|Carmelo Anthony, SF 36 MIN | 10-28 FG | 6-6 FT | 11 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 27 PTS | +7
Another cold start; another piss-poor outing; another undue truck of bricks slung about a bum shoulder. As in Game 6 in Boston, Melo played the first quarter in as measured a manner as possible – even if he was hitting the wall beside the dartboard. As the game ground on, however, the onus to match Indy’s uncharacteristically fluid attack became too much to resist. The result: Smart, purposeful takes that yielded few whistle fruits, and a mushrooming frustration that eventually took Melo – and by extension, everyone else – completely out of rhythm.
On the bright side, David West didn’t rip his left arm out with his teeth, and Melo looked generally OK physically. Save for the three dozen times he bulldozed into the lane, only to be clobbered by flailing meat limbs. Usually in the face.
|Iman Shumpert, SF 33 MIN | 4-11 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 11 PTS | -13
The Cult of Shump has been nearly two years in the making, but Iman’s Game 6 performance in Boston (I don’t remember the stats but I do remember licking my computer screen with the JET .gif playing on an endless loop) solidified him as perhaps the biggest X-factor for the Knicks moving forward. Today’s offering, though spotty, made for a rare silver lining: He was superb on D, knocked down some big open shots, and didn’t hesitate to use his quickness in the lane. After a solid first half, Woodson elected to hold Shump out for much of the third, and then the start of the fourth – this despite J.R. Smith chucking puke bombs and Kidd running around looking very noticeably old. For the Knicks to thrive, Trust in Shump must become a mantra.
|Tyson Chandler, C 28 MIN | 2-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 2 TO | 4 PTS | -8
Heading into the series, one of the major themes bandied about the webnets was how well Chandler had contained Hibbert over the past couple of seasons. So much for that. A spry beginning – active on D, violent on a couple of throwdowns at the other end – devolved into an extended disappearing act. Which isn’t entirely his fault; the Knicks got away from what worked. Still, the mammoth rebounding deficit has to be addressed. Not that Tyson closes that gap alone, but seriously, three rebounds? Sam Young played six minutes, turned the ball over four hundred times, and still managed to grab two.
|Raymond Felton, PG 38 MIN | 8-12 FG | 1-1 FT | 2 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 18 PTS | -9
That Raymond Felton has suddenly become our most consistent – and most efficient – offensive player is a narrative I’m not sure Chuck Kauffman could handle scripting, but damnit if it doesn’t work. In the early going, Ray orchestrated a purposed, effective attack on high and side P&Rs. He got a few floaters to fall, hit the weak side open man for spot-up looks, and had the Indy interior on their heels early. But save for a few jumpers in the second half, Ray served mostly as a conduit for Melo and Earl’s would-be heroics. On the one hand, you take solace in knowing you can go back to what works. On the other, you manage the gut-sinking thought that it’ll be far too late before Woodson ever figures it out.
|Pablo Prigioni, PG 22 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 6 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | +2
Speaking of conduits, that was Pablo’s sole function this afternoon. The six assists were welcome, and he did a decent job staying in front of George and Stephenson on the other end. At the same time, it’s hard to see how or where Pablo fits in this series going forward. Personally, I think more of his minutes need to go to Shump; he of the superior athleticism, jump shot, defense, hair, snarl, teeth, and collection of scalps.
|Kenyon Martin, PF 25 MIN | 5-8 FG | 2-4 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 12 PTS | -6
When Kenyon Martin is your most efficient weapon, you have problems. Granted, the shots he hit – a 20-foot jumper, deft one-hander in the lane, a couple of throwdowns – have to be considered found money, at this point. On D, Martin struggled a bit in the post against Hibbert and West, although he did provide a few memorable moments of help (that block on George tho). Still, the same lecture we gave Chandler applies here: Three rebounds in 25 minutes?
|Chris Copeland, SF 8 MIN | 2-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | -6
Mike Woodson is so fucking weird. You want to give Novak’s minutes to Copeland? Fine. But here’s the thing: If Novak had hit his first three, Woody would’ve ridden him for at least 12 minutes. He struggled a bit on D, but did goad West into an offensive foul in the third – just minutes after Cope nailed his second three to cut the game to 10. With STAT’s status uncertain and scoring priced beyond a premium, Woodson has to learn to trust more in Cope to provide some quality minutes off the pine.
|Jason Kidd, PG 17 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | +4
|J.R. Smith, SG 34 MIN | 4-15 FG | 7-10 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 17 PTS | -3
By now we’ve all caught wind: J.R. was out at the 40-40 Club taking in the Mayweather fight and probably a bunch of booze late last night. Far be it from me to lambast a dude for wanting to blow off steam. I spent one Cinco de Mayo taking shot after shot of bad tequila and attempting to play kickball blindfolded. But if you know the heat’s been on you (he absolutely does), why? Seriously, why? Chris Herring dug into this a few weeks back, but it’s a well-known fact that Earl’s been at his worst on Sundays. Like, significantly worse. That can’t be cooincidence. It just can’t.
Four Things We Saw
- The Knicks mined some early success from pushing the tempo and capitalizing on the Pacers’ propensity for dribbling the ball off their own faces and feet. The result was a five point lead at the end of the first, and positive signs abound. But with Melo bench-bound and the Pacers rolling with their core, Indy quickly snatched the lead mid-way through the second, and never looked back. They say basketball is a game of runs, but it’s also a game of wills; and Indy won that game by technical punk out.
- Much has been made of whether, when, and how often the Knicks would look to match Indy’s size and interior strength by rolling with Chandler, Kenyon, and Camby (?) in various tandems. Well, the early returns are Monopoly money with shit stains on them; the Pacers were able to completely stifle the Knick offense, while at the other end patiently moving the ball and finding the open shooter (usually D.J. Augustin) to help capture and build their lead.
- Look, I’ve been cleansing for a week and just generally in a shitty mood, so I’mma be frank: If Melo continues to shoot the way he has (unlikely, though eminently possible), and Indy is able to control the pace and boards the way they did today (likely, thus eminently possible), this shit is over in six. The reason Miami solved the Indy riddle in last year’s second round was simple: They attacked relentlessly on offense, made Hibbert move, and matched the Pacers’ defensive intensity at the other end. Now, those are some pretty serious ingredients. This ain’t no Duncan Heinz boxed cake mix. The defense part – that’s the flour. What’s more fickle (and what hasn’t been easy) is finding the will to trust, formally and finally, in what works. Even if you want to boil it down the truism that “Melo got us here,” that’s still a mantra devoid of context. Moving the ball, using the pick-and-roll, finding the open man, and – failing all that – finding Melo in the last seven or eight seconds of the shot clock. That’s the context.
- I still think we take this series. Win Tuesday, steal Game 3, and we’re back to square one. Doing so won’t be easy; these guys eat bones for breakfast and practice rebounding with human heads. But neither was 50 wins. Neither was withstanding that fucked up run in Game 6. Easy don’t pay. When I read some of the post-game locker room quotes — “They just played harder;” “Forget the Xs and the Os” — I want to drive my eye sockets into a table corner. To chalk up your failures to intangibles, to things that can in no way be quantified? That’s fucking mysticism. It’s chicanery. Not to mention lazy and wrong. One of two things is going on here: Either Woodson knows what the problem is, and refuses to call it what it is for fear of making Melo mad; or they all genuinely believe this shit. Both are genuinely terrifying.