Nets 88, Knicks 85
|Carmelo Anthony, SF 45 MIN | 11-29 FG | 6-6 FT | 3 REB | 7 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 29 PTS | -1
Metric Melo – efficient Melo – was scarce to be found in the early going, as the bright MLK Day lights and the extending of his 20-point scoring streak clouded a few truly beautiful early dishes (including one for a cutting Stat that would truly be a beautiful harbinger.) Melo was able to bring the ‘Bockers back thanks to favorable mismatches and the Nets’ categorical refusal to double down. Some wonderful passes — to Stat in particular — balanced out an otherwise skull-hammeringly frustrating outing, with the net result being that, when J.R. is firing on less than no cylinders, the Knicks really do have nowhere else to go.
Some nice flurries peppered the second half, but for the most part the Knicks relied exclusively on heavy does of Melo on block and elbow. He had a few key hits to keep things interesting, but Woodson’s final play call – isolation on the right eblow that ended with a crippling air ball of a would-be tying bucket – was anything but. Twenty-nine points is great. Twenty-nine points on 29 shots is bad basketball and makes Dave Berri’s nose bleed out of both nostrils.
|Chris Copeland, SF 15 MIN | 2-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 5 PTS | -2
Chris Copeland Anagram Fun: YOUR DEFENSE SUCKED
|Tyson Chandler, C 35 MIN | 3-4 FG | 1-3 FT | 11 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 7 PTS | +7
Tyson got things going with a pin-point tap-out for an open Kidd three, and was responsible for arguably the game’s most surreal highlight when he completed the incredibly rare shoot-miss-putback-dunk-technical trifecta after yelling at Reggie Evans to stop parking his god damn Fiesta so close to the driveway. Lopez was able to exploit Chandler reluctance to leave the paint by burying a few first half jumpers, but really that speaks more to the Knicks’ utter lack of interior defensive options than Chandler’s transgressions.
Chandler hauled in a couple must-have ‘bounds in the game’s waning moments, but was for the most part the only one who showed anything beyond a marginal interest in boxing out and meeting the ball mid-air. With Camby and Sheed both on the shuffle-board-and-Musilex circuit, Chandler needs help that he simply isn’t getting right now.
|Jason Kidd, PG 35 MIN | 4-5 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 6 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 11 PTS | -1
Choosing to sic Shump on Johnson rather than Williams remains a bit mysterious, but credit Kidd for doing a good job sticking with D-Will on the perimeter and not letting him bully about the block – owing in part to the refs’ reluctance to call much in the early going. J-Kidd also connected on a pair of early threes, but iso-Melo rendered his a pretty useless presence late in the first half.
The third and fourth found Kidd’s hands contributing again, only this time for sending Nets’ possessions to an early death and coming up with five of his game-high six steals. He’s still completely incapable of taking his man one-on-one in transition, but at least he gave the Knicks a few extra possessions. Possessions the ‘Bockers blew like chore money in a candy store.
|Iman Shumpert, PG 20 MIN | 1-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -8
You could tell Shump was about to explode in a plasma of napalm swag he was so excited, and the nerves showed a bit, as our 6’11” shooting guard air-balled a three and got lost in a few flurries of Nets picks early on. He tightened up his on-ball defense and managed to slow Johnson down after a habenero hot start, but didn’t see enough court time to capitalize on his impact in any statistically meaningful way.
Shump’s strict minutes limit would see him pulled in the heat of crunch time, which is exactly the time that Joe Johnson his clutch cannonade along the perimeter. He’d come in for defensive purposes on the last Nets’ possession, but by then the game was pretty much in hand anyway. He still looks less than 100% confident in his ability to finish in traffic, as evidenced by a gut-punch of a layup miss that could’ve gotten the late-game run going earlier. I know patience is the mantra here, but it’s hard when you know your team needs a spark and the guy who might give it is on the sidelines because one of his joints might explode.
|Amar’e Stoudemire, PF 27 MIN | 6-10 FG | 3-6 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 15 PTS | +4
Hope sprang eternal in the early moments of Stat’s first stint, which ended with a beautiful off-ball cut – I’m still convinced he was chasing the end of the laser pointer into the first row – for a Melo foul-resulting feed. Then Amare’s defense happened, and things like melting into the floor while Kris Humphries dribbles by you like Magic Johnson. Awful, awful things. Amar’e was much more active in the third, particularly on the glass, and even capped off the Knicks’ big third with a nice slam off a Melo feed and ANOTHER MELO FEED STAT SMASH STAT DRIVE AND BANK STAT SMASH WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPEEEEEENIIIIIIIIIING!
