Next Day Reaction: Knicks 104, Mavericks 90
|Carmelo Anthony, SF 34 MIN | 10-22 FG | 9-14 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 31 PTS | +10
Melo rebounds and defends with vigor, forcing turnovers and practically guaranteeing the beheading of an opponent in the near future via his windmill/executioner-bringing-down-a-scythe manner of blocking shots…yawn. Melo eschews massaging the ball and killing any hope of offensive flow with an Arthur Murray School series of jab steps…tell me something I don’t know. Melo carries the offense in the second quarter when everyone else is misfiring, nails a clutch trey in the 4th to extend the lead to seven, passes the ball when doubled, drives to the rim at every opportunity and (gulp) makes his teammates better like LeBron/MJ/Bird/Magic did/do…dog bites man. Same ol’, same ol’.
MAYBE it’s time to stop being surprised and just assume that this is what we’ll see moving forward. Honestly, I could just as easily have cut and pasted any of the blurbs from the previous three recaps and none of y’all would have batted an eyelash. How consistently dominant has Melo been? Welp, even noted Knickophile Bill Simmons was moved to exclaim in 140 characters of glee, “Just curious – how many Knicks fans would trade Carmelo for Gallinari, Chandler and Mosgov right now?” Anyone wanna raise their hand?
Didn’t think so.
And I’ve been a fairly vocal critic of the trade from Jump Street. I guess this makes me the basketball Dick Morris and even if I were to develop a proclivity for toe-sucking, I couldn’t be happier.
Three wee, hamate bone’s to pick. First, MAKE YOUR FREE THROWS (more on this later). Second, now that he’s in ball-hawk mode, the next step in his development is to learn how to avoid fouls or even when to take his foot off the gas, especially situations like the middle of the third quarter when Melo’s already racked up three personals, f’rinstance. Third, is it just me, or does Melo get whacked on the aforementioned forays to the hole time and time again and the refs are all like, “Maybe that was a foul. Where’s my whistle? I knew I had it a second ago. Maybe I dropped it on the ground. No…but look, a piece of popcorn! Hey kid in the front row eating popcorn. Did you drop this? S’okay, you can still eat it. Five second rule, dontcha know. Plus, YOLO, amirite? You’re welcome, kid. Now, back to the game. Hey, the team playing the Knicks has a rebound. I wonder how that happened. I thought the Carmelo person was gonna score? Oh well, this is a good game. You watching this, kid?” I’m not sure what can be done about the arbiters’ spyrectopheliophoba w/r/t Mr. Anthony going forward. Melo’s kvetching certainly isn’t doing the trick. Perhaps I shall pen an angry missive to my local governmental representative. That never fails to spur action!
|Ronnie Brewer, SF 37 MIN | 4-10 FG | 3-5 FT | 8 REB | 2 AST | 13 PTS | +19
If Brewer really has absorbed Shawne Williams’ life-force (Shawne doesn’t seem to be using it right now, so it’s totes okay) and/or stolen his superpowers, Rogue-style, then we’ve added a bargain-bin priced, ELITE role player/glue guy. We’re talking Bruce Bowen-esque, people, without the irritatingly evil side effects. If you have a chance, I highly recommend watching Ronnie off the ball for a possession or two. It’s not just the cuts toward the rim where he’s angling for a layup or the fade into the corner, it’s the subtle motion designed to create space for a secondary or even tertiary target in an offensive set. Think of it like a chess master seeing the whole board, thinking three or four moves ahead. Pure bliss.
|Tyson Chandler, C 30 MIN | 4-8 FG | 3-5 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 11 PTS | +14
We still haven’t seen 48 minutes of full-on TYSON SMASH mode this season. One has to assume that he’s still recovering from the dinged knee and his bout with Strep throat. Instead, as has been the case in the prior three games, Tyson-y things have come in fits and spurts, like the rebound and putback dunk, punctuated by a yawp of such pure love/rage that it’d make Walt Whitman blush. Then again, it may not just be the various boo-boos. What if, because the ‘Bockers have added a gaggle of plus defenders to the rotation and subtracted a few…er…not plus ones (cough, STAT, cough, Landry, cough, Bibby, cough, Baron, cough, cough, COUGH…hack, sputter, gasp, wheeze, I gotta quit smoking…cough), Chandler’s defensive dominance is both less visible and less necessary, like reducing a mountain’s peak by dumping truckload after truckload of sand into the valley. If so, yay!
|Jason Kidd, PG 15 MIN | 2-3 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 6 PTS | +7
After years of cursing Kidd’s name with the venom normally reserved for scorned, philandering ex-lovers, it’s both slightly jarring and a joy to have him on our collective arm. Ye gods, what a glorious player he must have been when still possessing the 3-4 steps he’s lost to the ravages of time. I mean, when he was vivisecting the early-2000′s Knicks, it was easy to see how good he was, but it’s a different animal when one witnesses it on a daily (game-ly?) basis. There’s never been a ‘Bocker who was I absolutely positively am SURE will make the right decision (on both ends of the court). Last night, on defense in the third quarter, he almost single-handedly turned the game around by swiping two midcourt steals and drawing an 4th foul on OJ Mayo, which resulted in the USC marksman’s forced absence from game. Crucial, critical plays all.
