|Carmelo Anthony, SF 41 MIN | 15-29 FG | 10-14 FT | 6 REB | 4 AST | 41 PTS | +13
Much ink has been spilled over the efficacy and wisdom of “hero ball” — and rightly so. Here’s the thing doe: When your team’s secondary scoring threat is one bad hit away from spilling pints of blood all over the court, and options three-through-five are streakier than a goth chick’s hair, you’re probably in your right to see to it the offense runs through you most of the time. Despite a cold-shooting start, Melo’s tin-focused aggressiveness served notice that he didn’t intend to make 18-foot jumpers the day’s order. He’d eventually find his groove and — peppered with a handful of gorgeously prescient passes — will the Knicks to their first Playoff win since the waning days of the Clinton Administration. His defense was engaged, his spirit and confidence — rarely at a loss anyway — contagious.
After three straight games of watching his ’03 classmates reinforce what has to be a gnawing inferiority complex, Melo’s Olympian effort served notice — a notice that’s been sporadic as it is brilliant — that he’s still a bad, bad boy.
|Amare Stoudemire, PF 34 MIN | 8-13 FG | 4-7 FT | 10 REB | 1 AST | 20 PTS | +7
Risky move by Garden personnel to not outfit everyone in the first 10 rows with Gallagher-style ponchos, in the off chance that Stat’s hand just exploded, shooting blood everywhere. As it was, his 7-layer bean dip of bandages held strong, and Stat – a prideful man if there ever was one – got off to a tremendous, enthused start. Foul trouble limited his court time in the second and third quarters, but he would return to offer up a handful of timely, aggressive, heart-sleeved contributions late, and on both ends of the floor. As more than a few Twitterati pointed out, on a certain level, Stat not being able to use his left hand to dribble can actually be a good thing; it forced him to be more decisive with his moves, and exert more effort on rebounds, which entailed bigger bounce and more effort than we’re accustomed to seeing.
If you’d told me after his man-on-glass violence that Stat would a) return, and b) return with a vintage performance capable of erasing any and all resentment from the ‘Bocker faithful, I’d told you to pass that shit over. Melo’s sheer prolific prowess will no doubt dominate the headlines – as they should. But Stat’s 20-10, balls-to-wall performance deserves its own ink above the fold.
|Tyson Chandler, C 33 MIN | 0-2 FG | 1-2 FT | 9 REB | 1 AST | 1 PTS | +9
With a handful of obvious exceptions, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen any Knick come as close to breaking a referee over his knee as Chandler looked by the second quarter. Truth told, Tyson’s foul woes – like Amar’e, he racked up his third by midway through the second quarter – should spelled doom for the already D-depleted ‘Bockers. Ditto when Chandler picked up his 5th – a ridiculous come-from-behind rejection of Joel Anthony more violent than most Mortal Kombat fatalities – at the end of the third quarter, when “we’re fucked,” or riffs thereon, became Twitter commonplace. This will by no means go down as Chandler’s most graceful performance, but it’s impossible to deny that his intensity, energy, and sheer vitriolic hatred for the Heat, helped keep the ‘Bocker candles lit.
|Baron Davis, PG 25 MIN | 0-4 FG | 2-2 FT | 0 REB | 2 AST | 2 PTS | +5
Anyone who saw the replay of Dizzle’s horrific knee injury (I’d rather link to a German snuff film than give the basketball gods’ wrath the satisfaction of advertising their evil) was – as I was – immediately consumed by a sweeping, Catholic forgiveness. I don’t care who you are or what your basketball creed, you never want to see a player end a season – much less a career – like that. Kudos to the Garden crowd for lending their yawp chants to Baron in his time of need. While fleeting, his smile, cracked while being wheeled out stretcher-bound, spoke volumes. Get better, Baron. Honorary A+ for you.
|Landry Fields, G 19 MIN | 2-4 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 5 PTS | +3
This whole “play really well in the first half before completely disappearing in the second” thing is getting a little old. Even more distressing is the idea that Landry’s last shot – an airballed corner three that looked wrong before it even left his fingers – might very well have been his last as a Knick. I’ll certainly be sad to see him go (if in fact he goes), if only because his positional rebounding, passable defense (which was borderline great in spurts against Wade tonight), and high court IQ (most of the time) are still valuable commodities, even if we’d all prefer them wielded in spot minutes.
