Quick Reaction: Knicks 99, Jazz 88
|Amare Stoudemire, PF 0 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | +0
As my friend and colleague Bob Silverman so eloquently put: “No matter what our job is in life, whether its hoops or data processing, when confronted with death, let alone the death of a brother or a father or a spouse, all of our struggles seem trivial by comparison. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Amar’e, a man who, no matter what criticisms we may or may not have of his play, always gives 100% and seems a genuinely caring, decent individual.”
|Jared Jeffries, PF 34 MIN | 3-9 FG | 7-10 FT | 8 REB | 1 AST | 13 PTS | +5
Tragedy tasked Jeffries with a starting spot role few, if any, were quite prepared for. In what became one of the gutsier Knick performances I can remember watching, Jeffries shunned the obvious pain of a screaming calf, terrorizing the Jazz interior and throwing his body around like a sack of hops. What won’t show up in the box score? The four charges Jeffries tallied — it would’ve been seven or eight, had it not been for the mole-sighted Dick Bavetta. JJ hasn’t looked this confident since his days in Bloomington, a development that couldn’t have been better timed, given the Knicks’ brittleness of late.
|Carmelo Anthony, SF 6 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 2 PTS | +7
I’m still not entirely convinced Balkman didn’t tell Melo before the game that all the key rotation players were going to fake injuries in order to put Lin through a real meatgrinder of a debut. In all seriousness, let’s hope that the groin strain Melo sustained mere minutes into the contest isn’t anything long-term or lingering. Unless, you know, you take pleasure in his misery or something.
|Tyson Chandler, C 22 MIN | 3-5 FG | 4-8 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 10 PTS | +18
Tyson Chandler did more damage in 22 minutes than any episode of Whitney ever could. After getting into foul trouble early, Chandler played in the second half like he hadn’t eaten someone’s face in months. More importantly, he seems totally tickled by the prospect of a point guard able to keep his head up and his wits about him — who can probe the paint and toss up the fattest clay pigeons possible. On a couple of occasions, Tyson actually looked surprised to find the ball put — impossibly, it appeared to him — exactly where it should be. Somewhere off in the distance, you can heard the sound of a pit bull snapping off a steel leash.
|Landry Fields, G 43 MIN | 3-7 FG | 0-2 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 6 PTS | +14
By now everyone’s heard the story of how Lin, booted out of his brother’s already-packed apartment, was forced to crash on Landry’s couch the night before Saturday’s eruption. Suffice it to say Fields — like everyone else, but baring perhaps a few more grins — is pretty stoked to finally be playing opposite a guard able to push the tempo and make good, quick decisions in transition, where Fields himself is most effective.
|Jeremy Lin, PG 45 MIN | 10-17 FG | 7-9 FT | 2 REB | 8 AST | 28 PTS | +12
“Hi there, Jeremy. God here. Hey, just wanted to give you a quick heads up. So tonight – you know, your first ever NBA start – well, you’re going to spend most of it playing alongside Landry Fields, Jared Jeffries, Jerome Jordan, and Bill Walker. And CJ Watson and Devin Harris are going to do everything in their power to pull your pants down on live television. Also, after the game, Mike D’Antoni is going to refer to himself as “riding you like Secretariat.” You went to Harvard, right Jeremy? You like… stuff that’s difficult. Well, this is going to be quite difficult. But well worth it. Trust me”
At this point, if Jeremy Lin turned wine into bread and walked on fish, I wouldn’t be surprised. If Barack Obama named him Secretary of the Linterior — a completely new cabinet position wherein he’d just be paid to show up and smile? That wouldn’t surprise me. If next week he eloped with Tina Cervasio? That wouldn’t surprise me either. Whether he “crashes and burns,” “comes back down to earth,” or “regresses to the mean” — all common mantras from Twitterati haters of late — is, at this point, almost irrelevant. The kid has something special. But unlike the other out-of-nowhere long-shot professional athlete who tips his hat God’s way at ever opportunity, this one, for all his faults, appears to at least look like a positional prototype.
|Steve Novak, SF 17 MIN | 7-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 19 PTS | -4
At one point during tonight’s game, Steve Novak was averaging 104 points per 48 minutes. Perhaps no Knick benefited more noticeably or more predictably than our in-house shooting savant, who had far more clean looks than he probably deserved.
|Toney Douglas, PG 3 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | -1
Wife: “Is he on drugs or something?”
|Jerome Jordan, C 8 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -7
I remember when I was a high school freshman and the seniors on the Varsity squad made me practice one day with big foam fingers on my hands and I just ended up looking like a complete meatstick running around out th…. What’s that? Those are Jerome Jordan’s actual hands?
|Bill Walker, SG 30 MIN | 4-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 11 PTS | -1
One of the unintended consequences of a severely depleted Knick roster: Poor Bill Walker trying most of the night to prevent two rhinoceros-sized human beings from snapping the rim off the backboard. Walker spent the better part of the first half — and the entirety of his fourth quarter floor time — guarding either Paul Milsap, Al Jefferson, or Derrick Favors. Which, for me at least, totally excuses what is fast becoming a nightly treat: The “Bill Walker Twofer.” Tonight’s installment? Walker hitting a straight-away three, before running back just far enough to stand completely still while Devin Harris ran by him like a roadside corn shack.
|Iman Shumpert, G 32 MIN | 3-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 6 REB | 6 AST | 8 PTS | +12
Dearth of points and sometimes questionable shooting aside, Shumpert looks noticeably more comfortable manning wing off a true, penetrating point guard — to say nothing of coming off the bench, where he can better allocate his undeniable energy. Indeed, on defense and on glass, Shumpert’s impact was as consistent as it was timely. For a guy who probably can’t help but view the suddenly mushrooming Lin-fawning through a familiar prism, we all know this whole batshit crazy development is the best thing that could’ve ever happened to Shump.
Five Things We Saw
- According to reports (Twitter, basically), before the game, one mantra more than any other bore the underscore on the locker room white board: SPACING. It’s the one thing that’s been totally lacking from the Knicks offense this season, and arguably since last February’s axis-tilting trade. But Mike D’Antoni knows a point guard when he sees one – as many have pointed out, part of the reason he hadn’t SEEN Lin yet was because of lockout-limited practice time – and as such just needed the right player to plug back into a system he’s been chomping at the bit to kick-start. Tonight, Lin’s presence finally gave guys ike Bill Walker and Steve Novak the airspace they needed to do what they do well – and arguably the only thing they do well.
- Jerome Jordan, Jared Jeffries, Jeremy Lin, Landry Fields, and Bill Walker was an actual basketball lineup tonight. Like, at the same time. Jordan’s minutes were certainly spot, but the fact that the Knicks could orchestrate this efficient a performance (minus the 17 turnovers) with these kinds of units just goes to show how completely unpredictable a lock-out shortened season can be.
- It took Mike Breen less than 15 seconds to make the first on-air “Harvard-Stanford back court” joke, and it was totally lame.
- Holy shit did the Jazz look hungover. When you think about it, it was a disaster waiting to happen: Eek out a hard-fought win at home over the Lakers, before immediately hopping a flight to the most night life-driven city on the planet, just in time to watch that city’s team play in the Super Bowl. Seriously, I could smell the Petron through my television screen.
- Sometimes sports don’t make sense, until they do. Whatever happens from here on out, we can all take solace in having witnessed one of the most unlikely, outer space-born phenomena in Knick history. Right now — and for every second we can milk it as such — the Knicks are fun again.
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.