And those hands. Gosh golly, those hands. It’s like a magician confusing/distracting a spectator with some idle patter or by waving hanky while simultaneously palming a card/rabbit. Before you know it, he’s off down the court with the ball, even if, as friend-of-the-blog netw3rk twat, watching him scoot these days is akin to a senior citizen really gunning his/her Segway. That said, he should NOT have been guarding Mayo to start the game. He was late closing a couple of times in the first half and it while it may not have been the sole cause, it certainly didn’t do anything to dissuade OJ from getting nuclear-meltdown hot. Still, so much great-y, great, greatness in a compact 15 mins of PT.
|Raymond Felton, PG 38 MIN | 3-11 FG | 2-5 FT | 4 REB | 9 AST | 8 PTS | +17
A series of botched bunnies and aborted open jumpers makes his final 3-11 line look powerful ugly, but Raymond certainly filled in every other box in the point guard checklist. He did a dandy job keeping Collison out of the lane, only coughed up the ball twice, initiated the offense with aplomb and would have had double-digit assists had his ‘mates not aborted more than a few wide open shots off feeds from Ray-Ray. Plus, there’s definitely something to be said about his overall demeanor/feistiness that cannot be dismissed. I pooh-pooed all the “Bulldog Mentality” talk that was bandied about when he was re-acquired, but, not to get all patriarchal/militaristic, when a team like the Mavs have been barking and crowing all day, getting in the grill of Orange Juice Mayonnaise is an important thing, not only for tonight’s tilt, but to create the impression/perception that the Knicks are a team that you can’t push around. Back in the day, people legitimately feared facing the Rileybockers and if you’re thinking on the court, even for a moment, about suffering bodily harm, you’re not thinking about the million other tasks that are necessary to win the game, thus putting yourself at a ginormous disadvantage. Felt would fit in jussssssst fine with that badass crew.
|Rasheed Wallace, PF 18 MIN | 2-6 FG | 2-2 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 6 PTS | -4
We all love kindly Ol’ Uncle ‘Sheed, but tonight wasn’t his best effort. I wish Son of Wood had gone more to Thomas, who would’ve done a better job defending against the Brand/Kaman/Wright troika. Then again, seeing super-cool Kurt matched up against a lost member of the McPoyle clan like Chris Kaman was a joyous collision of polar opposites.
|Steve Novak, SF 16 MIN | 2-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 5 PTS | -1
Steve Novak is throwing up bricks. Steve Novak took (and made) a shot from fewer than 15 feet from the hoop. I do not understand or like this brave, new world. It got so bad, I unleashed the telekinetic powers I possess to aid certain individuals of lesser ability during moments of great import — think Undead Mike’s corner three in game four of last year’s playoffs. P.S. You’re welcome. It’s not something I unleash every game, but things had gotten so bad, I felt it was necessary to give a psychic boost to Steve’s final three-point heave at the end of the third quarter. (Again, you’re welcome, Knick fans). In all seriousness, you can tell that he’s speeded up his release this year, and it’s not helping. Slow down, Steve. You missing shots makes me feel all kids of sad. And I don’t really have psychic powers, so you’re on your own. Or do I….
|Marcus Camby, C 8 MIN | 0-0 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | -8
Ten years, Marcus. Wow. It feels like yesterday. How’ve you been? Good to hear. Still rebounding, I see, though you’re not really much of a jumping bean anymore. S’okay. I get that. Like my Polish-born cousin (who can’t ditch his accent/has gravitas up the wazoo so he can get away with statements like the following:) says, “Time is the fire that burns us all.”
|Pablo Prigioni, PG 10 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 PTS | -7
You know, I’m as partial to Prig’s pass-first mentality as much as the next guy, but it’s starting to become a liability. He can’t pass up wide open threes and layups just because. Take the shot, Prigs. When Woodson tells J.R. to shoot more, pretend he’s talking to you. We also got to see him burned on more than one occasion on D by Beaubois n’ Collison.
|J.R. Smith, SG 33 MIN | 8-16 FG | 3-3 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 22 PTS | +3
As always, the J.R. Smith experience is going to vacillate (See, Clyde.THAT’s the proper usage of the word “vacillate”) between of dizzying highs and guffaw-able lows. It’s just that the latter are occurring at an ever-decreasing rate. After Melo picked up his 4th foul, Smith absolutely carried the Knicks offense, going 3-5 in the 3rd quarter, shutting down Carter/Mayo in the 2nd half and swishing a bomb at the end of the half that was vital to the team’s 2nd half surge. I’m a big believer in points that carry as much emotional weight as they adjust the scoreboard and that was definitely a huge boost to their collective self-esteem. There’s a different feeling being down two after struggling for 24 minutes. You think, “Hey, we had our problems but look, it’s a one-possession game.” Smith may be endlessly frustrating, but he gets the whole “time to seize the moment” thing. And in a big way.