|Mike Bibby, PG 23 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 6 PTS | -3
In the wake of the third installment of “Crippling Knick Guard Knee Injuries,” It’ll likely be Bibby’s ship to steer hereon forward. Which sounds terrifying, until you consider that Bibbs has been by far the most rocksteady – if not the most spectacular or creative – Knick point in the series thus far. It goes beyond his “knowing Mike Woodson’s system”(Candyland is more complex); Bibby’s legitimate experience and calm, even-keeled demeanor can be valuable assets. When he’s boarding, taking care of the ball, and knocking down open shots, he’s still more than serviceable. Problem is, he’ll likely have to be more than that if the orange and blue intend to return home.
|Jared Jeffries, PF 4 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -10
I guess going to the same school as your coach is only worth so much. Jared’s clearly not at 100%, so any time he’s able to give is found money as far as the Knicks are concerned.
|Steve Novak, SF 16 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 3 PTS | -10
Few hoists were more well-timed – or more cathartic – than Novak’s corner trey during the Knicks’ key third quarter run. Woodson still refuses to run anything resembling a creative play to get Novak open, and hindsight will be full of second-guessing on this front. But it’s good to see Novak isn’t completely blinded by the Playoff spotlight, even if boarding, playing solid D, and not turning the ball over – three areas where Novak was noticeably better today – shouldn’t be affected by said light in the first place.
|J.R. Smith, SG 36 MIN | 3-15 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 4 AST | 7 PTS | -2
Make no mistake: If the Knicks had somehow managed to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory, J.R.’s orgy of boneheaded plays would’ve garnered just as many headlines as Melo and Stat’s free throw chokes. We’ll applaud the effort — particularly on defense, where Earl’s in-your-face pressure hounded LeBron into a few of his five turnovers — but the brain remains a puzzling creature.
|Josh Harrellson, F 10 MIN | 1-1 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS | -2
Is it hyperbolic to suggest Jorts’ garbage running jumper – made after the Knicks had gone 5 million minutes without scoring – was a game-changer? Probably. Is it hyperbolic to suggest that Jorts could very well carve out a consistent, more regular niche next year? Maybe. Is it hyperbolic to suggest Jorts is currently mid-way through a Karaoke run-through of “Friends in Low Places”? Not at all.
Five Things We Saw
- Early on, the Heat had their best “we got back to the hotel at 7am” look about them. A similar lackadaisical start to Game 3 had given Knicks hope of keeping home court locked down. The difference being that, this time, the Heat’s inconsistent, often sloppy play continued rearing its well-timed head throughout the game. Unlike in Game 3, the Knicks capitalized on enough Miami blunders, racking up 24 points off turnovers. If the Knicks have any prayer of bringing the series back to the Mecca, they’ll need a similar fortune to befall them in Game 5. Ditto the D, which, despite the best efforts of the Zebra’d, was spectacular in stretches.
- For a game that started off with all the beauty of a Cleveland smokestack, it sure finished with a furious flurry. But 64 free throws? Really? I’ll be the first to admit that the refs — finally — called this one somewhat even. But “evenly awful” isn’t helping anyone. There’s something to be said about very good NBA players — and very good NBA teams — being able to adjust to the often schizophrenic fluctuations of referee approaches. But really all a game like this serves to prove is that our beloved Association is seen in not much more flattering a light than professional wrestling.
- As if the Knicks breaking the NBA record for consecutive Playoff losses (13) wasn’t enough to fill the “dubious achievement” category, the Knicks and Heat teamed up to throttle another mark of futility by missing a combined 21 consecutive three pointers. That’s it. That’s the joke.
- It only took a thousand games, but Stat and Melo seemed to have something of a symbiotic groove going down the stretch. They were both aggressively paint-bound without getting in one another’s way, and Melo’s nice cut-rewarding passes gave us glimpses of what could be. Given a full training camp, I refuse to believe these two world-class athletes can’t figure out a way to co-exist.
- I cried a little bit. I really did. I couldn’t help myself. I got up from the couch, paced around the living room a few times, and – with my wife looking at me with a cocktail of confusion and worry – walked outside in my Knicks hoodie and Clyde jersey and slippers (yes, I own a pair of Knicks slippers – Christmas gift from the inlaws, and a great one at that), sat on my backyard picnic table, and welled up like a high school breakup victim. Of course it’s ridiculous. Of course it’s irrational. Of course there are far more important things over which to get welled and worked up. That’s part of the rapturous nature of sports: We take narratives nascent and obvious and wave them into tapestries we convince ourselves have meaning. Hence the betraying legs of guards young and old becoming the tragic; the flawed gunner willing wins the heroic; the last gasp of a potentially fatal shot falling an inch short, the gloriously dramatic. I thought of all these things, and how seriously fucked up and weird this whole season has been, and I just couldn’t help it. And you know what? As with being a Knick fan at all, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t alone.