortuously acrobatic as the game went on as well as provide a reasonable facsimile of 2011-12 Shump while guarding the perimeter. W/r/t his forays to the tin, for the most part, he was bailed out by an officiating squad that…er…ahem…seemed to look kindly upon the recent spate of slings and arrows of outrageously bad fortune that have befallen our melancholy sporting squad. Still, any positive sign from Rook needs to be hoarded like weapons, water-filtration systems and solar power generators in the event of a zombie apocalypse (Oh, it’s coming.) and Shump’s decisiveness with the ball is the kind of bright spot that you’d risk taking on the Governor and all the residents of Woodbury for. Not sure if there’s a causal connection, but he did get the most minutes of the season tonight. Perhaps he just needs time to play w/o worrying about getting yanked.
|Tyson Chandler, C 25 MIN | 2-4 FG | 2-2 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | +17
Count me as one of the many who was worried that Tyson was suffering some sort of undisclosed injury. Tonight, at least, he returned to the 23-armed octopus/human embodiment of scowling rage we’ve come to expect ‘round these parts. Though you could feel the ‘Bockers overwhelming desire to double, (Why, by all that is holy and good, why?), Chandler proved wholly capable of blanketing a slew of dangerous Utah bigs in the post all by his lonesome all while helping out on all the littles that ventured into his territory. Definitely his best outing since his monstrous 16 point, 28 rebound effort against a Lee-less Warrior squad.
|Raymond Felton, PG 24 MIN | 6-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 15 PTS | +34
Speaking of homo sapien/beast hybrids, BullPengDoguinPoint had hisself a nifty night. Plus/minus is a highly flawed statistic, but +34 in only 24 minutes is nothing to shake an actuarial table at. The jumpers when defenders went under the screen on the pick and roll were pleasant enough, but it was his ability to routinely beat he SLC guards off the dribble that set the entire joyous, pass-happy, fluid, unselfish machine that was the New York offense in motion.
|James White, SG 17 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 3 PTS | +7
James White Anagram of the Night: SEE WITH JAM
|Kenyon Martin, PF 22 MIN | 4-6 FG | 2-2 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | +14
It’s odd to hear many a pundit talk about his rebounding as a skill he’ll bring off the bench. F’rinstance, Amar’e’s career total rebounding percentage is 14.3 and Kenyon’s is 12.8 and STAT’s never been deemed a serious hooverer of wayward shots. That said, he’s still an extremely talented defensive player and he’s so good at cutting baseline off dribble penetration. You could see the difference between his efforts and say, STAT’s, in his brief, foul-laden stretch two nights ago v. the Chesapeake Frackers and he really brought it once again in this game. I couldn’t have imagined a scenario as recently as 6 hours ago in which he’d be an absolute 20-25 MPG key to keeping this seemingly-cursed quest for playoff relevance alive, but assuming the strong force that binds the protons and neurons of his atomic structure doesn’t begin to dissipate in the next 24 hours (you never know with this team), he’s the major part of the rotation moving forward.
|Chris Copeland, SF 7 MIN | 4-6 FG | 3-3 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 12 PTS | +8
I cannot fathom why Cope’s been inactive lo these last couple of weeks. If nothing else, he’s proven that he can provide scoring punch from either forward spot. Even in this one, I have no idea why it took until the absolute foulest stench of garbage time wafted into the Goateed One’s nostrils before he got to shed his warmups. Of course, he proceeded to score in the variety of ways that we’ve seen all season. I don’t care if it takes official royal decree or another half-assed change.org campaign but something needs to be done to get our fearless leader to start our fave Belgian expat for James White. NOW. #FREECOPE.
|Steve Novak, SF 26 MIN | 7-12 FG | 1-1 FT | 0 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 20 PTS | +11
During the second quarter run that, for all intents and purposes, put the game away, when Prigs ran the pick and roll with Camby and then Chandler the Mormon defense collapsed into the paint like a cheap pup tent, leaving Stevak the time and space to get his recently-wonky shot fairly well combobulated. But that’s neither here nor there. We’ve seen plenty o’ games where he tickles the twine time and time again, bringing the MSG faithful to an effervescent, fizzy-lifting giddiness, but no human save the alums of Brown Deer High School have seen him BEAT SOMEONE OFF THE DRIBBLE WITH HIS LEFT HAND AND BANK IN A TOUGH RUNNER WITH A EUROSTEP. It was so stunningly improbable, if a barnyard sow had casually flown past my window, its lissome, pearly-white feathers fluttering in the breeze, I’d have opened the portal and bellowed, “JEEBUS H. CHRIST, MR. PIG. DID YOU SEE WHAT STEVE NOVAK DID?” and it would undoubtedly have replied, “I KNOW, DOOD. THAT WAS WACK! TWITTER’S SERIOUSLY BLOWING UP.” Small sample size theater: Amar’e was holding Novak back, obvi. A+ for the Allen Iverson impersonation alone.
