Knicks 96, Bucks 86
|Carmelo Anthony, SF 44 MIN | 7-22 FG | 8-12 FT | 8 REB | 6 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 7 TO | 25 PTS | +19
There were more than a few one-on-everyone heaves than I care for and missing free throws makes me want to take a meat thermometer and shove it in my ear as far as it’ll go before taking out my trusty ball peen hammer and giving it a few good extra whacks until I can feel the thermometer scraping my skull, but it’s always fun to watch Melo physically impose his will with bully-boy offensive ‘bounds and take-no-prisoners drives hoopward. He was just plain off in a number of non-shooting ways as well. Each nifty dish out of the double or gutty rebound was seemingly met by it’s evil twin, that reach-around offensive foul he’s getting whistled for with greater and greater frequency or any number of unforced turnovers (Seven total. Ew.). It was enough to keep his 20-point streak going, but I doubt Anthony’s going to be clipping the boxscore from tonight and pasting it to his hope chest.
|Tyson Chandler, C 36 MIN | 4-6 FG | 1-2 FT | 20 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 3 TO | 9 PTS | +15
Maybe Woodson should haul every Knick into his office for a good talkin’ to. That’s two downright beastly performances since the Goateed one verbally upbraided our all-star center a few days ago. He wasn’t the recipient of nearly as many lobs (possibly due to Larry Sanders’ vicious swat of an alley-oop attempt early on. There’s a tale that Jim Carroll tells in The Basketball Diaries about Kareem playing at Rucker and blocking a shot with such ferocity that the rock darn near exploded with an audible “THWOCK”, landing on the court like a sad, little, used prophylactic. Story’s probably apocryphal, but that’s what it was like tonight. And go read Carroll’s book. We’ll wait.), nor did he unleash his Hakeem-approved baby jump hook. Instead, he focused every iota of the magma-like energy within his 7’1” frame to gobbling up rebounds, 20 in total, with a white-hot rage. It was like this:
But, you know, with rebounding.
|Jason Kidd, PG 24 MIN | 1-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 3 PTS | -2
Nice to have Kidd back (pun intended) but his disintegrating vertebrae clearly was putting a serious kink in his shot. He just looked stiff and awkward out there, which is to be expected. It’s a good things his hands aren’t connected to his spine, though, as he kept sticking his mitts hither and yonder to deflect many a pass. Hm? His hands are connected to his spine? Shut up, Poindexter before I shove your Ventolin inhaler down your throat and bash you over the head with your Entomologist’s jar and/or Oboe case.
|Raymond Felton, PG 37 MIN | 5-8 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 8 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 14 PTS | +15
This is all ye need to know: the x-rays came back negative. http://espn.go.com/blog/new-york/knicks/post/_/id/35068/notes-feltons-finger-kidds-play Thank God(s). I can’t overstate how much Felt means to this team’s offense. He’s a battler, our lovable penguin. I personally wouldn’t have put him back in in the 4th, even if he did nail a clutch three, twirl in a layup and make a bee-yoo-tiful one-handed pass to Tyson rolling rimward. Watching him avoid dribbling with his right hand was plain frightening. I like sticking it to Milwaukee as much as the next guy (more on this later), but losing him for another 10-15 game stretch, especially with Kidd needing time to rest his weary, calcium deprived, arthritic bones, would be devastating. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to be biting my nails till they bleed until I see him suit up tomorrow night, prognoses be damned.
|Iman Shumpert, PG 19 MIN | 3-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 7 PTS | +5
To paraphrase Dickens, “‘Twas the worst of games, ‘twas the best of games.” “Rook” looked…well…like a disjointed, out-of-his-depths rookie to start, utterly befuddled as to whom to guard and in what matter (not that his defensive ineptitude was distinguishable from that of most of his mates) and disturbingly hesitant on offense, unwilling to either drive with authority or take an open outside shot. The nadir arrived a minute into the 2nd half, when, after losing Ellis on a back door cut, he was Ronnie Brewer’ed, leading to a demoralizing shot of his flat top poking out from behind Woodson as the latter was planted face-forward, his entire body calcified with Stonehenge-ian disappointment and dissatisfaction and the former pleaded his paltry case. That gave me a big ol’ case of the sadz. Pine-bound he would remain until the final seven minutes, when 2012 Shump took his place, shadowed both Jennings and Ellis like a fiend and converted two nifty layups and banged home a corner three. I want Dr. Jeklyl to be the norm going forward, but considering the severity of his injury, we should expect a few more whiplash-inducing efforts like this for a while.
