|Carmelo Anthony, SF 30 MIN | 7-14 FG | 5-5 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 20 PTS | +2
We’ll get to this more in the bullet points, but aside from facing Blake Griffin and/or Kevin Love down the road, going up against Zach Randolph and Marc “Don’t Call Me Pau” Gasol was/is the worst possible matchup for the Knicks’ ongoing experiment with self-minimization.
There were really only two potential outcomes to this mismatch: either Melo started cooking the world’s largest vat of unimaginably delicious, subtly layered, simmering-for-hours soup and Memphis was forced to shrinky-dink itself in response, or the two gentlemen wearing what one can only assume is size 48 or greater shorts pounded on our small power forward like twin human Norpro © meat-tenderizing hammer whilst Melo accrued a boatload of fouls, a tech, and steam poured out of his ears like a character in an old Tex Avery cartoon/he filled with an unquenchable rage and frustration at a patently unjust universe (which in Melo’s case, tends to manifest itself in the form of a wry grin).
Naturally, it was the latter. We’ll return to the putrid, game-changing, messy, clusterfuck-fest of a quarter in greater detail later, but for the most part, I thought Melo did yeoman work even though Son of Wood basically said, “There’s a 1000-pound Ursus Arctos Horribilis I’d like you to go toe-to-toe with for the next 48-odd minutes. I don’t have any weapons, but here’s a wheel of semi-soft cheese. See if you can distract it with that. I’ve a vat of Bactine at the ready when the unholy beast repeatedly rakes you across the face. Sure, the ointment’s gonna sting but, you know, infections and whatnot. Better safe than sorry!”
Since the whole team basically went all Chinua Achebe in response to the so-called refereeing, I won’t chastise Melo too sternly for that, but he was certainly one of the leaders of the hissy-fit crew. This recap’s going to be dotted with phrases like, “Yeah, that was bad but…” and Melo’s the prime example.
|Ronnie Brewer, SF 21 MIN | 3-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 6 PTS | -9
Brewer had some swell moments of long-limbed passing lane disruptivity (What? That’s not a word, Word Program? Screw you. It is now), did a reasonable job when matched up with Rudy Gay and converted a couple of nifty cuts to the rim, but for the most part, his effect on the final score was rather limited.
|Tyson Chandler, C 28 MIN | 3-4 FG | 1-2 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 7 PTS | -9
Okay Tyson, this isn’t even remotely cute anymore. If the Knicks were to have any chance of surviving this grabby, yappy, mud-wrestling match of a ballgame, Chandler had to reverse the ‘Bockers early-season acute case of Crystallophobia and take one of the two Grizzly Beef Jerky Towers out of the game. Naturally, he did neither, finishing the first half with a grand total of 0 rebounds (That’s not a type-o. Zero. Nil. Nada. Zilch. Bupkis) and let whichever brute Melo wasn’t grappling with go bonkers. Mainly Z-Bo. Who is really good, but still. He was also sent to the pine with a fourth foul, a case of Turtle Wax and a home version of our game early in the third. Even though he started to come around late in the game, I’m beginning to worry (then again, worrying is more or less my default setting) that the knee is still bothering him and/or there’s another yet-unnamed malady that’s keeping our Tyson from being his usual, robotically-consistent, thousand-limbed, world-destroying self.