|Marcus Camby, C 14 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-2 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +7
Camby missed a few easy ones at the rim, but he was a solid defensive presence in the middle. He too, is sure to get more burn in the days to come.
|Pablo Prigioni, PG 24 MIN | 1-2 FG | 4-4 FT | 5 REB | 5 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 7 PTS | +17
Cope Part Deux. Once again, one of the lingering, head-to-the-desk-inducing mysteries derived from Son of Wood’s distribution of floor time has been his unwillingness to unleash comely, noble Pablo, especially since our felonious, wizened floor general leads the Gothamites in On Court Net Rating (+7.8) [H/T to Jared ‘Doobs’ Dubin for that factoid]. When he did get to whirl, he was outstanding, flinging a beeyootiful alley-oop to Chandler, dishing a bevy of kick outs to open gunners, dumping the ball oh-so-deftly to those rolling to them, sneakily pilfering an inbounds attempt and generally making a nuisance of himself (but in a good way). More Prigs please.
|Jason Kidd, PG 16 MIN | 0-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PTS | -13
Kidd’s shot continued to clang off the iron, but you can’t discount the impact he has as a rebounder and shrewd help defender. It remains an utter joy to watch him ball. Barring injury (cross every digit available, knock on anything that even vaguely resembles wood, even the plastic siding on the ’78 Datsun hatchback my Dad refuses to junk or sell) I don’t see why he can’t maintain this level of production for the duration of his contract.
|J.R. Smith, SG 28 MIN | 10-18 FG | 0-2 FT | 6 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 24 PTS | +21
I think we all assumed that J.R. would be taking between 20 and 4,567.87 heaves tonight, but except for a stretch in the 3rd in which he got OKC game-level hawt, for the most part he looked to drive and dish and find his shots within the flow of the offense, all while providing a stout effort defense. It’s as if his singular goal as a hardwood artist is to defy expectations. During the broadcast, Dedes and the NBATV crew repeatedly intoned variations of, “Well, you know what J.R is/You take the good with the bad/etc.” I think they couldn’t be more wrong. His unpredictability is the essence of his gestalt (and once he realizes that we’re on to his “Unpredictability” shtick, he’ll step on the brakes and become totally predictable, which is itself something we’d never dare to predict. And now my head hurts. Like Rowdy Roddy Piper said, “Just when they think they got the answers, I change the questions.”
Oh yeah, he also did this.
<3 U, Earl. Never change.
Good job rallying the troops, Coach. It would certainly have been understandable if this team came out tonight and generally beshitted itself (and in the first couple of minutes, it looked like they were about to do exactly that.) but his insistence on starting two players who provide next to nothing is just flabbergasting. Maybe it’s stubbornness (a not-uncommon trait among members of his profession) but it’s time for a fairly simple change. Start Cope at SF and Martin at PF and then sub Melo for either one of them when he returns. More playing time for Prigs off the bench. Kay?
Five Things We Saw
- Like all of you, I was crushed when I heard the news about STAT an hour before tip off. Say what you will about the wisdom of giving a guy who’s knees are uninsurable a 5-year/100 million dollar contract (and whether his arrival really did make the Knicks a destination spot for other stars—that’s a conversation that requires rampant speculation and “what if’s” and reading of tea leaves that eventually, like peeling the layers of an onion, leads to absolutely nothing), I just plain liked the guy. I have nothing to base that on save for a few highly-mediated appearances and the way he goes/went about his (public) profession, but so be it. You just know. It’s not a specific thing you can quantify, it’s just a feeling—a feeling (possibly totally wrong) that he is/was one of us. Coming to terms with the truth that he’s suffered yet another setback, after countless others, both physical and personal, over the last year and a half, that the thought of yet another Sisyphean tumble to the bottom of the mountain with an injury-based boulder mockingly mute by his side, waiting for the hours and days and weeks of sweat-drenched struggle to schlep that goddamn blister and agony-inducing millstone back up again via rehab makes me feel profoundly sad; not just for this team and how the loss of his services will impact this season, but for the man himself.