|Amar’e Stoudemire, PF 24 MIN | 5-10 FG | 7-8 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 17 PTS | +5
Another day, another sterling effort from our super sub, STAT 2.0. His post moves are getting more and more deft and his defense, while still dotted by the occasional moment where he freezes like someone had taken a shunt to the base of his neck, is approaching passable. I’m impressed and genuinely surprised he’d be this good, this quickly.
|Chris Copeland, SF 1 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -4
|Ronnie Brewer, SF 1 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -5
Mang, now Ronnie’s even getting denied his patented under-10-seconds-to-go-in-a-non-fourth-quarter-defensive-stint. I hope he isn’t squatting with Jim Todd in a seedy, hourly motel somewhere, the two of them wearing nothing but wife-beaters and heart-patterned boxers, chain smoking Newports and dumbly muttering to themselves while downing a crate of strawberry-flavored Boone’s Farm, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he was.
|Steve Novak, SF 8 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 3 PTS | -10
Even more dispiriting than the clang from a wayward Novak heave is what we saw tonight—hesitant, reluctant-to-shoot Novak. That’s a circle of hell so deep/low that Virgil would’ve whispered, “Nuh uh, Bro. You don’t wanna go there.” I’m not surprised he was kept in his warm up togs for but 6 minutes.
|Pablo Prigioni, PG 11 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | -5
A quiet 11 minutes from Prigs, save for one delicious flop-tastic drawn offensive foul on Mike Dunleavy, who I hate. We’ll get into that in a jiffy, I super-promise.
|J.R. Smith, SG 36 MIN | 6-14 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 17 PTS | +21
Aside from a gift dunk on a breakaway, J.R. was solely deployed as a spot up three-point shooter. Like Jimmer Cavan mentioned the other day, this is a good thing and infinitely preferable to one-on-one, fadeaway flings.
|James White, SG 1 MIN | 0-1 FG | 1-2 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 1 PTS | -4
The return of Kidd meant that James had to give up his ceremonial starter status. Sorry James. Please return your secret decoder ring and silk sash with “Starter” emblazoned across the front and your key to the starter’s private washroom to Herb Williams as soon as possible. And take your Mazda Miata out of the reserved starter’s parking space. It’s emitting a disturbing smell, for one, and anyone who has a car bra is assumed to be the kind of guy who’s got a stash of date-rape pills in the glove compartment.
Also, if you keep playing Melo 49 minutes a night, it’s going to come back to bite you in the derriere. This, I can guarantee.
Five Things We Saw
- I don’t know about y’all, but I just do not like the Bucks of Milwaukee. It’s not like they’ve been a particularly good team since they broke up the Glenn Robinson-Sam “Really, I’m not an alien. I was born on planet Earth. I never abducted Whitley Streiber and even if I did, why the hell would we repeatedly administer anal probes. C’mon. Assuming we’re a highly advanced society with the technical wherewithal to develop, you know, space ships that can traverse the known universe and whatnot, you’d think we’d have developed a more sophisticated method of examining the human body than sticking things in your fanny. If I was an alien, that is to say, which, again, to reiterate, I’m not.” Cassell-Jesus Shuttlesworth troika, it’s just that no matter what, every contest against the Wisconsinites has either been a knock-down, drag out struggle to the death or an unpleasant blowout in which a milk-complexioned nonentity like Mike Dunleavy or an oily, you-can-tell-he-buys-Axe-Body-Spray-in-bulk, flop-tastic devious little imp like Carlos Delfino ends up shredding the Knicks with a career performance. Heck, I remember being a young’n and screaming at our massive RCA that someone should possibly get a hand in Ricky Pierce’s face and dumbly muttering about taking a 2 x 4 to the femur of one of the legion of lumbering, Caucasian centers who inevitably beat the tar out of Bill Cartwright. Jack Sikma, Paul Mokeski, Randy freakin’ Brewer, fer Pete’s sake. They all sported disturbing, Randy West-era porn style perms and thus, in their green-on-other-shades-of-green Bucks’ unis, looked like radiation-infused, irritatingly-effective, giant stalks of broccoli. In short, I don’t like the Bucks.