Five Things We Saw
- I was curious what would happen when the Knicks stopped hitting 45% from downtown (though banging home 36% of their treys is hardly what one would deem “ice-cold”). Would they panic, get stagnant, and revert to ISO-Melo? Would the defense suffer? Well, if tonight’s any indication, they’re wholly prepared to weather a wobbly quarter or two. They came out like you’d expect a team that hasn’t played in five games to come out. They were a step slow rotating to shooters and picking up rotations, leading to a flurry of open shots for the Texans, the second unit looked thoroughly discombobulated in the 2nd quarter and Dallas was controlling the tempo of the game. Luckily, they managed to stay within single digits and, in the 2nd half, they clamped down, held the Mavs to 37 total points and slowly, if surely, built up an insurmountable lead. At no point, watching this game, would one be really tempted to think, “Whoa, this is a DOMINANT team.” They just ground the Mavs down to the nubbin like a vise that’s slowly tightening around one’s testes, took care of the ball, forced bad shots and turnovers and in general, proved themselves to be a maddeningly frustrating team to play against because they don’t beat themselves/make unforced errors. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — I never saw this coming, but boy, is it a delight to behold.
- I was just as petrified when Melo picked up his fourth foul, considering how utterly wonky the offense had looked without him. But instead of panicking and individuals trying to rectify the situation on their own, they moved the ball to the open man and trusted that the system would work, even if the most important cog in the machine was tied to the pine. I’m sure we all expected a letdown game and that stretch would have been the perfect opportunity for everything to go to pot. But it didn’t and that has made all the difference.
- There is one final step in the transformation of this team into a true powerhouse. You have to learn when to step on the throat of the guy who’s down (I know, I’m a liberal and I shouldn’t be talking such violent potty-talk. That may be true, but eff that noise. I wanna put a hurt on somebody and screw the bozos who can’t handle my swag. Where were we? Oh yes…). When the Knicks had extended the lead to twelve, they proceeded to gort five consecutive free throws and overall, shot a ghastly 26-38 (68.4%) from the charity stripe. That’s a moment where you can end the game. Just plain break the other team’s spirit/spine, and they chucked it away. Dallas could very easily have come back and that wood have shredded all this feel-goodery right quick. Botching the freebies in general is a bad idea, but when you’ve got a man down, you don’t let him off the canvas like that. I’m sure that everyone will get to spend a little extra time with Dave Hopla to work out the kinks, but honestly it’s a matter of concentration as the duck snorts came at a moment when the game was getting particularly chippy. It’s plumb foreign-feeling to be writing this, but I have no doubt that they’ll figure this out, too.
- If you haven’t seen it already on the Twitter, there’s a comic-book metaphor for our boys and their big, slow, lumbering, unceasing, unflappable, planet-smashing creature that the Knickerbockers have become. It’s GALAKNICKTUS, DEVOURER OF WORLDS.
Enjoy. (And yes, the SIlver Shumper is our herald. Though here he is incorrectly depicted as Nova [for all you fellow silver-age comix geeks out there]).
- To end this overly-long recap, I’m going to discuss uniforms for a sec, and not in an aesthetic way. It’s gonna get a tad political, so if that’s not your bag o’ tea, feel free to skip ahead to the comments.
It’s apparently Military Appreciation month (how Veterans’ Day has morphed into a month-long event is whole other kettle of fish) so we were treated to stars n’ stripes festooned headbands on Vince Carter, J.R. Smith and numerous other players throughout the league. It’s dumb. Really dumb. Offensively dumb. And not only because it made Vince et al. look like they were about to appear in a shoddy remake of the movie Easy Rider.
A flag isn’t just a piece of cloth. It means something. It represents a set of ideals; whether or not our nation always lives up to them. Just as I think burning the flag is a godawfully stupid form of protest (though I will always defend one’s right to do so). I think it’s just as unseemly to fling the flag on sporting uniforms (like Major League Baseball’s caps that are worn on Memorial Day, etc.) just so Modell’s can go about hawking them at absurdly high prices. Both the selling and the burning of the flag are cheap ploys that only degrade everyone involved and doesn’t (at least for me) make me question or further understand important things like war, or the use of the military, or liberty or the ongoing American experiment. And that’s what the flag/Veteran’s Day should do.
I think people are smart enough to understand that the invocation of our national symbol(s) doesn’t bequeath patriotism or an adherence to the ideals and ideas that our country was founded upon to the wearer. The selling of the flag in this matter assumes that it we are dumb enough to think that. Or worse, that it stands for nothing and therefore it’s okay to slap them on a Happy Meal. That’s what’s dumb/offensive about it. I don’t think it should be illegal or in any way legislated against, but for me, stuff like this is just nauseating. End of rant.
Hey, did you know that in addition to banging the keys here and occasionally for the NY Times, Robert is a playwright, an actor and a wand'ring mendicant/gadfly? He also once wrestled a bear...and lost.