‘Ricks 114, Knicks 111
|Carmelo Anthony, SF 41 MIN | 7-16 FG | 7-8 FT | 6 REB | 4 AST | 23 PTS | +3
Twenty-four hours after grinding the Hornets into bug paste and eating it raw, Melo looked like he was lugging around an early Thanksgiving beaver dinner – at least in the early going. (Do people eat beaver on Thanksgiving, or is that just my family?)To his credit, the first half clangs and quickly summoned double-teams were shrugged off honorably, as our hero routinely zipped out to open shooters, including one sublime lob from the corner for a Chandler rim-rocker early on.
Despite a few huge run-staving hits and one would-be All-Time ridonkulous 180 over-head bank that wound up being called a charge (I clenched so violently I farted when this happened), Melo never struck a real rhythm – a testament no doubt to Rick Carlisle mixing and matching straight-up guards (Shawn Marion) and speedy double teams. As was the case with many a fellow wing defender, Melo got caught napping on a couple of perimeter switches. Matters certainly weren’t helped by Anthony’s early foul woes – four of his six came on the offensive end (editor’s note: that’s really incredible) – which had him on the Gatorade dole longer than we could afford. Still, dude scrapped and yelled to the bitter, pull-up-jumper-when-he-had-the-baseline-open end. So long as the rest of the squad takes that never-say-die mantra as their keystone cue, Melo’s bourgeoning leadership should pay some huge dividends going forward. Notice how I didn’t say a single word about that left wrist.
|Ronnie Brewer, SF 22 MIN | 1-3 FG | 1-2 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 4 PTS | -2
If threes from the left corner were a drug, Ronnie Brewer would be Keith Richards circa any Rolling Stones album ever. Sadly, said make would end up being just one of three shots attempted by Brewer the entire night. Even on D, ‘Brew seemed a step or six slower than usual. We’ll just assume it was a little bit of the ol’ knee-swellin’ that kept Woodson from dispatching Ronnie for heavy detail, but if this is going to be the M.O. for the foreseeable future — and knowing how fickle and unpredictable knee injuries can be, that’s a distinct possibility — getting Shump back into the fold suddenly shifts from simple luxury to borderline necessity.
|Tyson Chandler, C 39 MIN | 8-9 FG | 5-7 FT | 13 REB | 1 AST | 21 PTS | +2
I don’t know if “hand flu” is a real thing or not, but if it is, Chandler’s paws were puking up fingerbones in the first half – just seemed like every other pass, bullet or caressed, careened helplessly off the dude’s digits. On the defensive end, Tyson wasn’t near as quick on the helping draw as we’ve been accustomed to seeing, resulting in some pretty ticky-tack fouls which, as with Melo, meant impromptu trips to the pine.
But, true to form, our bearded buoy brought the full monty to bare in the second half, crushing home not one, not two, not three, but FOUR huge And-1s, snatching key boards during the ‘Bockers’ fourth quarter flurry, and generally reminding everyone to SHUT THE $%#@ UP I GOT THIS. I believe him.
|Jason Kidd, PG 36 MIN | 5-8 FG | 2-2 FT | 6 REB | 5 AST | 17 PTS | +12
Many wondered whether JKidd’s return to Dallas – where he was as instrumental as just about anyone for helping hoist the city’s pinnacle basketball banner – would turn devolve into a torrent of empty Bud bottles, belt buckle shards, and spent shotgun shells. Instead, the crowd cooed at Jason’s call – a gesture that surely helped spark his fantastic first half start (a trio of threes, four steals, and overall sagery). Throughout the tilt Kidd was there with the perfectly-timed three ninja swipe, while his season high 17 were at virtually every stage crucial to keeping pace.
It’s been said many times by many people smarter smarter than me, but holy shit does this guy know how to ball. Any career coot with semi functioning legs and arms can learn to camp out and hit the occasional J — hell, even guys never known for their spot-up shooting can be trained to do this. But Kidd’s gone well beyond that, adding to his crafty old man arsenal a pump fake that would fool Chuck Norris, and a pair of hands so goddam quick he could steal Jesus Ferguson’s chip stack wholly unnoticed.
|Raymond Felton, PG 39 MIN | 8-17 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 11 AST | 18 PTS | 0
Who the hell knows how long this redemption song will last, but I for one am all-in on another 72-plus bars. On a night when the Knicks were settling a bit too much for the hinterland hoists, Ray-J was taking what the Mavs – like so many other teams to date – were giving, hitting some open looks and seizing the lane when necessary. He got lost a couple times on the defensive perimeter, but for the most part managed to keep his match – Darren Collison, who according to Spero Dedes can not only “get to the rim at will” (that’s funny and also literally impossible because everyone knows Jack Taylor’s the only dude who can do that), but was a “star” at UCLA – largely in check.
