|Kenyon Martin, PF 18 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 3 TO | 2 PTS | +14
And now, your nightly Knick PF/C injury update. I had more than a few notes about how spry Martin looked in his first game back (“Spry” being a word one only uses with regards to the aged and/or the infirm). Then, up 25 with 10:30 to go, he rolled his ankle going for a rebound. Gah. After the game, Woodson informed the teary-eyed relatives in the hospital waiting room that, “He just has a severe sprain. It’s a possibility he’s out for Thursday [against the Bulls].” A “Possibility,” huh. It’s also possible that I sprout a third eye in the next 30 seconds, but I wouldn’t go around discussing my incipient mystical/spiritual insight as if there’s a puncher’s chance of it occurring. In fact, I’d wager vast tracts of arable land we don’t hear from K-Mart for the next five games. That’s okay, really. Keep him in bubble wrap ‘till the postseason. They’re gonna need him.
|Carmelo Anthony, SF 31 MIN | 13-21 FG | 7-9 FT | 8 REB | 6 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 36 PTS | +23
I think we’ve burned through multiple servers waxing poetic on Carmelo’s Kelvin-busting, utter brilliance the last five games (and deservedly so). But tonight, I was thrilled by the evolution in Melo’s ability to pass out of the high post—the cross-court feeds in particular. The funny thing is, to a layman, it may look more or less indistinguishable from the days of yore in which he’d buff the ball to a fine sheen and jab-step us all into ISO-ed rage. The difference is, he’s waiting for the instant he can suck the defense in before finding all those greedy-handed wide open three point shooters. In Denver, if memory serves, he’d often sport similar skillz, but with Nene and others cutting to the basket in lieu of Woodson’s floor-spacery. It’s his patience and the knowledge that he can and will get the rock playing off the ball plus the trust in his fellow orange and blue mates. And it’s so much fun to watch. Oh, he also broke yet another team record—consecutive games with over 35 points (formerly held by newly-minted HOF’er, Bernard King). At this rate, the Knicks’ scrivener is going to be breaking into the supply closet to get more quills and inkwells with all the rewriting that needs to be done of the ‘Bockers Necronomicon-esque, flesh-bound, unspeakably evil book o’ records.
|Iman Shumpert, SF 24 MIN | 7-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 18 PTS | +3
After missing all nine of his shots in the prior two games, Shump was seriously en fuego in this one. One interesting wrinkle: Even last year, when Iman was at his high-flying best, it was remarkable how much difficulty he had finishing at the rim. Of late, when the ball gets swung to him, instead of driving into a thicket of long-armed defenders, he’s pulling up for an elbow jumper or looking to pass to the perimeter/cutters after beating his man (in the New Yorkers’ minisculeball lineups, that’s often a sloe-footed PF/C) off the dribble. There’s a ton of anecdotal evidence that players coming back from major leg injuries improve their outside shooting, mainly because it’s the only thing they can do until they’re given the go-ahead to begin sprinting/defying gravity. That seems to be the case here, but the decision-making…that’s just a product of experience. And a welcome one at that.
|Raymond Felton, PG 31 MIN | 4-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 8 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | +23
What can I say? As one of Felton’s more vocal, Cavan-ite, critics, I’ve been soooooo impressed with how he’s performed of late. I can’t overstate how important his aggressiveness taking the ball to the tin is to a well-oiled Knick offensive machine. His rep as a bulldog-ish defender has certainly been tarnished the last few campaigns, but plays like the one at the end of the half where he and Kidd (natch) harassed Wall mercilessly like a short-armed spider monkey until he could snatch the ball in his flippers and secure an easy layup definitely merits polyphylumlic anthropomorphic descriptors. SpiderBullPenguinMonkeyDog. Sounds about right.
|Pablo Prigioni, PG 23 MIN | 2-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 5 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 5 PTS | +11
The Prigs and Cope Show got a lovely late-night screening during extended temps du poubelle, but early on, there was a smattering of sneakily-fun plays, such as yet another steal off an inbounds pass, which was followed hard upon by Pablo begging the ref to let him inbound the ball only to be stymied by the artist formerly known as Maybyner Hilario’s refusal to stop griping about the call. Oh to be a weevil or parasitic stoner worm nestled in the arbiter’s mitts! It must have been a UN-level series of gripes and airing of flabbercensed (Flabbergasted + incensed = flabbercensed. Get it? I’ll show myself out…) grievances, sprinkled with Spanish and Portuguese expletives and a translator chucking his earpiece into the blue seats/flinging his hands into the air in befuddled exhaustion.
