Knicks 94, Timberwolves 91
|Carmelo Anthony, SF 44 MIN | 10-25 FG | 10-11 FT | 7 REB | 2 AST | 33 PTS | -1
Was frustrated for much of the night. Frustrated by the defensive versatility and contact embellishments of Andre Kirilenko. Frustrated by yet another officiating crew with whom he didn’t see eye to eye. Frustrated by a group of teammates that couldn’t make a three. Frustrated into forced shots and five fouls and four turnovers and more and more chirping until, 3:03 before the gun, it boiled over into a technical foul in reaction to a loose ball whistle on some ticky-tack jostling with Nikola Pekovic.And it was at that point that one Carmelo Anthony decided that the whole frustration thing had outlived its usefulness and that he would be best served to play the last three minutes of the game with a different outlook. Which is to say: “pissed.” And it was anger — not the hot, uncontrollable, unreliable sort but cold, composed, determined anger that he channeled into a good-the-second-he-let-go three, then a bully-ball spin, finish, and-one on Kirilenko, and then an interminable (and unblemished) procession of game-icing free throws.
Carmelo Anthony’s frustration almost lost the Knicks this game. Until his anger won it.
|Ronnie Brewer, SF 13 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 0 PTS | -7
Where’s the guy from the first week of the season? The lockdown defender with a pure stroke and passable handle, whose off-ball movement was so precise that he provided a viable offensive option for any passer who cared to look for him? Because we could sure use that guy. But every week the gap between his offense and JR Smith’s gets a little wider and the gap between their defensive games gets narrower. At this point he’s a starter only in name. I hope we get him back.
|Tyson Chandler, C 38 MIN | 4-7 FG | 8-10 FT | 9 REB | 3 AST | 16 PTS | +6
His performances are starting to run together a bit, give or take a block, a roll on a lay-up, an alley-oop here, a foul call there, a split second of timing on a roll or switch. He’s spectacular one game out of five. In the other four he simply does his job and does it well.
|Jason Kidd, PG 34 MIN | 0-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 0 PTS | +2
Soccer fans should recognize Jason Kidd’s game today. It’s the game that a central midfielder has in which he helps control the pace and flow of the action without scoring a goal, registering an assist, or dealing out a vicious tackle. A caretaker prizing substance over style and style over stats. Like a dinner table: steady so that others could impress. That you didn’t notice him means he worked.
|Raymond Felton, PG 39 MIN | 7-15 FG | 1-1 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 15 PTS | +4
A weird line — only two assists on a day where some others shared the task of creating looks. Thoroughly outdone in that regard by candidates no less unlikely than JR Smith and even Tyson Chandler. Did lose some stats to missed open looks. Shouldn’t lose sleep over it. Did just enough until it was time for everyone to get out of Melo’s way. Played a major role in an effort by the Knicks’ perimeter defenders that held Minnesota’s guards to an 18/49 showing.
|Kurt Thomas, PF 10 MIN | 2-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS | -3
Kurt – 1) (n.) A masculine given name. Its principal English variant is Curt, while others include Cord, Curd, and Kort. 2) (v.) To score 4 points with 2 rebounds on 2 shots in 10 minutes. 3) (v.) To take care of one’s business.
|Steve Novak, SF 19 MIN | 1-3 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS | +2
The best thing about Novak, obviously, is that he makes a lot of threes. When that isn’t happening, at least we still have the second best thing, which is the need for someone taller than 6’5″ to be chasing him around at all times making sure he doesn’t get a clean look at the rim. So at least we had that second thing tonight. But you’d have to be throwing the word “effective” around pretty liberally to apply it to his performance in this one.
|Pablo Prigioni, PG 4 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 3 PTS | +4
Veni. Vidi. Sedi.
|J.R. Smith, SG 39 MIN | 7-15 FG | 3-4 FT | 5 REB | 7 AST | 19 PTS | +8
Everywhere and anywhere. Shooting, passing, rebounding, jumping passing lanes, closing, contesting. By land, by sea, by sky the best player on the court for the 42-45 minutes before Melo decided to take charge. This game is a hum-drum and rather disheartening lost without Mr. Smith in white, orange, and blue. Will even forgive him his awful giveaway in the closing seconds that allowed whichever ex-Backstreet Boy that was (Kevin maybe? I never could keep them straight, try as I might to stay current on the issues that most concerned the girls at my middle school) that hit the three that closed it to 90-89. That was really the only moment of consequence at which Bad JR poked his head out of his lair. Good JR reigned this evening. Long live good JR.
