Knicks 113, Magic 97
|Carmelo Anthony, SF 39 MIN | 8-17 FG | 2-2 FT | 7 REB | 5 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 20 PTS | +20
Early-season Melo – the guy that willfully passed to open teammates out of even the most advantageous single-teams – helped keep the first quarter offense on pace with the Magic’s cartoonish clip (the deep three to end the first didn’t hurt, either). Moe “How Can You Be So Harkless?” tried his best to frustrate Anthony with incessant slaps and flails, but luckily – as would probably not be the case with Iguodala, Deng, or another similarly top-tier wing defender – Melo kept his wits about him and picked his spots, even if it meant temporarily jeopardizing his 20-point game streak.
The series of rushed third quarter chucks had us all making angry Cosby faces (the only kind of Cosby face as far as I’m concerned), but Melo managed to coax enough buckets through the yarn to keep the Knick offense humming along. Or rattling along, anyway. As with Tyson, Melo’s five dimes weren’t only found gold for his own bottom line; they helped re-lube an offense lately grown rusted — the curse to a blessing begat by a truly gifted offensive player prime-saddled and bound for banners.
|Tyson Chandler, C 32 MIN | 10-11 FG | 1-1 FT | 7 REB | 5 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 21 PTS | +14
Way too many games of Greg Kite-level usage rates must’ve burned Tyson worse than subway clap, and he responded by spending much of the first quarter looking like Kareem incarnate – flicking in a couple beautiful hooks and converting a few more by way of red-faced throw-downs. But even Chandler’s Mongolian brand of paint hoarding couldn’t mask the fact that his cavalry were riding blind, three-legged mules around the perimeter.
Tyson’s offensive resolve was even more pronounced in the second half, where he reeled in – or batted out – a majority of his five offensive rebounds and hammered home a couple more bunnies. Ditto on the defensive end, which went from pillage-ready first quarter parcel to moated second half keep thanks in large part to Chandler’s omnipresence. Scramble all that with a handful of wonderful passes, you get a true Tyson masterpiece. It’s like that painting of Jesus with the poop smeared all over it, you see, except with less poop and more halos.
|Raymond Felton, PG 31 MIN | 6-13 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 9 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 15 PTS | +13
At this rate, the next time Felton headlines a Garden of Dreams gig at MSG, some thirty-something mom who spent four years bench-warming at Barruch College is going to challenge Ray to a run up to 11 and win 12-3 – all on 2s. Luckily Ray was taking at roughly 70% of what he was giving Jameer Nelson in the early going, connecting on a three, a pair of floaters, feeding the beasts, and protecting the ball to the tune of zero turnovers.
Felton’s plus-minus skyrocketd in the second half thanks to two things: 1) continuing his limited orchestration of the offense without getting in the way; and 2) Jameer Nelson crash landing back at the Jameer Nelson mean. Make no mistake about it: Ray has looked more and more comfortable in the paint with each passing game – he’s doing a better job of choosing between lobs and floats, and isn’t giving up his dribble as easily – but the perimeter D still needs work, even if the problem ultimately resides within the system itself.
|Iman Shumpert, PG 22 MIN | 3-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 7 PTS | -1
J.J. Redick’s first quarter barrage (37-37 for 79 points and a suite full of gold-hearted hookers) was a startling testament either to Redick’s underrated-ness, or Iman Shumpert’s overrated-ness – can’t really figure out which. I don’t want it to be the latter, obviously, and recognize that catching back up to the “top tier young wing defender” narrative might require a few more hardwood embarrassments. But there’s some truth to the idea that Shumpert’s value, at least right now, lies on his on-ball abilities, and not being able to navigate 1000 pounds of screens in chasing down pinpoint shooters.
Shump getting smoked was salved over somewhat by some nice spurts at the other end (a Ronnie Brewer Memorial Three Pointer, deft running one-hander, and a purposed approach to hitting the glass), but it was probably wise of Woodson to limit Shump’s minutes in this one; less for knee precautions than a simple recognition that, sometimes, the rust is just too thick to risk flaking off and cutting everyone else’s feet. That’s an old Egyptian proverb, by the way.
|James White, SG 10 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -1
The look about White (who started, by the way) after Reddick hit his third consecutive shot was one of a dude who just fed $8.50 into a $1.50 gas station air machine without it ever turning on; just completely bewildered, hands tossed to the heavens and brow furled so violently you kept waiting for it to start bleeding. Whether or not the Knicks end up trying to reel in Kenyon Martin, White needs to make a bigger, better impression in the limited burn allotted him.
|Amar’e Stoudemire, PF 21 MIN | 7-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 3 TO | 14 PTS | +3
So, uhh… That’s pretty efficient. Say what you will about his defensive gaffs – and there were enough in this game to feed the Farrelly Brothers for the next 30 years – STAT has looked remarkably comfortable around the rim, with fully loaded springs and soft touch to boot. He’s getting off the ground faster, making his decisions more quickly (his spin for a little left-handed bank was particularly pretty), and – despite the occasional errant dribble – is doing his part to dispel the idea that our gilted frontcourt can’t co-exist.
|Chris Copeland, SF 8 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 3 PTS | -2
Chris Copeland Anagram Fun: SPINACH COLDER
|Ronnie Brewer, SF 4 MIN | 0-0 FG | 1-3 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 1 PTS | -2
So Hack-a-Brew is apparently a thing now? Damnit, Ron. How’d it ever come to this?