|Chris Copeland, SF 30 MIN | 6-11 FG | 1-2 FT | 9 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 17 PTS | +3
Another heart cockle-warming outing from our fave Belgian expat. He’s gaining confidence and the defense/rebounding is steadily on the uptick. Like the Japanese poet Issa said:
Of course, this pilgrim’s progress is going to have to kick into high gear, tout suite, considering he’s the only able-bodied pseudo-big left standing (literally). We’ll discuss this further in a jot. Also, he’s taken to saluting after what he deems a particularly swell play. Peep this:
Between Novak’s Novakainery, The Sheed three-fingered head gesture and Smith’s air guitar thingy, the Knickerbockers have to lead the league in arcane celebratory gestures. I’ll have to check the metrics/query the advanced stats guys, but my back-of-the-handkerchief calculations seem to suggest it’s so. I can only assume this’n from Cope is a nod to the Nix spirit animal…Scary Business Clown.
|Steve Novak, SF 22 MIN | 4-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 12 PTS | +3
I can only imagine what must have been going through Novak’s mind after seeing his fellow cagers rattle in 9-12 threes in the opening frame with nary a one credited to his discount double-checkery. “Hey. THAT’S MY BAG, BIATCHES. IF Y’ALL ARE GOING TO START DUMPING IN LONG-RANGE SHOTS LIKE THIS IS A POP-A-SHOT GAME IN A DULL, CORPORATE SPORTS BAR I’M OUT OF A JOB. YOU JERKS ARE MESSING WITH MY LIVELIHOOD, MANG!!!” Alas, before Stevak could log into LinkedIn/Microsoft office and start hastily updating his resume, he too got to show off his moves at the Three Point Homecoming Dance and Town Social.
|Jason Kidd, PG 22 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 3 PTS | +17
Speaking of things we’ve stated on more than one occasion on these here recaps—the intangibles that Kidd brings to the team. Tonight, there was one play that truly was a paradigm for all the cran-tastic things our sage, infinite wisdom-possessing floor general brings to the table. In the final sequence of the 3rd, the ‘Bockers had ISO’d Melo at his fave spot, 20 feet from the hoop. The double came and Anthony smartly swung the ball back to Felton in their two-high PG set. You could see Kidd gesticulating wildly to Felt to re-enter the ball to Melo, who launched a three before DC could re-set/double again. The shot missed, but because of all the defenders flying around the perimeter trying to keep up with the ball, Kidd was able to sneak in for the rebound and dish the ball to a cutting Melo, who did his niftiest George Gervin impression and finger-rolled the ball in as the buzzer sounded. Pretty, pretty… but that doesn’t happen unless Kidd insists on feeding a magma-hot Anthony. Oh, there’s also this—with 22 minutes of playing time tonight, J-Kidd joined Kareem, Karl Malone, and Elvin Hayes in the 50,000-minute club. Quite the impressive company he keeps, amirite?
|James White, SG 7 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -2
JAMES WHITE ANAGRAM FUN: I JAM; HE’S WET.
|J.R. Smith, SG 32 MIN | 7-14 FG | 2-3 FT | 2 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 17 PTS | +10
Overall, a quiet game for Earl. He did nail a forty-footer as the shot-clock was ticking to zero with the ease of a desk-bound office automaton dropping a TPS report in a nearby trash bin, but there were fewer foul-inducing drives and ferocious gobbling of rebounds. Then again, when the team shoots 56% from the field and 71% (!) from distance, his heroics weren’t really needed. Of course, even though I can’t find many mentions of J.R. in my game notes, his stat line shows that he had a solid, if unspectacular outing. Good job, J.R.
Here’s another fun (and by “Fun,” I mean, “Cartoonish, steam-pouring-out-of-one’s-ears, emotional thermometer breaking, blood-red curdling rage-inducing.”) Son of Wood quote: “In hindsight, maybe I should have pulled him out. But I didn’t get him out quick enough. I can’t sit here and cry over it. It happened. I just have to get him back and nurse him back.” Like every Aaron Sorkin stock character evah said, YA THINK? That’s gonna really eff with your grade point average, Coach. You’re going to need Momma and Poppa Goatee to sign this report card before I’ll let you go on the next school trip to the Hayden Planetarium.
