Knicks MIKE D’ANTONI, Blazers 79
|Carmelo Anthony, SF 25 MIN | 6-12 FG | 1-2 FT | 2 REB | 7 AST | 16 PTS | +15
Well, he didn’t have to wear a poncho. Or a bullet proof vest. Or sunglasses. Fans didn’t take to tossing buffalo nickels or grips of pigeon shit at him. He wasn’t taken out by a CIA agent doubling as a City Dancer, nor fitted with a pair of cement shoes and sent for a swim off the Tappan Zee. Chalk it up to law of averages, rage, or guilt, but Melo came out a man with a purpose, hitting from distance, willingly dishing, and seeming at least peripherally engaged on defense. Like most of his fellow starters, the minutes weren’t much, but the effort and engagement — minus the lack of bounds — were decidedly so.
|Amare Stoudemire, PF 25 MIN | 8-10 FG | 1-3 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 17 PTS | +13
For a guy clearly still reeling from the tragic and untimely passing of his older brother, you know D’Antoni’s departure hit Stat – who spent the majority of his formative years under the coach’s Phoenix tutelage – harder than anyone else. Truth told, part of me wants to believe Stat held his teammates close in the pregame huddle, and – a tear or two to match the one mournfully tatted to his cheek – implored the guys to win this one for Mike. He certainly played like it.
|Tyson Chandler, C 26 MIN | 4-4 FG | 1-1 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 9 PTS | +27
After letting LaMarcus Aldridge beat him to the boards for a put-back dunk early in the first, Chandler reacted as if LAA had stolen his vintage Schwinn, locking down like a broke prison thereafter. Going forward, it’s hard to imagine Chandler being anything less than a proxy skipper; the go-between for a coach who will need all the help he can get rallying the troops.
|Landry Fields, G 22 MIN | 0-6 FG | 1-4 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 1 PTS | +14
Things were already going pretty poorly for Fields when, on a late third quarter sprint to the tin, Marcus Camby tomahawk chopped him in mid air. At that moment, I honestly wouldn’t have been surprised if one of the cameramen just rolled Landry’s severed head back onto the court. As it turns out, Fields was OK, even if his stat line ended up decidedly less so. Most alarming was his inability to connect on his usually-reliable-jump-stop-to-one-hander-mid-lane; in fact, he even air-balled one. You have to think D’Antoni’s abrupt departure hit Fields – a guy humble in roots, words, and actions – pretty close to home.
|Jeremy Lin, PG 23 MIN | 2-4 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 6 AST | 6 PTS | +16
Next to Fields, Lin’s dearth of playing time was the most obvious guard-changing move made by the newly minted Woodson. Maybe the two-headed point guard idea really was a card Woody took to holding in his back pocket. Maybe it’s good to give Lin – clearly drained in the wake of Linsanity’s torrid wave – a little bit of rest, even if the team’s lead is precariously early. As for his more robust statistical contributions (points, assists, turnovers) coming out to 6-6-6? Well, That’s why Jesus ain’t my co-avatar.
|Mike Bibby, PG 7 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 4 AST | 0 PTS | +13
Modern science never ceases to amaze me.
|Baron Davis, PG 18 MIN | 1-4 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 10 AST | 4 PTS | +13
By a show of hands, who thinks D’Antoni’s ouster owes its seeds to a coup spearheaded by Woodson and Boom Dizzle? My goodness that’s a lot of digits! The shot is still crooked, but 10 dimes in 15 minutes? It’s hard to knock that – particularly given their laser-guided accuracy. Give Davis credit for going from “will never walk again” to “serviceable NBA point guard” in a little over a month.
|Jared Jeffries, PF 14 MIN | 2-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 4 PTS | +4
Missing Jared Jeffries is a little like missing that ex-girlfriend who was never really that good in the sack, but who constantly made you delicious dinners and scrubbed your bathtub, even if you didn’t know the bathtub needed scrubbing. For the record, in this equation the charge-take is the really good %@#!$&*@!$%.
|Steve Novak, SF 20 MIN | 7-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 20 PTS | +24
I’m assuming that – despite their weed laws and homeless camps and general communistic behavior – Portland does in fact have access to electricity, and can therefore view scouting reports on a giant screen. As such, I’m fairly certain the Blazers understood the bright red, 72-point font bullet point that read DO NOT LET STEVE NOVAK HAVE CLEAN LOOKS ANYWHERE BEYOND 18 FEET! So you can probably go ahead and mark Novakaine’s Alfordian display up as exhibit 93-Q for why the Blazers have basically mailed Nate McMillan’s job in on his behalf.
