|Carmelo Anthony, SF 28 MIN | 6-16 FG | 5-7 FT | 8 REB | 3 AST | 19 PTS | +4
What would you do if some upstart snot tried to punk your Coach Killa’ crown? Punk him right back, that’s what. It took Melo a spell to get the engine revved, but once he did, there was little the Magic could do to stop it. Earl Clark tried to bully him right back. That failed. Hedo Turkoglu tried to break Melo’s wrist with his face. That failed – and bled – quite badly. Woodson wisely shut Melo down early in the second half, but not after some significant damage had been done. He was somewhat lazy at times on defense, but it’s probably easy to lose focus chasing Hedo Turkoglu around like some out-to-pasture mule.
Also, keep in mind that at least six of these ten misses came on one particular paint foray midway through the third. Then again, so did most of his rebounds.
|Landry Fields, G 26 MIN | 4-9 FG | 0-6 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 10 PTS | +6
Forget having its bra stuffed; Landry’s shot needs season-ending surgery. I can’t remember the last time I saw an NBA guard miss six consecutive free throws, but then again I can barely remember to put the car in park. The total lack of ‘bounds and dimes is a little concerning, although they were offset by a handful of timely, momentum-sustaining buckets in the second half – including a pair of pithy slashes and the ugliest three pointers this side of Manute Bol. It seems like he’s finally aware that his is a seat growing hotter by the Manhattan minute. Which is probably why he thought it necessary to absolutely lay out referee Bill Kennedy in the third quarter. Total power move.
|Tyson Chandler, C 35 MIN | 6-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 12 REB | 0 AST | 12 PTS | +4
Someone needs to get on inventing a letter to go in front of ‘A’ in the alphabet, just so we can slap a few dozen plusses on it and hand it to Tyson at the end of pretty much every game. Regardless of whether or not Dwight has officially checked out – my Magic 8-Ball melted in my hand when I asked – Tyson is clearly in Howard’s head.
As usual, it’s Chandler’s more unassuming contributions that deserve the biggest accolades: Things like pulling the chair out from Dwight just enough that he stumbles back and misses a bullet entry pass; or rooting him far enough out of the paint to make the subsequent double-downs that much easier. Coupled with a ho-hum 12-and-12, this was easily one of Tyson’s most inconspicuously dominating performances of the season. And, when he appeared to come up limping in the fourth quarter — after converting an absurd dribble-drive layup — I very nearly had a stroke. That’s how valuable this guy is.
|Baron Davis, PG 19 MIN | 2-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 5 AST | 5 PTS | -5
Let’s be honest, we’re all just happy Baron didn’t scurry far enough into the paint for Dwight to turn him into a formless pile of flesh. In fact, Dizzle managed to stay in his lane, for the most part, even if that lane is more restrictive than you’d find on most go-cart tracks. He took care of the pumpkin, offered up a handful of purdy oops to Tyson, and didn’t completely disintegrate on defense. Problem is, when that’s your benchmark for point guard play, you’re most likely playing on borrowed time anyway.
|Iman Shumpert, G 37 MIN | 3-6 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 9 PTS | +7
Has anyone else noticed that Shumpert moves EXACTLY like a player in NBA 2K12? He doesn’t run so much as float very, very fast — a near pixelated blur wreaking havoc on an opposition set to “Rookie.” All in all, it was a solid, composed outing from the Jukin’ ‘Jacket, with the lightning quick defensive rotations on the perimeter being the most consistent contribution.
|Steve Novak, SF 24 MIN | 3-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 9 PTS | +14
I swear to God Steve Novak poured my Starbucks coffee, did my taxes, hauled away my lawn clippings, inspected my car, AND operated on my wife’s knee today. And he still had enough energy to lace up the Chucks and can some timely Js for the orange and blue. I know they don’t keep track of “pump fake bites produced,” but if they did, Novak might have the season crown locked up. Even more importantly, Novak continues to play some surprisingly staunch D down on the block, where he somehow prevented Glen Davis from absorbing him via osmosis.