|Jason Kidd, PG 29 MIN | 2-3 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 4 AST | 8 PTS | -8
Even if all his mates seemed to be infected with the rage virus, wily ol’ Jason Kidd managed to keep his head when all those around him were losing theirs. The pump-fake-to-sucker-a-defender-into-a-silly-foul-beyond-the-three-point-line was giggle inducing. And the outlet pass to a cherry-picking Melo in the fourth was pretty as all get out. It’s a team-wide trend, but for Kidd in particular, his rotations on defense and ability to close out on three-point shooters are often lacking in the first half only to improve dramatically by the final stanza. I’m sure there’s an “It takes longer to get going as you get older/they need some hoops Prilosec” joke to be made, but I too am getting on in years too, so eff it. Make your own damn jokes. Do I have to do everything around here? Goddamn lazy, spoiled. no-good, rotten kids today…
|Raymond Felton, PG 36 MIN | 8-16 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 5 AST | 18 PTS | -21
There’s an interesting little conundrum that the team has faced the last three games. Opponents have realized that one way to combat the Knicks’ multiple pick offense (especially when it originates with a high pick and roll) is to allow Ray-Ray all the freedom to operate that his lipid-clogged heart desires, assuming that his uber-confidence won’t prevent him from jacking up 16-20 odd shots. Felton came into this game shooting below 50% in the painted area but tonight, he managed to bank all four of his floaters/runners/layups and was routinely able to navigate past a solid perimeter defender in Mike Conley. That’s a good thing, but given his history, probably isn’t sustainable. Long term, I don’t think we want ISO Fatso (Sorry Jim, I done stole your zinger) to be the New Yorkers’ 2nd/3rd option. And for all the gifts he’s bestowed on the offensive end, any point guard worth his salt has been able to do equal damage when hoisting Raymond with his own pick and roll petard, especially since the guy (Tyson, your ears should be burning) who were oh-so-used to eradicating errors like these just hasn’t been up to snuff. Parker and Conley are both really effective slashers, but then again, it’s hard to find a team in the Association that doesn’t have a plus floor general these days. Do better from now on, ‘kay Ray?
|Kurt Thomas, PF 9 MIN | 1-3 FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 3 PTS | -3
I was wondering when Crazy Eyes was gonna spin. Granted, he’d have remained firmly glued to his rocking chair were it not for the opulent bouquet of fouls n’ techs that Ed Malloy was flinging around like an acid-drenched, deranged flower child/hippie, but Kurt got the hamster in a wheel that powers his sturdy frame up and running and gave the Knicks some solid minutes, especially when matched up with Z-Bo. Of course, if we continue to see yeoman efforts from…
|Rasheed Wallace, PF 24 MIN | 6-10 FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 13 PTS | -15
…’Sheed, Kurt’s appearances may be limited to blowouts. Oh hi Sheed! It’s really comforting to see that absolutely nothing has changed since you were plying your trade in Portland, Detroit and other metropolitan ports of call. As was maddeningly the case when Unca Sheed was in his prime, he’s a bajillion times more effective when he’s unveiling his hoarder-sized collection of low-post moves than when he’s flinging up three pointers like the ball was slathered with a thick layer of an extremely contagious strain of the Ebola Virus. Hs grab bag of feints, duck-unders and step backs aren’t nearly as fluid as they were in days of yore — like a flipping through a flip book with a page or two that’s out of alignment — but in the second quarter of tonight’s tilt, he was clearly the Knicks’ most effective offensive weapon. Well played, Mayans. And of course, he lost his technical foul virginity due to his infamous, glorious, bug-eyed, hopping, pearl-clutching, self-righteous indignation. Naturally the Grizz gorted the freebie because…(wait for it)…BALL DON’T LIE. Oh that felt good. Been wayyyyy too long. Anybody got a smoke? I’m sleepy. G’night dear. Love you [kiss].
|Steve Novak, SF 18 MIN | 1-3 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 5 PTS | +6
Steve’s rushing his shot. Steve needs to go back to last year’s form, even if it means the defender closing out gets a half-step closer. This is not good. I do not like this one jot. No Sirree, Bob.
|Chris Copeland, SF 1 MIN | 0-2 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 1 PTS | +4
|Pablo Prigioni, PG 7 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 2 PTS | +7
So evidently the whole, “Prig rolls with the second unit and no matter how well he’s playing, doesn’t suit up after halftime” thing has been hard-wired into Woody’s rotation, for better or worse. Fun Fact: If you weren’t watching the ESPN broadcast, you missed Breen once again referring to Prig/his defense as an “irritant”. I’m beginning to wonder if there’s something more here. Like Prig is stealing snacks from the Media table or hiding Breen’s stat sheets or some other bit of practical joke-type tricker or for whatever reason, Breen just doesn’t plumb like the guy.
