If Wednesday night’s Melo-dramatic last-second win was the euphoric party, Thursday’s Knickerblogger exchange was like the hangover: full of grumblings, confusion, and vague regret. Even after Carmelo Anthony’s first defining moment as a Knick helped deliver a gutsy win over the scrappy Grizzlies, skeptics preached patience and tempered expectations for what is – at the end of the day – still just the beginning of a lengthy evaluation process.
Let’s see what they do tomorrow night, against a certifiably elite opponent, they seemed to say.
A fair request, no doubt.
So how did they do?
For anyone who watched the Grizzlies game but couldn’t justify Thursday’s late-nighter, here’s the simplest way to describe what happened, emotionally: take the last two minutes of the Memphis game, multiply it by 24, and you get something approximating what went down at American Airlines Arena (minus a few steals)
Like the Knicks, the Mavericks were coming off a hard-fought slog the night previous – a 2 point loss to New Orleans which prompted Rick Carlisle to label his soldiers “soft”.
Wethinks they got the message.
On a night where both teams were playing their 4th game in 5 days, the only thing “soft” was the touch of the Dallas jumpers, as the Mavs amassed a crippling TS% of 60%, including 11 of 24 from downtown. The resulting 127-109 thrashing brought the Knicks overall record to 34-30 – and 0-3 in the Melo Era against teams whose names end in “a-v-s”.
While the no doubt tired Mavericks used the juice of the home crowd to fuel their twine-tickling effort, the Bockers shot a forgettable 46% eFG%, getting routinely out-hustled for loose balls and long rebounds, and generally showing the predictable malaise of a team playing its 7th game in 10 nights.
Like last month’s equally lopsided affair, the Knicks struggled to keep the Mavs off the glass. And though the actual rebounding disparity – 45 to 37 – looks on its face like Knicks standard-issue, it seemed as if every offensive rebound came at a the most inopportune time. Shawne Marion in particular wreaked havoc in this department, reeling in 6 OREBs on a night when The Matrix seemed to tap into his 2004 Fantasy Monster form, scoring 22 points and generally bewildering the Knicks front line all night long.
For the sixth consecutive game, Toney Douglas started in place of Chauncey Billups, who continues to recover from Dwight Howard’s kneecap shrapnel. Fresh off an efficient (minus the shaky last couple minutes) 18 points and 10 assists the night before, Douglas played admirably opposite the confounding Cerberus of Jason Kidd and J.J. Barea, netting 18 and 8 with a 58% TS%, while committing no turnovers.
During Billips’ absence, TD has averaged 16.5 points and 7 assists with an EFG% of 66%. And though he’s provided his fair share of TDDWTDDs, Douglas seems to have put the woes of midseason squarely in the rear view mirror — at least for now.
Landry Fields continued his recent stellar play, banking 19 with 6 rebounds, 4 steals, and a certifiably Landrarian 82% TS%. Like Douglas, Fields’ last 5 games have been marked by a quietly impressive efficiency, and have seen the precocious neophyte rack up averages of 14.6 points, 5.2 rebounds and a rotund 75% TS%.
Amare Stoudemire had a hologram game (shiny, sparkly, not much there) that was as labored as it was inefficient, scoring 36 on 27 shots with a team low -23 for the night. Stat also managed to pick up his 16th technical foul of the season, which, if it’s not rescinded, means the Knicks will be sans his services for Sunday’s showdown with the Pacers.
Carmelo Anthony, meanwhile, didn’t provide much in the way of an encore to Wednesday’s stellar play, scoring 18 on 15 shots (although he did chip in 10 rebounds and 5 assists), as the omnipresent Marion succeeded in keeping Melo at bay for most of the game.
Down by as many as 26 in the second half, the Knicks staged a heart-felt comeback towards the end of the third, cutting the deficit to 11 early in the fourth. But the Mavs kept them at bay down the stretch, sending the Knicks home with a 1-1 split on their mini road trip.
The truly brutal March schedule in full swing, the Knicks might need to siphon the lingering energy from Saturday’s Big East finale before the Garden half of their home-and-home with the Pacers on Sunday. But with 3 sets of back-to-backs remaining before the month’s end, even these two much-needed days’ rest will probably seem like far too few for this understandably weary bunch.