|J.R. Smith, SG 23 MIN | 8-18 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 23 PTS | +27
Seeing the box score prior to penning this writeup was, honest to Lin, my first introduction to the fact that the guy who for almost two weeks now couldn’t throw his own puke onto a floor actually led our team in scoring — and came within three makes from distance of breaking the Knicks’ single-game three-point shooting record. Who knew that all it would take was planting a gigantic, body-less ass in J.R.’s apartment to get him out of his recent, anvil-shot funk.
|Jerome Jordan, C 4 MIN | 0-0 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | +3
Jordan’s most crucial contribution? Giving Carmelo Anthony a better view of the game, when the letter booted the former — like literally made him move — to the end of the bench in the second quarter.
|Iman Shumpert, G 26 MIN | 4-7 FG | 6-10 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 16 PTS | +28
Like more than a few of his ‘Bocker brethren, Shump appeared out for blood – and blood vengeance – in the firing’s fallout. Based on some of his pre-game interviews, you can tell the rook truly admired D’Antoni, and appreciated how far the old coach had brought him since being booed at the Prude on Draft Night. And while his late game antics – SUCH NASTY DUNKZ! – could be perceived by many to be “unsportsmanlike,” I prefer to give Shump the benefit of the doubt in calling it a true tribute.
|Josh Harrellson, F 7 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 3 PTS | +13
Given the “show” put on by Luke Babbitt (his dad may or may not let him drive slow on the driveway on Saturdays), I thought for sure Woody would send in Jorts for a little bit of the Ultra Violence. Harrellson stopped just short of turning Babbitt’s hair into a trophy, but he did hit a straight-away three, which by my count earns him a free plate of hushpuppies at INSERT NEW YORK DINER HERE.
Five Things We Saw
- Alright, I’m just gonna come out and say it: Portland is clearly in full-on sabotage / tank / mutiny mode. It goes beyond the careless pass that’s just a little too careless, or pulling a shot’s string so hard one of the rafter lights goes off. Speaking as someone who’s seen that movie before, Portland’s utter lack of urgency, hustle, or court awareness was so egregious as to be staged. Which we can read one of two ways: 1) Nate McMillan invested all of his team’s pension money in M.F. Global, or 2) The Knicks lucked into the best practice session in the history of basketball.
- Right, who misses Raymond Felton again?
- Yes, it was a blowout. Yes, the Knicks smelled hippie blood dripping about a Blazers squad that had lost 8 of its last 11 heading into tonight’s lame duck coach showdown, and exploited it. But something about Mike Woodson’s rotations — playing Boom Dizzle a few more minutes, sitting the stars when appropriate — just seemed, well, different. It’s far too early to say whether this kind of shuffling will be come a trend, but you have to wonder how long Woodson’s had this kind of unique rotational philosophy tucked in his just-a-little-too-perfect goatee.
- Look, count me in the camp of those who thought D’Antoni’s firing / resignation / mutually-decided-upon departure was way too premature. But something about the way Mike Woodson ran across the court to check on Landry Fields after he’d nearly had his head caved in by Marcus Camby’s steel cable arm, well, it said something. I’m not entirely sure what, exactly, except to say that it was moving, in a weird way. Yes, if Fields had laid there and bled for, say, another minute, I’m sure D’Antoni would’ve marched over, arms folded and mustache dancing to the rhythm of the gum, to make sure he was OK. But Woodson seemed genuinely concerned — scared, even. Take it for what it’s worth, but that really got me.
- The “honeymoon” effect is a well-known one in sports. But little has been done in the way of research to show what truly — at the psychological, even physiological level — motivates players to come cold-blooded into battle in the immediate wake of a coach’s firing. Whatever the true impetus, I’ll be honest: I’ve spent the last 90 minutes trying to convince myself that the Knicks , led by Stat, spent the pre-game huddle imploring one another to win this one for Mike, to play the way he always wanted them to play — the way they, in their hear of hearts, truly wanted to play — but, because of the eyes and the expectations and the lights, or for whatever reason, simply couldn’t.
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.