- Some of you may offer that he shouldn’t have been playing 30+ minutes a night on a back-to-back and you wouldn’t be completely wrong. But the dead tissue (yuck) that’s in his knee didn’t accumulate over the last 72 hours. This was a ticking time bomb, which only makes it all the more depressingly inevitable. An optimist (which I am most certainly not) would say that it’s better it happened now. Maybe he’ll return for the 2nd round. I just want him to get better because he deserves to, after all he’s been through. Get well soon, Amar’e. Godspeed.
- While this isn’t a game you can point to and say, “The Knicks (of November) are back,” [©Amar’e Stoudemire, 2010] as Utah’s in a free fall, having lost 7 of 8 since they sat on their hands at the trade deadline and were playing the fifth game of a long road trip, it was fun as all git out to see the unselfish play and feisty defense come back. The White/Thomas starting duo continued to be a dud but the Knicks got on a roll midway through the 1st, putting up 15 straight. They started to roll due to the fact that they continually attacked the paint to take advantage of the Jazzmen’s lack of rim deterrents, while at the same time, mostly kept the ball out of the mitts of low post threats like Al Jefferson and forced lesser shooters into contested long jumpers. Utah was as close as 31-29 midway through the 2nd, but then Woodson rolled with an interesting quintet: Prigs-Felton-Novak-Martin-Camby. Though I doubt that’s a fivesome that’s ever donned blue and orange together before in a regular season game, it was a delicious mix of shotblockers/defenders and floor spacers/penetrators and mang, they looked sweet together. Though Shump and Chandler eventually got back into the fray, that group spurred a 24-9 run to end the half at which point the Improvisational Musicians pretty much rolled over and died.
In dramatic structure, it is often wise to posit a moment of low, broad-appeal comedy directly before or proceeding an instance of devastating tragedy, the theory being that the delight of the silliness/belly laughs increases the gut-punch of the tragic fall and vice versa, like seeing a valley next to a mountain makes one perceive the highs as higher and the lows as lower, and so on. So after a teeth-gnashing if understandable/rationalize-able loss v. Oklahoma City and the revelation of the basic unfairness/unjustness of the universe in learning that we were losing Amar’e yet again, it was nice to not only stomp the testes of an opponent to a bloody pulp, but be treated to a few moments of jejune, near-absurdist hilarity in the process. (Side note: I don’t know why, but our guys have been pounding on Utah for three years running now. Maybe LaGuardia keeps losing the luggage that contains their magic underpants.)
To wit, John Leguizamo was manning the official Knicks Twitter feed tonight and he let lose with more than a few 140-character duds like, “That was Harlem Globe Trotters style. Smith is da bomb diggity! #LeguizamoTakeover” Bomb Diggity? Really? Also, Philip Seymour Hoffman was sitting courtside and Spero Dedes, noted cinephile, described him as the star of Along Came Polly. No Capote, no Boogie Nights, No The Master. Along Came Freakin’ Polly. I don’t know about you, but even if that is the one flick in P.S Hoffman’s canon ( Yes, I called him “P.S”. All we New York theater types know each other intimately via our Atheist Jewish Gay Pornographer AA Meetings) that had a basketball scene, that movie was anything but the bomb diggity.
- And that’ll do it. The Knickerbockers now get to pack their travel toothbrush and head out on to the road trip from hell. Given we still don’t know when Melo will be available (And I’m assuming that the fluid in his knee is actually the acid-y viscous goo that the creatures from the Alien movies had for blood and we’ll be hearing the dreaded “6-8 weeks” prognosis soon enough.), 2-3 would be the bee’s knees (horrible, soul-crushing pun intended). We’ve seen multiple teams in many a sport come together and increase their level of play when the star or, in this case, stars, go down, but I worry that the adrenaline rush/emotional nitrous oxide won’t be enough against the beasts of the West. But like Beckett’s tramps, they must go on. And so do we. Remember to move your clocks ahead (stoopid farmers). Till the next time, mes gars
Hey, did you know that in addition to banging the keys here and occasionally for the NY Times, Robert is a playwright, an actor and a wand'ring mendicant/gadfly? He also once wrestled a bear...and lost.