Knicks 99, Pistons 85
|Carmelo Anthony, SF 37 MIN | 10-17 FG | 4-4 FT | 7 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 27 PTS | +16
I’m trying to imagine what the non-basketball equivalent of seeing Kyle Singler or Rodney Stuckey line up opposite you must be like for a guy like Melo. Most of the images I’m having involve virile, half-starving beasts and diseased, three-legged pray, but I’ll go with this: Having a plate of fresh fish ‘n chips thrown in front of you after a three-week Torah cleanse.
Melo mixed it up nicely in the early going, with catch-and-shoot bull’s eyes, determined drives, and smart swings (the early skip pass to Shumpert for an open three made me moist) all a part of the first half recipe. The momentum garnered from a bevy of buckets early in the third threatened to stall in tech mud after a few no-calls, but – and this is not insignificant – Melo shrugged it all off, feeding Amar’e for a beautiful baseline feed to help stave off a Detroit mini-run late in the third. More importantly, at no point did Melo continually force the issue, choosing instead to trust in his phalanx of wingmen off of dribble-drives and elbow isolations. Focused, efficient, deadly. Just like early Foghat.
|Tyson Chandler, C 36 MIN | 4-9 FG | 0-2 FT | 20 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 8 PTS | +15
Another night, another Knick record up for the breaking. This time, it was Willis Reed’s consecutive 20-plus rebound games (3), which Chandler tied with an animated haul-in mid-way through the fourth. True to form, the Garden crowd – never knocked for knowledge – began serenading Tyson before his fingers even found the seams.
The couple of botched first half lobs were more than made up for by a few thunderous throw-downs during the second and third stanzas, including two beautiful feeds from Felton. There were some help lapses along the way, but Tyson — like the Knicks writ large — generally proved himself hellbent on meeting All-Star weekend on a tear.
|Jason Kidd, PG 20 MIN | 1-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 3 PTS | +10
The J was colder than a Nurse Ratched reach-around, but Kidd more than made up for it with a silly number of defensive deflections. As an aside, I can’t imagine what back spasms after 13,000 NBA games must feel like. I just imagine hundreds of tiny Isaiah Riders jumping on the muscles like trampolines.
|Raymond Felton, PG 34 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 9 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 4 PTS | +11
There are certain qualities in an opposing point guard that tend to spell doom for Raymond Felton. Chief among them: speed, quickness, and a head whose quaff isn’t reinforced by toe knuckle hair. Luckily, Jose Calderon is none of these. In perhaps the finest four-point outing of his career, Felton orchestrated the offense admirably, finding a rolling Chandler for a number of pinpoint feeds and keeping the aforementioned Calderon from going Spanish Bombs all over the joint. There were a couple of unsettling shakes of the ailing hand here and there, but the few jumpers Ray did take looked anything but belabored.
|Iman Shumpert, PG 17 MIN | 2-3 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | +9
Shump’s impact continues to be rendered beyond the box score. His corner jumper remains eminently more smooth than Ronnie Brewer’s glorified shot-put, and his perimeter D is coming along at as quick a pace as can be expected, but there’s still an undeniable hesitation there. Particularly on offense, where Shumpert can’t even be bothered to feign interest in threatening a move to the basket. We’ve probably been spoiled by Amare’s seamless reintegration (we have), and really, it can take months — if not years — to come back from something like this. Just saying, if he rolls his ankle or sprains his finger or whatever and gets run through the full-body x-ray machine and it shows the skeletal base of NASA’s next space shuttle on top of his head, we’ll know what’s dragging his lift.
|Amar’e Stoudemire, PF 28 MIN | 8-14 FG | 4-4 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 20 PTS | -2
Forty-eight hours removed from an awe-inspiring 10-10 performance that had Knick Knation finally reeled back from seat’s edge to on-guard comfort, STAT introduced himself with a flurry of another kind – tapping out a missed throw for a wide open JR three, a beautiful post-survey pass out of a double team, and engaged, vocal D at the other end. Eventually the offense would come around, too, highlighted by a laser drive past Drummond for a layup and a baseline fadeaway that was worth the entire $50,000 he doled out to Hakeem.
The defense got a little lazy in the second half, but I mean, that’s kind of par for the course for these clowns. What’s become eminently clear, though, is that the fear surrounding his reintegration need not reapply for entry. Whatever this is, it’s working, Woodson’s managed it beautifully, and STAT even more beautifully.
|Chris Copeland, SF 2 MIN | 1-1 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | -2
Chris Copeland Anagram fun: ACHED CORN LIPS
|Steve Novak, SF 20 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | +4
What’s a Knick three-point barrage without some sweet twine twangs from our Troubadour of Triples? One bar, to be exact. The on-ball defense is still flimsier than gluten-free cake batter, but with so many threats at so many positions, “spot minute specialist” might not be such a woeful fate for Stevak.
|Pablo Prigioni, PG 14 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 3 PTS | +3
The burn was a little more limited, but Pablo hoisted the rigging rather nicely while connecting on his lone three-point attempt.
|J.R. Smith, SG 30 MIN | 5-15 FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 16 PTS | +10
Apparently 10 first half points (three triples and a free throw – the back end of a pair beginning with an air ball that yielded this, the worst-selling Mr. Potato Head accessory expression ever) weren’t enough for Earl, who spent halftime running around the MSG court with a bunch of eight-year-olds, trying really hard to bat away an in-bounds pass and waving frantically for the ball at half court. Which, I mean, I’d probably try and avoid eye contact with the screaming tall dude with neck tats, too. (Props to Jonah Kanner, @TheKnicksWall, for the splendid .gifs.)
J.R. cooled off considerably in the second half, clanking nearly all of his tries from distance. But he remained eminently active on D, getting his mitts in passing lanes and managing to not completely self-destruct on offense.
Five Things We Saw
- Clyde celebrated Super Bowl Sunday by slaughtering either a malnourished tiger or a steroid addled horse with veins popping out everywhere – can’t really figure out which. (Big ups again to @TheKnicksWall for the screen-grab.)
- In what’s become a dog-eared page in New York’s unlikely playbook, the Knicks connected on 14-34 (including three from Melo and five from J.R. Smith) from distance, while holding Detroit to just 3-13.
- The Pistons looked like a team that played the Lakers on Sunday afternoon and then flew to New York City for the Super Bowl. Just a total slop-pond of shit for the first 36 or so minutes — little to no penetration, late shot-clock heaves, the whole nine. In fact, Detroit’s 13 first quarter points were the fewest given up in any quarter by the Knicks all year. Chalk it up to what you will – Super Sunday hangovers, a pair of back-to-back marquee matchups, whatever – the Knick D snuffed the Pistons out in the early going. Even when the on-ball effort faltered, fortuitously flailing hands – resulting in a slew of fast-break opportunities (although very few actual fast break points) – saved the day.
- Unless you’re Radiohead or Will Farrell, you’re not allowed to coast. Those are the rules. And yet, it seems like — with the exception of Saturday’s stomping of the Kings — most times the Knicks have a middling opponent’s neck beneath their razor-spurred boot, they let them up breathing and bleeding only gently. Until it really comes back to bite them in the ass – like in the season’s last week with the Atlantic title on the line, for instance – I’m not sure what’s going to compel them to not let this happen. Part of it has to do with conserving energy. I get that. But it doesn’t take much for bad, garbage time habits to metastasize. Just something to keep an eye on.
- That said, at least we solved the poor start puzzle – temporarily, anyway. Woodson has clearly grabbed hold the company’s ear and made it known that pre-All Star break momentum can be a big thing. Just ask those dickheads from Up North*.
- *The Boston Celtics
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.