|Steve Novak, SF 23 MIN | 3-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | +13
I’m no hardwood scientist, but it seems to me like Novak – just a few inches shy of seven full-throated feet – could, unlike Prigs, stand to hesitate a little more with his jumper. Not that he’s shooting too often or in the wrong circumstances; far from it. But for as high a release as he has, the Spalding seems to sling a little too quickly. The garbage time buckets hopefully helped with the confidence, but with the way everyone else in the regular rotation has been playing, the margin for error is becoming slimmer by the brick.
|Pablo Prigioni, PG 16 MIN | 4-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | +2
At least one of Woodson’s wisdom nuggets has been on-point: He’s been telling Pabs to not hesitate as much with his shot, and over the last few games our Argentine’s quick trigger has started to pay some dividends. With J-Kidd out nursing his withered back jerky, we know Prigs would have to be summoned to shoulder a heavier-than-usual load. The three-balls helped, no doubt, but it it was Pablo’s fluid game management – punctuated by a few truly beautiful P&R flourishes with Stat – that reinforced precisely how valuable he can be, even on an ostensibly deep team.
For those of you offended by Prigs not being included in the Schick Rookie Challenge, a change.com petition should be up shortly. Just scroll past the ones for victims of arsenic poisoning and PTSD. Should be in there somewhere. As Kevin McElroy brilliantly pointed out, the thought of Pablo regaling Andre Drummond with memories of “living through the Falklands War” seems a moment even the usually cadaver-stiff NBA PR wouldn’t want to pass up. For shame.
|J.R. Smith, SG 35 MIN | 4-8 FG | 1-2 FT | 5 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | +21
A few days back, the Wall Street Journal‘s Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) tweeted a little bit of info imparted by the Knicks’ newfangled court-camera technology to the effect that J.R. is shooting some ungodly percentage (north of 50%, I think) from behind the arc directly off the catch and without any dribbles, and 8.3% (That number I remember, mostly because it’s pretty fucking hard to forget), on threes when he took two or more dribbles before cutting loose. Say what you will about “advanced stats,” that information is hugely important and eminently useful.
I have no idea whether that information has also been shared with J.R. himself, but I did notice a decided shunning of over-dribbles into pull-ups in lieu of purposeful drives and some really, really nice dishes (the one to a cutting Stat for a first quarter flush being especially noteworthy). Which is all going a long way to say that I’ll take this kind of J.R. performance – measured, smart, not entirely spectacular – over the kind that ends with me slapping my own face as hard as I can.
Five Things We Saw
- We all saw it: Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick running around the MSG hardwood like they lease the joint, negotiating shots both routine and totally impossible en route to a ridiculous 9-11 first quarter that had Knick fans the planet over lighting their gasoline-soaked bed posts on fire and marching en mass to Woodson’s Garden office, which I can only assume is between utility closet and the nacho cheese vat. Orlando’s motion offense is predicated on proper spacing, aggressive dribble-drives, and rapid-fire passes resulting in easy lay-ups and a good number of open jumpers. Against a team that switches on ball and off-screens alike, a quick start can mushroom very quickly into disaster for the defense. The hot hands eventually cooled off, thank Christ, but Redick and Nelson once again proved a hefty handful for the Knick D.
- At one point early in the game, the Knicks sent a double team on Glen Davis. It failed, of course. Davis left soon thereafter with a sore foot. Woody-Ergo: DOUBLE TEAM EVERYONE BECAUSE THEY’LL GET SORE FEET AND LEAVE.
- After getting smoked like Benedict salmon by the Magic guards in the first half, the Knicks employed a weirdly effective strategy to start the third quarter – hedge hard, often into full-on traps, on ball screens. It actually worked on a few occasions, with the double-team – usually featuring Chandler – batting the play far enough afield to force the Magic into rushed sets and mid-range jumpers from not-ideal sources. I don’t know of this is something that’s a legitimate long-term strategy or not, but it was a hell of a lot better than the pussy-footed switches to which we’ve grown accustomed.
- With a fourth quarter triple from the left wing, Carmelo Anthony tallied 20 points for the 30th consecutive game, breaking the record of 29 previously set by Richie Guerin back in the 1820s or something. Which was really cool for the fifteen minutes of locker room and Jim Cavan house parties before Resident Wet Blanket Seth Rosenthal pissed on everyone’s parade by noting that, if you string together two season, Guerin actually chalked 20 in 33 straight (the final 29 of one season, and the first four of the next). So, yeah, I guess Melo will have to put that cake I sent him with me inside it in the freezer. Thanks, Seth. Jerkbutt.
- Aided by a Nets home loss to Miami, the ‘Bockers fluffed their Atlantic cushion to 2.5 games ahead of Friday’s home showdown with the Bucks. With four games left on their five-tilt home stand, gobbling up Ws when and while we can is of the utmost. While the Blockers flirt with full roster strength, getting Sheed and Kidd back – even if the former lags far behind the latter – can only help. Whether that’s enough to mask the fast manifesting palls (double-teaming career afterthoughts, switching on 1-5 picks like its some kind of performance art, etc.) is anyone’s guess. But – as I’m sure some old Irish saying goes – better to be second-guessing than next-year-waiting.
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.