Knicks 90, Yazz 83

Here’s the lede I wrote prior to the game, when I was 100% certain the Knicks would lose:

They say there’s nothing more dangerous than a wounded animal.

Except when that animal is 39 and dehydrated, with a mange so gnarly he gets stuck for hours in thornbush thickets, two functioning limbs – the front right and rear left, let’s say, which makes it slink along the ground like some primitive protozoa whose only functions are to have sex with itself and turn granules of dirt into strands of bubonic plague – cataracts in both eyes, and a broken nose that never properly healed because the thing couldn’t see well enough to stake out fresh bathing water, meaning he can’t smell the pack of starving banshees bombing down the hill behind it, teeth newly sharpened on the last meal’s bones.

That animal isn’t dangerous.

I still think it’s a pretty good lede.

Anyway… A WIN!

I’ll be honest, I spent way too much time with Boston-Miami .gifs and fake Cormac McCarthy tweets (@netw3rk, of course) to take anything resembling good notes, so what follows is a bare-bones recounting of the…. bare sessentials.

The Bocker’s bounced demon from back – finally – with a 90-83 win over the poorly coached Utah Jazz. The victory keeps New York one game ahead of the Nets in the Atlantic and me from eating the rest of the ibuprofen.

The Bockers were without Amar’e Stoudemire (knee), Carmelo Anthony (knee), and Tyson Chandler (neck — busy preparing for Tyson Chandler bobblehead night on Wednesday). They’re all expected to conduct their own season-ending surgeries tomorrow.

“Led” by J.R. Smith’s 20 points, the Knicks managed to keep the much bigger, much stronger, much younger Jazz at arm’s length throughout, never surrendering a lead greater than eight and somehow outscoring them 34-22 in the paint, despite the fact that Utah employs half the leagues power forwards.

In just his eighth start of the season, Chris Copeland turned in a serviceable — if somewhat inefficient — outing, tossing in 14 varied points to go along with six rebounds and at least a dozen contusions from Paul Millsap’s flailing T-Rex arms.

Kurt Thomas played close to 30 minutes with a goddam bone spur in his foot, and provided more in the way of ancillary contributions than just about anyone – bone-crushing screens, timely jumpers, three blocks (seriously wut?), and an hour-long crowd troll job sources say was incredible.

Raymond Felton was spectacularly efficient, finishing with 19 points on 12 shots, four dimes, and three steals. We might eschew the whole pit bull name fetish, but damnit if it wasn’t apt this time. He also lose a jump ball to Earl Watson, who three minutes before had taken an elevator from his seat to the floor.

The Knicks started with a lineup of Felton, Prigioni, Marin, Shumpert, and Copeland, which incredibly is not a joke. The ultimate burn was limited, but the unit held down the fort well enough to allow the likes of J.R., Kurt, and Kidd room enough to orchestrate a getaway win.

Speaking of Martin, his nine points and nine boards managed to lend even more weight to the notion that his may become an indispensable role down the stretch. He’s still shooting free throws like he’s nodding off mid-attempt, but the vicious swat on (Mo Williams?) definitely helped set the defensive tone in the early going.

Not to take too too much away from our much-needed W, but holy hell are the Jazz a complete disaster – terrible spacing, no semblance of offensive identity, defensive breakdowns galore. They have some decent talent; it’s just being put together like a toddler would a 500-piece puzzle.

So now it’s back home, still hobbled but with a slight respite after a hard-fought, prideful win in what is a very, very tough place to grab one – particularly on the business end of a back to back.

Next up on the docket: The Orlando Magic, who are decidedly terrible. In the mean time, let’s hope Tyson’s neck rot doesn’t amount to anything serious; that Melo’s newly drained knee is sound enough to warrant some Wednesday night burn; and that salvaging what we could from what was otherwise a disastrous Westward trip can help spark something of a run.

With one month left and the East slate tightening, every game – and especially the ones at home against lottery-doomed teams – should be treated as tonight’s was treated: a must-win.

Holy hell I’m tired.

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Jim Cavan

Beyond his KnickerBlogger roots, Jim's work has appeared at, Grantland, The Classical, and the New York Times. He is currently working on a biography of Robert Silverman, entitled "Clownin' and Astoundin.'" Follow him on Twitter @JPCavan.

15 thoughts to “Knicks 90, Yazz 83”

  1. Great win. Suck it, rest of the East!

    It is hilarious comparing the Eastern Conference to the Western Conference. Denver has won twelve games in a row and yet they have not moved up a single spot in the Western Conference standings. The Knicks have lost 11 of their last five games (or something like that) and they are basically right where they were when they started (they might have dropped from a tie for #2 to a game behind in the #3 spot, but that’s it).