So STAT busted out some 2010 boogie during the third, and managed to remain in the lineup for most of the fourth as well — a pretty severe give and take that certainly had Woodson fielding questions of rotations during the post-game meat-presser. At the very least it looks as if Amar’e is slowly earning the trust of coach and teammates alike – and Melo in particular, who consciously looked to spoon-feed his begoggled brother a number of times, with varying degrees of success. But by far Stat’s most impressive moment – which you wouldn’t have noticed had you not watched closely – came on his final rebound, for which he jumped higher than I think I’ve seen him jump in over a year. Goosebumps, fleeting though they may be.
|Ronnie Brewer, SF 3 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -2
Little known fact: Ronnie Brewer is actually not even on the team anymore, but the Knicks let him hang around and sit on the bench because he gives all the guys fruit snack packets and rides to practice without even asking for gas money. But then he wandered out on the floor for a few minutes and threw up two awful shots but Woodson didn’t have the heart to take him out until the next timeout. Ronnie spent the rest of the afternoon eating chalk in the shower.
|Steve Novak, SF 14 MIN | 0-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -9
|Pablo Prigioni, PG 9 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | +1
Prigs played his usual first half stretch before coming up lame with an ankle injury. The doctors stitched him up using leather shaving from a seldom used lasso, seasoned long ago with blood and tobacco spittle and driving rains during weeks-long cattle drives on the Pampas.
|J.R. Smith, SG 38 MIN | 7-19 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 16 PTS | -4
A case of acute brain rot – the result of a last second trip to a London tattoo parlor located in a gas station basement, where a couple of pounds gets you a Union Jack with Adele’s face in the middle emblazoned on your armpit using nothing but a Bic lighter and a butter knife – made for an especially rough outing for ol’ Earl, who couldn’t hit the broad side of the Wailing Wall for most of the first three quarters. A pair of jumpers and active hands late in the third helped key the Knicks’ lead-taking third quarter run, but Earl’s was very much a give-and-take fourth quarter. His last-second desperation heave nearly – miraculously – almost banked in, but suffice it to say J.R.’s likely spent his buzzer-beating allowance for the year. Hey, at least he’s preparing me for what it’s like to have teenage daughters.
Five Things We Saw
- Melo ended the night with 27, making it the 26th consecutive game he’s notched more than 20. That’s close to a Knicks record, apparently. He’s still third behind a few people. Can’t remember who’s first. Ernie Grunfeld, probably.
- Towards the end of the first quarter of what was already proving to be a tight game, Deron Williams picked up his second foul, and joined Joe Johnson – who’d picked up his second a few minutes earlier – on the bench. This was the Knicks’ golden opportunity to take advantage of the Nets’ relative lack of depth and make a run. This did not happen.
- The Nets obliterated the Knicks on the boards 52-37, including 12-7 on the offensive end. You can afford that kind of deficit when the play’s gangbusters and neither can team can stop the other, but not when it’s an under-200 point slugfest such that’s become the norm between these two. Second chance points were one of many deciding factors, to be sure, but – given the fundamentals behind their theoretical prevention – also the most maddening.
- Talk about getting a tainted syringe full of your own medicine: The Nets connected on 12-24 from deep, a good grip of those coming off of second chance opportunities, and way too many at the hands of Joe Johnson and Keith $%#@!& Bogans. The chief culprit, of course, was poor perimeter defense and – BRACE YOURSELF! – over-switching. I know ours is an attack itself built on the idea that playing with fire can help you raze your enemies’ barracks. But that shit cuts both ways.
- Welp, there goes that lead in the Atlantic. One measly game now separates these two begrudged boroughs, with one (us) waning in the wake of too many injuries and too many years about our core, and the other (them) in an ascendance owing to a combination of new coach juice, improved chemistry, and a thus-far favorable schedule. There’s still plenty of time to stem and even reverse the tide, but with another slugfest on the docket Thursday (at Boston, a game I will be covering and in which I have an 80% chance of being arrested), fortune’s moon can’t wax fast enough.
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.