|James White, SG 1 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 3 PTS | +4
|J.R. Smith, SG 34 MIN | 4-10 FG | 1-2 FT | 7 REB | 3 AST | 9 PTS | -8
Though his final line doesn’t look particularly awful, last night was without a doubt J.R.’s worst outing of the brief season. Even if you disregard the skirmish that nearly got him tossed in the second quarter, his shot selection was subpar and his ability to contain the opposing team’s best wing was lacking. Speaking of the tussle, here’s what Earl said after the game: “”I dunno what he couldve been mad at. Some small guys got little man complex. Maybe he’s gotta work that out.” He also tweeted this. Oh good. I’m glad his candor/lack of awareness is still up to early-season form. C’mon, J.R. The Grizz are, in fact, legitimately tough. And you clocked him first, even if it was inadvertent. Just fess up. We’ll still think you’re cool (and a legit tough guy).
Five Things We Saw
- Let me get this out of the way so we can discuss more pertinent elements of last night’s action. Ready?
BY ALL THAT IS HOLY AND GOOD, WHAT THE FRACK WAS UP WITH THE REFS TONIGHT? WHO THE HELL WAS WORKING THE GAME ANYWAY, FRANK DREBIN? I MEAN, COME ON! I HALF-EXPECTED TO SEE THE QUEEN OF ENGLAND SITTING COURTSIDE AND REGGIE JACKSON IN A STUPOR TRY TO ASSASSINATE HER WHILST UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF A POST-HYPNOTIC SUGGESTION. WE WUZ ROBBBBBBBBBBBBEDDDDDDD!
Whew! I feel much better. Thanks you guys. Now, Here’s the thing. This was an incredibly physical game and in the first half, the refs did an absolutely execrable job of nipping it in the bud, leading to the near-ejection of Smith and whomever the heck it was he was tusslin’ with. As is always the case, like all bad officials do, they suddenly reversed course in the third quarter as if to somehow “make up” for the thuggery that they’d let go unpunished for the first 24 minutes and/or to stop the rampant kvetching that both teams were equally guilty of engaging in, starting tweeting away at each and every single ticky-tack transgression. Here’s the thing. This was an incredibly physical, hard fought, playoff-intense game and in the first half, the refs did an absolutely execrable job of nipping the hand-to-hand combat in the bud, leading to the near-ejection of Smith and whomever the heck it was he was tusslin’ with. As is always the case, like all bad officials do, they suddenly reversed course in the third quarter as if to somehow “make up” for the thuggery that they’d let go unpunished for the first 24 minutes and/or to stop the rampant kvetching that both teams were equally guilty of engaging in, starting tweeting away at each and every single ticky-tack transgression and doling out techs like Oprah Winfrey does cars. The Knicks certainly got hosed on a few calls but that’s going to happen. They abso-smurfl-ly cannot allow themselves to completely unravel the way they did. It’s not so much the technical fouls (heck, a tech CAN be a good thing from time to time. Once they’ve whistled you, the refs WILL make up for it at the other end), it’s that the offense skidded to a complete and total halt and the defense came completely unglued. That’s why a single-digit deficit ballooned to 21 in a matter of minutes, not the stoopid refs.
Now, in the twelve-step plan towards becoming a champeenship team, a big one is learning how to maintain composure and not go all to pot when one is getting royally boned by the arbiters. It’s gonna happen again (cough, Boston, cough, cough, Miami, cough). For now, let’s write this off as a “teachable moment”, as the POTUS is wont to say.