    Yay for geography!!

  2. They are good, yes, but they are also built to take full advantage of altitude. No team has a bigger home-road disparity.

  3. Happy stat from the last 3 games — JR with 54 field goal attempts but also 29 FTA. That FTR of 53.7 would basically be double his best FTR season. His shot is still not really falling, but he looks way better taking the ball to the hole. I didn’t see the Clips game (4 for 20??!?!) but assuming Tyson and Melo come back healthy, I still think this team can be dangerous when good/aggressive/limit 2 step backs per game JR shows up. Ironic that the stepback is what clinched that game last night.

    Meanwhile what was up with Shump playing only 17 minutes and Camby only 7? And what’s with Novak shooting 3 for his last 17 3Ps?

    And last stat – Felton is quietly putting together a very nice March even as the team is crashing and burning — 11 games, TS 57.5, 39% from 3, 15 points per 36. And I thought he played GREAT defense last night on Mo Williams, who is not very good, but that never stopped any opposing PGs earlier this season.

  4. I think many players take a good hard look at their game once they hit 27/28 yo. Lebron mentioned the key change he made after the loss to the Mavs was to rebalance his game, taking fewer jump shots and focusing more on post-ups/drives. JR should be able to take most opposing PGs off the dribble and there’s no reason this shouldn’t be a greater part of his game, especially when his shot isn’t falling. If anybody can get through to him, it’s Woodson and I only hope Woody is pushing him hard in this respect. If not, you really have to question Woody’s overall value since player motivation seems to be his forte.

    JR driving more is also a way to lower Melo’s usage and improve his overall productivity. Additionally, if Camby and Chandler are in the game, you have a good chance for an offensive rebound. I think a 4th quarter lineup of Felton/JR/Melo/Camby/Chandler could give a lot of teams trouble, not just defensively but on offense as well if our perimeter players attack the rim. Camby, however, can only play so many minutes and most of them will be him shoring up the second unit without Chandler on the floor. It’s a shame we didn’t push hard to sign Chris Anderson earlier.

  5. Whenever Novak wants join the rest of the team offensively by making any of the numerous wide open threes he’s missed on this trip that would be great. The fact is he is such a liability defensively and on the boards that if he misses those shots he becomes a huge net negative on the entire team. Watching him in the open court really is one of the most ridiculous things you can ever watch an NBA level player do.

  6. If you look at the EC standings right now, assuming we hang on to the 2 or the 3 seed, we could easily end up facing Chicago or Boston in the 1st round. So in a way, we want those 2 teams to get hot and move up to the 4 or 5 spot and have Brooklyn and/or Atlanta fall down to 6 or 7. It’s also a strong possibility that our first round opponent could be determined on the last day of the regular season, which would be crazy.

    Of course, we need to start winning games and solidify our Atlantic lead, how about figuring out how to beat the freakin’ Raptors for starters?

  7. JR must lead the NBA alltime in percentage of times isolated on the perimeter that he ends up taking a decidedly worse shot than the one he could have taken when he first got the ball. I’ve never seen anything like it, even the NY version of Jamal Crawford didn’t do that anywhere near as much.

  8. I’ve seen Denver in person twice this year. They are 9 solid guys deep; with mcgee, wilson chandler, miller and brewer off the bench. The only hole there is brewer’s shooting. That whole team plays d, except maybe gallo, and they seem to have no ego. They could care less who scores and they run all night. not a great 3 pt shooting team, but when they are hitting them, they are very very good.

  9. Also:

    Knicks PR: Jason Kidd bruised his hand. X-Rays were negative. Listed as possible for Wednesday.

    (Probable reality: Jason Kidd broke his hand. X-Rays were not taken. Amputation scheduled for three weeks from Thursday).

  10. More:

    Knicks PR: Tyson Chandler’s MRI revealed a small bulging disk in neck and he’ll be out one week.

    (Probable reality: Tyson Chandler’s self-examination revealed that he has a neck and it hurts when he swallows).

    And this:

    Knicks PR: MRI of Kurt Thomas’ foot revealed an acute stress reaction/ a chronic stress fracture in navicular bone. 2-4 weeks.

    (Probable Reality: MRI of Kurt Thomas revealed to the Knicks staff that his old man smell isn’t going away).

  11. Z-man:
    They are good, yes, but they are also built to take full advantage of altitude. No team has a bigger home-road disparity.

    What is the altitude in Oklahoma City? :-)

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