|Rasheed Wallace, PF DNP SORE LEFT FOOT MIN | FG | FT | REB | AST | PTS |
Someday soon, we all will be together.
|Chris Copeland, SF DNP COACH’S DECISION MIN | FG | FT | REB | AST | PTS |
If the fates allow.
|Marcus Camby, C DNP SORE LEFT FOOT MIN | FG | FT | REB | AST | PTS |
Until then, we’ll have to muddle through, somehow.
|James White, SG DNP COACH’S DECISION MIN | FG | FT | REB | AST | PTS |
So have yourself, a Merry Little [54 DAYS UNTIL THE DUNK CONTEST]…now.
Love the way he sticks up for his players when the calls are going against them. Hate giving away a point with a technical in a tight game with 3 minutes left. Really would have sucked to lose this one and have that be the margin. There’s a balance there somewhere.
One Thing We Saw
Most of us here spent the last decade pouring time and money into a pursuit that seemed frustrating at best and, more frequently, utterly hopeless. This was, to put it mildly, something of a bummer. But there is a morbid joy in hopeless pursuits, from which are born sarcasm, schadenfreude, satire. The Knicks did not simply play poorly, they BECAME their poor play. It defined them. Good nights were easily dismissed as isolated bright spots by all but the most optimistic among us (and I was never to be mistaken for the most optimistic among us).With nothing gained, there was never anything to lose; when 3-7 was the norm, 2-8 was hardly noteworthy.
In 1994 the Knicks made the NBA Finals. They lost in 7 games to the Houston Rockets because…well, the because doesn’t matter. They lost. And none of us — NONE of us — thought to ourselves “Welp, there it goes. That was our shot, and we blew it. We’ll never be back here. That’s it.” We didn’t see Shaq coming, or Jordan returning, or the suspensions in Miami or the Duncan Spurs or the Ewing trade or Larry Brown or Isiah Thomas or Stephon Marbury. We saw a really good team that was one Blackman-for-Starks substitution from calling itself the defending champion, that wasn’t losing key personnel, that would get there soon. Which, of course, it didn’t.
In 2001, Alfonso Soriano hit long fly ball into the Arizona sky that won the Yankees their 27th championship and ranked among the clutchest and most famous home runs in baseball history and cemented his place among the immortal Yankee heroes until a bloop single by Luis Gonzalez off the best closer in history made sure that Soriano’s homer absolutely did not do any of those things. Today, Gonzalez’s cracked bat is in Cooperstown and the 2001 World Series Trophy is in Phoenix and Soriano is in Chicago, more punchline than hero, more trivia question than immortal.
A decade of losing sucks. But the worst thing for a sports fan — the thing that haunts you if you let it — is letting a moment come and go without realizing that it’s the apex of the experience. The sad truth is that you can never really know that moment when it’s happening: a division title portends a conference title, which portends a championship, which portends a dynasty, which feels like it will never die.
Except that, at some point, that hope goes unfulfilled. And once that happens, it’s impossible to go back to the moment before and drink it in for what it was: the consummation of something wonderful.
I don’t know where this Knicks season goes, or the next, or the one after that. Starts like this can mean titles or they can mean first-round exits. Some teams grow and others crumble. But today it’s Christmas Eve, and the Knicks are 20-7, and their franchise player did the thing that franchise players do in the movies and in our imaginations. He lived up to all our hopes. He willed his team to victory. He made us feel like, whatever the next challenge, he will show himself to be its equal. I hope that’s right.
But even more than that, I hope we can savor the night when he did these things, look back on two months as bright with joy as the next 6 are with hope, afford the proper respect to an uncertain future. The Knicks tip off on Christmas Day with the most wins in the Eastern Conference. If only for a moment, let’s see that for what we know it says about the present rather than what we hope it says about the future.