- So, we’re not going 82-0. Boo. I guess that was too much to ask for. As a paean to the great Hubie Brown (even though, as he ages, he’s approaching a weird, genderless place where he looks like a cross between Quentin Crisp, a pterodactyl, and Julius Caesar [h/t to our own Kevin McElroy for the Caesar/pterodactyl elements of that friendly jibe]) and his call of last night’s action, this bullet point will be delivered in the 2nd person in one insanely long run-on sentence. David Foster Wallace once managed to construct a 34-line sentence in one of his novels that is, in fact, grammatically correct. I don’t think I’m up to his lofty standards as a writer yet, but I’m gunnin’ for that No. 1 spot, so here goes…
Okay, you’re the New York Knickerbockers and you’re facing a really tough matchup in the Memphis Grizzles who are as physically a team as you’ll find and you’re on the 2nd night of a back-to-back and the third game in four nights on the road so getting a win would have required everything going right, and you didn’t convert your three point attempts that you had during your six game winning streak and you turned the ball over a season-high 13 times in only 86 possessions which is to be expected because the Memphis Grizzlies are OUTSTANDING at forcing turnovers and converting that into easy fast break points at the other end, extending a lead that is very hard to come back against because, again, they dictate the tempo of the ball game to their advantage and make you take the shots that they want you to take instead of the shots that you want to take like you did against the San Antonio Spurs when you also fell behind by getting away from the things that you do well like finding the open man beyond the three point arc, hitting those shots at an incredible rate instead of a season low 23.6% like you did tonight, rotating and moving without the ball and being patient in the half court sets and at least being competitive on the offensive and defensive glass instead of allowing Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, both of whom are dominant rebounders in this league, to impose their will and get multiple second shot opportunities which really was the difference between winning and losing to the Memphis Grizzlies, who are definitely a contender for the Western Conference Crown.
Thank you, thank you. You’re too kind.
- I know that folks may be getting a little fidgety regarding Melo at the four, but I wouldn’t panic after one game. Nor do I think it would have made a difference if he’d covered Randolph instead of Gasol — both of them went all DefCon 1 no matter which Knicks was covering them anyway. I mean, outside of the Memphis Beef Bros., Kevin Love, Blake Griffin and the other Gasol are really they only power forwards who pose any kind of threat and all of the above trio fortunately situate their place of employment on the west coast of the United States. That said. i do fret about the physical toll it may be taking, but I think (assuming that Melo continues the practice of driving the lane whenever possible) that’s kind of inevitable, regardless of whether he’s at small forward or not. Worst-case scenario, STAT comes back hale and hearty in a month and Melo shifts position. But for now, it’d be a colossal mistake not to continue our small ball revo/evolution.
- It’s hard to be chipper about a loss (though any ‘Bocker-backer who wouldn’t be tickled at the thought of being 6-1 at this point before the season started really needs to look into buying Zoloft in bulk quantities), but I was really impressed with the way they put their heads down and managed to whittle the lead to eight with five minutes remaining. Last year’s (or any other year’s really) Knicks would undoubtedly have folded the tent, letting an oh-so-familiar crappy third quarter (played under the cloud of doom that Robert Randolph and the family band always portends) totally discombobulate them to the point where they were down by 30 at the absolute minimum. They didn’t. As was the case in San Antone, they showed grit and determination and every other sportswriting cliché for rugged persistence and put themselves in position to steal a win. This pleases me and whether or not you’ve been prescribed and are imbibing any number of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors in massive doses, should please you as well.
- Matt Moore over at CBS says it better and goes into greater detail here, but he and I are in 126.37% agreement: in a nutshell. the Knicks lost this game because they forgot themselves and tried to outbrawl the Brawlin’, Battlin’ Grizz. We won six in a row by out-executing other teams, by outsmarting them, not by mashing them into a pulp in until they tapped out like some glorified MMA grand guignol spectacle masquerading as a basketball game. Our cultural progenitors are the San Antonio Spurs over the last 16 years, not the Rileyball 90’s Knicks. Smart, cool, calm, collected — those are the words that should be scrawled all over team’s DNA. Hopefully, they’ll return to said state of grace versus the Nap City people by Sunday at noon. Oddly enough, I’m confident they will. Besides, yesterday was “Everybody blog about the Knicks Day” which was nice and all, but maybe after a loss they can leave this team alone to grow without the everyone poking and prodding at it. The rave reviews were swell, but after the umpteenth article, I kinda wanted to scream at everyone, “Git offa our lawn! It’s nice for the first time since Linsanity and now y’all are stepping all over it and tracking dirt into the house and messing it up!” But that’s obviously a good gripe to have. Onward and upward!