- So, prior to tonight’s tilt, with the added, deadly curse of that practitioner of the Dark Arts, Robert Randolph warming up his vocal chords, and the threat of two slithery point guards capable of driving to the tin at will, I was bet-the-farm-with-Italianate-fellows-who-break-kneecaps-and-fingers-and-also-buy-Axe-body-spray-in-bulk-level ready to grimly stick this one in the loss column. The first half seemed to vindicate all of my pessimism and general hand wringing. There were forced and still-more unforced switches galore and even when the ‘Bockers did manage to deny penetration, Ilyasova and Udrih and possibly Paul Pressey were knocking down everything in sight. Basically, it was indistinguishable from the vast reams of shoddy, switch-prone defense, replete with pointless double teaming in the post (I mean, Ekpe Udoh? Luc-Richard Mbah a Moute? If the Cheeseheads want to run their offense through those two cats, LET THEM.), and an utter inability to pick up open shooters and/or cutters that we’ve seen over the last, I don’t know, a jillion games. When was November anyway? I can’t recall. I’m sure it was right after Eli Whitney invented the Cotton Gin. Blech.
- To start the 2nd half, they returned to trapping or at least hedging the ballhandler on the high pick and roll. This led to some ugly openings for back door cuts (at one point, one of the Bucks play-by-play guys [I was MSG-less tonight. Long story.] noted, “There are nights when the Knicks lose cutters.” [In my best Josh Lyman voice, I bellowed] YOU THINK?!) and the repeated bulging of the lead to double digits. Said lead would be cut into by a flurry of Knick treys only to see it return to a place of flinging objects at both wall and screen because of the aforementioned defensive lapses and a spate of ugly, unforced turnovers, like a particularly cruel Sisyphean, purple and green (ick) rock that kept rolling back to the base of the mountain. But fear not, True Believers, like a rusty Cotton Gin, this New York team may take a while to get cranked up, but when they do, they separate the cottonseed from raw cotton fibers at a rate capable of producing more than fifty pounds of cleaned cotton daily. Cotton! At some point towards the end of the third, the Knicks came to the realization that they were just plumb bigger than the Milwaukeeans and began to force the ball down low to STAT and snaggle multiple possessions via Tyson Chandler’s otherworldy glass-cleaning. It’s one of the few times they’ve had a 10+ rebounding advantage this season. Take a look.
Of course, all this grinding away towards a victory would have been for complete naught if the injury to Felt was as bad as it looked. Or rather, didn’t look. I’m not sure whether it was the fates trying to spare your humble correspondent the panic-drenched agony of losing our penguin-shaped bulldog-y point to yet another dodgy digit, but I missed the whack that landed him on the bench and would surely lead to a post game flipper amputation. The TV-machine kicked back in just in time to see him grimacing with a Stephon Marbury memorial pouting towel over his head and pumping his fist with his (good) left hand. The horror, the horror…Alas, he spat on it or rubbed some dirty or had Roger Hinds administer the Cablevision leeches and Felt made a series of boffo plays which, combined with Son of Wood, FINALLY siccing Shump on a speedy lead guard, more or less put the game away.
- The narrative will be that the defense that Woodson had been begging on both knees for had finally returned with gusto, but to my eyes, the Bucks missed a ton of layups and putbacks. The Knicks did a much better job contesting shooters in the final 16 minutes, aided by the aforementioned hedging and resistance to switching, but I don’t know if we’re talking about a lockdown effort here. The fact that they ended the game on a 33-16 run (with 5 of those Deer points coming in the last 60-odd seconds) and held an opponent under 40% from the field is fine and dandy, but I wouldn’t go around puffing out my chest and claiming that this team’s defensive woes are solved. Plus, this falling behind ish because they either lack the effort or are perpetually recycling the same, stupid, failed schemes has positively got to stop. They’re fattening up on the league’s lesser lights this way, but smart teams are going to take a gifted half and gobble it up all the way to an insurmountable advantage. To be continued.
- And that’ll about do it. All my caveats/kvetching aside, this was a good, gutty win against a spirited opponent whose roster is dotted with players possessing a skill-set that’s kryptonite for the Knickerbockers and is still basking in the pleasant aroma of “New Coach Smell”. There’s another gimme tomorrow night v. the soon-to-be-former Sacramento Kings (And more purple. Gah.), but let’s end this one with a moment of silence for the passing of Ed Koch. I’ve got reams of complaints about his tenure as Mayor, but, without a doubt, he was a New Yorker, through and through. If you weren’t here at the time, it’s hard to get to the essence, the gestalt of what the city was like in the 80’s, but Koch’s as good a touchstone as any. Godspeed, Ed.
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.