Five Things We Saw
- I don’t know about y’all, but I was deathly scared of a streak-busting loss heading into this one. It’s not just the rampant triskaidekaphobia. It’s certainly flown underneath the radar, but the Wiz are 25-20 in the last 45, were 5th in defending the trey and had exactly the kind of ludicrous speed-possessing PG in Wall that’s given this team fits all year. Add in a slew of more-than-capable bigs in Nene and Okafor and I thought there’d be a natural letdown after a season-defining, narrative-restructuring win like the one they netted Sunday v. the Frackers (PS – Anyone else see the twisted, dark hilarity in the NBA touting its “Green Week” whilst toiling in an arena called “Chesapeake Energy” and is partially owned by an earth-scorching cur like Aubrey McClendon? Just me? Kay…).
- Even though early on, they very, very vulnerable to backdoor cuts and open Magicians were coming clean in the paint due to silly, half-tuckused traps/doubles, they were raining down threes like it was manna from Heaven. 9 of 12 in the first and 27 of their first 36 points came from distance. The joyous romp continued throughout the first half, with the ball skipped around the perimeter like a young lass gamboling in a verdant field, sprinkling her magic fairy pixie dust hither and yonder. even though a relatively quiet Melo only had tallied 15 on 5-10 FGs. Then, Melo realized that he was gunning for the scoring title and absolutely, positively went off, wreaking utter destruction during a 21-point, 8-11 3rd stanza upon the battered and bruised heads of the Washingtonians. A couple of things about this tidal wave of nuclear-hot play: for one, he seems eerily calm in the midst of it all. There are no Chandlerian yawps of joy/rage, not even a smug Michael Jordan/Tiger Woods fist pump. It’s like he’s all alone out there, tunnel vision-focused at the rim, the opponent a ghost or a holographic simulacrum as opposed to any kind of hindrance or impediment. Two, you can sense when he’s about to unleash hell. The crowd feels it too and there’s this nervous/giddy anticipation. It’s just great. Anyhoo, once Melo had ended his blood-soaked reign of terror and marched to Bethlehem on a road paved with Necromancer bones, you could pretty much stick a fork in the notion that this would be a competitive affair.
- Of course, we can’t just watch a game without some stomach-turning trauma. WHY CAN’T WE HAVE NICE THINGS (A sequel to “We’ll Always Have Linsanity.”) Speaking of which. A bunch of us blogging scribes will be doing a reading in of said tome in NYC on Thursday night. If you’re in town, come check it out. We’ll provide the rancid vegetables for you to fling at our heads.). The lack of anything resembling a professional big has forced Woodson to get awful creative. There’s a great take on how and why all of this downsizing has worked (and whether it’s sustainable) from Knickerblogger Ladies Auxiliary Chairwoman John Schmeelk here.
- Assuming they’re going to be sans Chandler and Martin, this should be a wonderful examination of the Extreme Value Theorem with Novak and Copeland only active gents taller than 6’8”. Like a bad Agatha Christie knock-off, now that STAT, Sheed, Kurt, Camby and Martin have fallen, there’s no more tall people/suspects left (so the killer must be the stuffed Grizzly Bear in the corner/Truman Capote wasn’t really dead or some such nonsense). Though the floor will be spread wider than the wide Sargasso Sea, they’ll be even more vulnerable in the painted area (And with a ranking of 24th in the league on opponents FG attempts at the rim, there’s only so much further they can go before they pass the Earth’s core and wind up in Shanghai).
- So it’s off to Chi-town/The Windy City/The Second City/Hog Butcher for the World (as Sandburg put it). As you’re all aware, they’ve beaten our guys to a well-tenderized pulp in the prior three contests. Even without their full compliment of burly, broad-shouldered gentlemen (Noah’s plantar fasciitis is acting up again and he will probably skip the game), it should prove to be (yet another) daunting task. But for now, let’s enjoy this. 20 treys (to tie a franchise record). 13 straight wins. Their first Atlantic Division crown since everyone was listening to Portishead and Soundgarden and O.J. was still just a hack actor/Hertz pitchman subsisting on Naked Gun residuals. Needless to say, it’s been awhile. Congrats to the team and every man jack of you fans who’ve stuck around through all the sturm und drang of the Dolan years. You deserve a freaking medal or a coupon for unlimited psychiatric outpatient treatment. Or both. Go Knicks!