|Kenyon Martin, PF
38 MIN | 3-8 FG | 0-2 FT | 9 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 4 TO | 6 PTS | -6
Having K-Mart there to spark your early offense is a little like having your grandmother order you and your buddies the first round of tequila shots at a strip club: Incredibly weird and uncomfortable, BUT TOTALLY WELCOME! Once again, it was in the intangibles that K-Mart made his money: body-slamming Hibbert, delivering line-stepping sledgehammer fouls that only a veteran of his canny stock could ever dream of getting away with. You can see the pain and frustration written in K-Mart’s furrowed brow – the skin-born barometer of a grizzled, gimpy team trying desperately to find its way. God bless him and his grandma stripper shots.
|Andrea Bargnani, PF
38 MIN | 4-16 FG | 1-2 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 10 PTS | +2
You know the Euro stereotype: effete, soft, smelling of fear, world wars and socialism. Knock at least two of these off the ledger when you talk about Bargs, who bench pressed roughly 30,000 tons checking Hibbert in the post; rendered many a Pacer possession one-and-done; and gave us a real glimpse at how effective his brand of size can be against the right team.
Unfortunately – and as has been the case in pretty much all of Bargs’ Garden showings – the offense wasn’t there. He had his chance at the grandest of narrative flips when Woody drew up the last play in regulation to get Andrea a clean, straightaway look. Front iron. The tell tale sign of another set of legs Paced to pulp.
|Carmelo Anthony, SF
42 MIN | 10-28 FG | 10-10 FT | 18 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 4 TO | 30 PTS | -4
It’s safe to wonder how many more maulings Melo can realistically handle – how many bully-ball gambits and board scrums – before there’s scarce a body for everyone else to orbit. Melo was downright fucking heroic on the glass, setting an indispensable tone for our even keeping pace on that front. But the stubborn isolations (however earnest and tough his post-ups); the lack of trust; the zebra-baiting: These are the ticks that need to be quelled if this team has any chance at coalescing.
But what I worry about more – more than the bruises and aches and pains and torturous tolls – is the psychological effects of a fact that many of us had already accepted long before the Garden lights came to verify it: PG done pilfered the belt.
|Beno Udrih, PG
38 MIN | 8-15 FG | 0-0 FT | 8 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 19 PTS | -1
His early commitment to fighting over high screens helped anchor the defense early, while his steady quarterbacking — peppered by some impossible circus shit heroics — was refreshingly free of turnovers. Next to Earl, Beno’s buckets came at the biggest moments down the stretch. But the minutes would catch up to him, while George Hill – fully used to grinding starter’s minutes – pounded poor Beno into bonemeal. Sensational effort, questionable conditioning.
|Iman Shumpert, SG
36 MIN | 1-6 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 5 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | +6
How you know he loves being a Knick: checking PG, flying in from help-side to snag a post entry pass, moving and communicating with purpose at both ends. There remains a palpable tension between him and Melo, with the former seeming unwilling to feed the beast when it barked. Boarded admirably, and gave Paul George all he could handle. That final call was galloping horseshit – no question about it. That it drowned out an otherwise mutedly heroic effort was perhaps the saddest part of all.
|Metta World Peace, SF
16 MIN | 1-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -12
We scoff at the shitty shot selection, and rightly so – far too many possessions go to die in Metta’s hands. But the bully-in-the fray mentality; the refusal to back away from the breach; the passion; the intensity: These things matter. Or would mater more to a winning team, anyway.
|Pablo Prigioni, PG
15 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 2 PTS | -5
Looked hesitant and occasionally sloppy – like a 36-year-old professional basketballer on the business end of a back-to-back. We’re left wondering whether Woody should’ve pulled the Prigs trigger down the stretch, why with Beno sucking on fumes and resorting to aimless reaches on D. But Beno’s play proved that two-point lineups might not — and should not — be buried quite yet.
|Tim Hardaway Jr., SG
4 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -1
There’ve been strands of the plague with more of a conscience.
|J.R. Smith, SG
38 MIN | 8-19 FG | 1-1 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 21 PTS | -11
When Earl plays with the effortless determinism he displayed on that first drive – a gorgeous foray for two that briefly reminded us all of what this basketball Baryshnikov is capable of – shit comes up Milhouse. It’s when he’s dabbling in the dark arts (settling for long contested jumpers, gambling not once, not twice, but thrice on Indy’s pre-bailout possession, leaving George Hill wide open from deep) that our collective patience is put through the cheese grater. Still, it’s clear that the physical rust has all but flaked away. The brain rot? Jury’s still out.
Three Things We Saw
- Fuck it, I don’t care: The officiating was a sick joke. There were a number of times when Joey Crawford (who couldn’t read an eye chart if it was hanging on his bathroom mirror, by the way) was forced to call egregious make-ups just to cover the failure tracks left by his inferiors. (Also: Joey Crawford oversees other referees. Chew on that for a second.) You can argue that whining and carrying on are not – and ought not – be rewarded. You can try and justify the 36-17 free throw disparity by positing that the Pacers “know how to use their hands” while the Knicks “reach.” You can chalk up all this shady shit to hap and circumstance or karma or whatever you want. I think the anti-Knicks bias is a real thing. I think it’s real because they – like us, at times – loathe what Knicks basketball has become: the overpaid “prima donnas”, the year’s salary’s seats, the shitty owner, the angry fans, the overrated superstar. All of it. They’re basketball people. They understand the narratives. But they’re also human, and as such are susceptible to the draw of shaping said narratives according to their own biases. It’s not just that the calls were terrible in total; they were terrible in microcosm, in context, in fact. Does Melo get PG’s three throws? Of fucking course he doesn’t.
I’m not going to sit here and pretend like none of this shit ever happens to other teams. Of course it does. Just not when they play us.
- That the Bockers out-boarded the Pacers 52-49; that they outscored them by four in the paint; that they never backed down even when we’d have forgiven them; that they pushed past the criminal whistles and artificial swings in momentum; that they really, truly, noticeably cared: These things ought not be lost.
- Call me crazy, but if this sour, sickening taste in my mouth boasts a single flavor note, it’s this: Maybe we were kinda sorta maybe kinda built to play this kind of team. Like, in the Playoffs. Think about it: We went to war with a 6’9” “center,” a saloon door power forward, and a point guard who would’ve sucked on a gas pump in the last 10 minutes of play if you told him it had oxygen in it. And we banged with these guys. Out-boarded them. Out-hustled them at times. Took every punch we could until the zebras stampeded us. I have no idea where this team will be in four months, but I do know this: If we can get healthy, get smart, and hone the hints of rotational harmony we saw tonight, I don’t see why we can’t give any of the burlier teams in the East – the Pacers and Bulls in particular – a run for their money.