|J.R. Smith, SG 34 MIN | 6-12 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 9 AST | 15 PTS | +19
By all accounts, Smith probably should’ve been suspended for his Goldberg takedown of Barbosa the other night. As it was, Earl responded to the subsequent undressing – by both media and skipper — with one of his most locked-in, me-second performances of the year. I mean, nine assists? When was the last time J.R. Smith had nine assists? New York Dolls?
|Toney Douglas, PG 25 MIN | 7-12 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 6 AST | 15 PTS | +22
Leave it to Toney Douglas to completely piss on the idea that coming back from the darkest of NBA doldrums doesn’t happen overnight. And really, with Baron Davis lurching ever closer to a permanent home in the Bibby Crypt, the timing couldn’t have been better. It’s clear Toney may not ever harness the kind of vision conducive to consistently running point in the NBA; but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a serviceable cog, or even one of the first guys off the bench on a good team. To the contrary, the Knicks are banking on it harder than Toney’s absurd fourth quarter hit over Howard. Seriously though, good for him — he deserved this.
|Bill Walker, SG 0 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -3
|Josh Harrellson, F 12 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | +12
I can’t decide whether Howard’s refusal to turn Jorts into a giant sandwich on the block says more about Dwight’s fragile psyche, or Harrellson’s backwoods-honed survival instincts.
Five Things We Saw
- Yes, the Magic are folding like cheap lawn chairs. No, their won’t be any second place votes for “Circus Shit Show of the Year.” But winning all but two statistical categories (in this case, free throws and blocks) is impressive no matter how you dice it. Perhaps most impressive was how well the Knicks took care of the ball — only 11 turnovers on the night, down slightly from their season average of 87. After all, if you’re hitching your wagon to half-court iso-ball, sooner or later you’re going to have to ditch the cavalier tendencies of the system that preceded it.
- When it comes to properly defending the Magic, simply “doubling Dwight” is far easier said than done. Over the years, Howard’s become quite adept at kicking the ball out to shooters who – even if they don’t end up taking the shot themselves – are trained to swing the ball around the horn as quickly as possible, where each link of the chain is just as deadly as the last. It’s therefore imperative that teams do exactly what the Knicks did tonight: recover quickly enough out of the initial trap to disrupt the first swing, and rotate accordingly – and quickly – thereafter. Even when Woodson decided to relent on the doubles, it was perfectly timed; the Knicks had already lapped, and Dwight’s psyche was such that him bringing the Magic back was about as likely as a blizzard breaking out in the arena. Good coaching, even better execution.
- I don’t know about y’alls, but I did not miss Ryan Anderson tonight.
- Hey! Both the Magic and the Knicks wore their NBA “Green” shirts tonight! No, silly, not that kind of green shirt! It’s part of a league-wide initiative to raise awareness about the importance of recycling and shit – the logo even has those conversing arrows and everything. Which really is super. I mean, any time you can use all CFL light bulbs, sustainably harvested court wood, farm-raised hot dog pork, organic sodas, low-flush toilets, cask micro brews, and….. what’s that? They’re not doing any of that? What’s that? You’re just throwing a bunch of money at the Natural Resource Defense Council, while doing pretty much nothing about the asteroid-sized amounts of trash you produce the rest of the season? Cool!
- Let’s get this out of the way first: As far as bounce-back games after a quantum meltdown goes, this was a thousand-sided gem – a testament to the newly-chiseled grit with which we seem poised to stake our forthcoming claims. Truth told, it would’ve been wholly un-shocking — even a smidgen understandable – to have left tonight’s gate ego-hobbled and come up lane short the first turn. But we didn’t. In fact, we did what too few teams seem capable of doing, and put Tuesday’s nightmare behind us. But lest we think for a second we’re safe from those Bucks…