Quick Reaction: Knicks 85, Sixers 79
|Carmelo Anthony, SF 37 MIN | 9-24 FG | 8-8 FT | 9 REB | 5 AST | 27 PTS | +5
Does anyone else here think Melo watched way too many Charles Bronson movies growing up? Jay-zus! It was largely a tale of two quarters for our prodigal son, who got off to a promising start — hitting his first three shots — before quickly tailing off in the second quarter. He then erupted anew in the third, netting 14 points from pretty much everywhere within 23 feet. Hero Mode fully assumed, Melo forced the issue early and often in the fourth, committing two turnovers, a charge, and one flagrantly dumb foul in retaliation after an Andre Iguodola steal. Twenty-four shots and a handful of admittedly clutch free throws later, many are seriously beginning to wonder whether this team really even has an offense after the 36th minute… *actually sees that Melo grabbed nine boards and dished five dimes, gives up*
|Amare Stoudemire, PF 37 MIN | 8-14 FG | 4-7 FT | 10 REB | 0 AST | 20 PTS | -8
You’d be hard-pressed to script a more prototypical Stat game than this one. On offense, Stat was active, aggressive, and in control, connecting on deft turnarounds and mid-range pops and – most crucially – getting to the stripe. Even more encouraging, Amare’s ten boards marked the fourth time in five games he’s entered double digits. On that-thing-where-you-try-to-stop-the-other-team-from-scoring, Stat time and again fell asleep in the paint, failed to help on drives, and at one point passed up what would’ve been the easiest charge of his career by leaning back and letting Evan Turner bank in a 10-footer. It was quite humorous.
|Tyson Chandler, C 35 MIN | 0-1 FG | 3-4 FT | 13 REB | 0 AST | 3 PTS | +8
After his 22-point outburst against the Bobcats, it was understandable that Tyson would want to take a night off on O. Luckily, his 13 boards and omnipresent middle linebackering (I’m blaming all 40 of the Sixers’ paint points on Stat) proved he was still able to work from home, as it were — this despite being smacked in the face by Tony Battie, who apparently thought he was back fighting bears in the Roman Coliseum. Tyson also botched a would-be Shump alley-oop so hard off the back iron that the ball actually turned to powder.
|Landry Fields, G 35 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 4 PTS | -5
It seems like all of Landry’s games thus far have been painfully forgettable. Despite a well-rounded first half (4 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists), Fields played but sparingly in the second. He did, however, come up with a key steal off a Melo deflection at the apex of Philly’s late run. At this point, you just have to hope the slumping soph’s water treading leads slowly back to standing, and eventually to another run at the waves.
|Iman Shumpert, G 38 MIN | 5-15 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 3 AST | 10 PTS | -6
The bad news is Shumpert fell a little bit closer to earth in this one, struggling from deep, committing a couple costly turnovers, and playing like, well, a noob. Despite a reputation for a shoot-first-ask-questions-later mentality, if anything Shump was a little too passive at times, passing up open looks and deferring to Stat and Melo on the elbows. The good news is he seems to have found a mid-range sweet spot of sorts, having drilled a handful of 16-18 footers from the right wing early in the second half. His defense was equally as touch-and-go: The effort is clearly there, but it’s an effort that can border on the overzealous, as evidenced by a number of Jrue Holiday blow-bys.
|Toney Douglas, PG 17 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 5 PTS | +16
Baby steps. In the midst of probably the worst stretch of his career, Douglas managed to piece together a respectable – if wholly unspectacular – outing. Indeed, you have to think hitting his first three early in the second stanza felt about as good as one bucket can feel for a player as down-and-out as our beloved TD. A couple of head-scratching turnovers aside, Douglas was far less terrible than in previous outings, and somehow managed to finish with a team high +16. Which tells you as much about that statistic as you’ll ever need to know.
|Bill Walker, SG 17 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 3 PTS | +8
For the second consecutive game, Walker hit a timely three pointer to help stem the opposition’s tide – this one early in the fourth, and with a very large hand in his face. Not known as a glassophile (that’s Greek for “lover of glass,” y’all), our boy Billy also managed to snag four ‘bounds in his 17 minutes. But nothing compared to watching him try to guard Lou Williams at the top of the key. That was the best.
|Josh Harrellson, F 23 MIN | 5-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 13 PTS | +12
Jorts got some early burn in this one, and quickly made the most of it, scoring 10 points (including three roof-raising triples) in the first half alone. He’d connect on a third in the second, making it the first time since the Sacramento game that he’s found a consistent rhythm from deep. While he only managed one rebound, Jorts continued to impress on the defensive end, even managing to stifle Elton Brand late in the shot clock on a few second half possessions. Also, I’m hearing *reports that Spencer Hawes chose to sit out tonight’s game not because of some “back injury,” but because Jorts whooped his ass in Buck Hunter Pro at a Secaucus bar last night.
Five Things We Saw
- Holy Jorts our bench is thin! After a Lazarusian 16-point contortion against the hapless Pistons, Mike Bibby has logged a grand total of six minutes in the last two games. Steve Novak? His only eight minutes in the last five outings came against those same Pistons. Renaldo Balkman? Same story: 13 minutes in the last four games, all of them in Detroit. Jerome Jordan? Pffffffffft. Clearly the short bench strategy’s worked as a matter of coincidence during the Knicks’ four game win streak. But unless D’Antoni’s strategy is to somehow build a 10 game lead in the division, and then set our regulars for the final handful of games, I fail to see how limiting your options – particularly given the condensed nature of the season – can be an effective long-term strategy.
- I think it’s safe to say the Knicks would fair very poorly in a zombie apocalypse. Twice the Knicks spotted the Sixers a lead of 16 or more, and twice the Sixers nearly closed the gap completely. Once again, and despite playing a team on the tail end of a back-to-back-to-back, the Bockers managed to hold on almost in spite of themselves. The only difference now is they’ve managed to pull their Houdini act against opponents putrid and polished alike. Which will either intensify their already frightening false sense of security, or – by sheer virtue of pattern – temper it. Let’s hope it’s the latter.
- Consider this Part II of the previous point. The Knicks committed 21 turnovers tonight – 18 of them came from the starters. That’s Car 54, Where Are You? bad. That’s Domino’s pizza bad. Part of it has to do with the still-lacking offensive continuity, and the ball-stopping tendencies that are its wont. Part of it can be chalked up to Philly’s stifling D, which even after tonight should rank near the top in terms of defensive efficiency. Regardless, 21 turnovers is about 11 too many.
- As maddening as he can be, Carmelo Anthony possesses a truly lethal quiver of tricks. We know — and, more importantly, he knows — he can close shop and bleed wills at a moment’s notice. The trick is getting him to not try closing shop 10 minutes early, before all the dirty work’s done and the cranky customers are served.
- We all know it. We’re all thinking it. It needs to be said: Amar’e Stoudemire has to be more involved in the offense – early, often, late, and often. He may not possess Melo’s offensive arsenal, but his ability to take it to the tin and draw fouls are at least as advanced as his forward-mate, if not more so. Obviously a huge part of Stat’s effectiveness comes with having a reliable, pass-first point running the show, and neither TD nor Shumpert – sad to say – are there yet. But in crunch time, the Knicks need not be so afraid to give Stat some touches. What’s the worst that could happen? Actually, don’t answer that question.
…Aaaand with that, I’m done kvetching. This was a solid win on a number of levels. It’s on to Memphis tomorrow, where we’ll surely have our own mettle — and stamina — tested by a battered and angry Grizzlies squad, in a city where the river smells like a strange combination of meat and rotting meat.
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.