Whatever comes of Friday’s Houston hoedown, let it be known that Felton has far exceeded the expectations of most – including yours truly. From the controlled shot selection to the steadfast perimeter D to the almost telepathic bond with the hard-rolling Tyson, Felton has thus far been the best kind of redemptive tale. Now we just need him to turn Jeremy Lin into a flesh quilt for our book to be rendered a complete waste of time.
|Rasheed Wallace, PF 18 MIN | 4-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 11 PTS | -2
The shot selection still needs to be dialed back a few notches, but Sheed’s purposeful board crashing and prescient interior D are eons beyond what we could’ve expected at this point. And y’all are lying if you didn’t get a stiffy watching Patches and INJ-sanity duel it out from deep in the second stanza. But nothing tops the piercing echoes of “Ball Don’t Lie!” ringing tried and true with foe on stripe… while Sheed’s ass was on the bench.
|Steve Novak, SF 13 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 3 PTS | -9
A few more games of this, Novak’s gonna end up like Marty McFly if George and Loraine hadn’t swapped spit on the dance floor – erased from existence completely. Steve’s quickly gone from unfortunate hindrance to disastrous liability on the defensive end, although I’m beginning to think that the only reason we were willing to let that whole “defense” thing slide last year was that he, you know, hit shots. It’s obviously far too early to signal the stage hook for Steve, and I for one am pretty confident that a grip of locked-in outings will have a much greater effect confidence-wise than it would for most any other player. But while Novakaine’s woes persist, forgive us for having a reaction 180-degree apart from the euphoria that seemed to couple every one of Novak’s wind-ups a year ago – namely small chunks of vomit surging to the top of the throat.
|J.R. Smith, SG 32 MIN | 5-13 FG | 3-3 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 14 PTS | -19
For all his recent marked improvements – in shot selection, playmaking, defense, and overall demeanor – J.R. still struggles at times to provide what the Knicks need offensively at any given time. To wit: When the offense looked like death warmed over in the first half, J.R.’s takes to the tin provided a much needed spark. But instead of picking his spots, Earl approached the second half in all the wrong ways – chucking from nowhere, dribbling into flailing limbs, and generally losing the cool that’s defined his noteworthy early season leap. With 48 hours until the tilt in Houston, J.R. should have enough time to clear his head. While he walks to Houston.
Five Things We Saw
- Hopes were high that out-rebounding the Hornets — a team that starts Robin Lopez at center — would mean a change of fortune for the Knicks on that front. But pitted against literally one of the worst boarding teams in the league, the Knicks reverted back to bad box-out and ill-timed jumps en route to a 42-37 deficit, including 11-5 on the offensive glass. For a team with this much size, length, and decades-honed savvy, you’d expect ‘bounding to be pretty far down the totem pole of problems. Perhaps Woodson can re-double his efforts on this front, and bring to bear the same sense of urgency that’s helped him drill a defense-first ethos into his squadron’s skulls.
- The Mavericks hit on 13 of their 29 three point attempts — a clip we could’ve seen coming after their early hot start in the Garden a few weeks back. Mayo, Carter, and Crowder in particularly just torched us, banging home near unobstructed looks in waves. Regardless of proficiency, it always seems to hurt a bit more when you get beat at your own game.
- As friend of the blog Jared Dubin (@JADubin5, follow him) aptly noted early on, the Knicks tried their hand at a 2-3 match-up zone — something I didn’t notice because I was too busy tweeting stupid things and yelling at my animals for clawing eachother’s faces. It didn’t take long for OJ Mayo and company to chew that gameplan up and fart it out, however, as the Knick back court was often left scrambling on the occasional high screen. So yeah, let’s hope Woody leaves that one tucked inside the Denny’s menu later tonight.
- Clyde’s word of the day: dener: de·ner, verb: Discourage (someone) from doing something, typically by instilling doubt or fear of the consequences. Example: “I’m going to dener you from counting that can of Ocean Spray cranberry sauce as your Thanksgiving contribution, Mom.”
- So, both of our losses have come on the tail end of a back-to-back. That in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But it does raise questions about the delicately aged nature of our troops, and how Woody will manage to balance in-game units against the demands wrought by the always brutal NBA slate. For all the real time savvy and indispensable acumen our beloved vets bring to the table, they’ve also played thousands of games, are really, really old, and simply cannot be expected to bring it at 2002 levels on a nightly basis. That being said, this has still been a shockingly feel good, out-of-nowhere surprising start, one that — even at 8-2 — affords us the luxury of some premature hand-wringing with respect to long term strategy. Getting Shumpert and Stat back will only help in this respect, questions of roster fit aside. We’ll bounce back from this one, no doubt, and the fight that this team puts up can only be a good thing. But considering the style of play to which we’re latching ourselves, coupled with the agents we’ve tasked to execute it, it’s only fair to wonder whether the season’s rigor won’t eventually start taking a greater toll.
- Happy Thanksgiving, y’all. Shake it off, stuff your faces, hug loved ones (yes, even your Republican uncles — I have nine of them), and remind yourselves with equal parts joy and reflection what makes this life truly worth living. (Big candied yams shout-out to Bob for the inspiration.)
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.