Recap: New York Knicks 97, Brooklyn Nets 95 (OT)

The Knicks and the Nets concluded their preseasons tonight with a surprisingly entertaining, competitive game in Long Island at the Nassau Coliseum. After a bumpy start, a strong second quarter, followed by competent basketball in the second half and a – dare I say – “gritty” overtime, the Knicks pulled together a final win to hopefully propel them into the regular season.

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First Quarter

Things began about as awfully in the first quarter as they could have for the Knicks. On their first possession, Gerald Wallace, chasing Carmelo Anthony on a curl, slammed knees with Tyson Chandler and sent Chandler to the floor in agony. He went back to the locker room where the medical staff determined he had a “sore knee” and would be OK, but would sit out the rest of the game. As a fear-inducing reminder, last season Jeremy Lin and Amar’e Stoudemire were declared to have a “sore” knee and back, respectively. I don’t trust the Knicks’ medical staff.

Mike Woodson went to a small lineup with Kurt Thomas at center, Anthony at the four, and Brewer at the three, with Kidd and Felton manning most of the minutes in the back-court. The unit failed to get stops as rotations continually left Deron Williams open behind the arc (he hit four three-pointers in the quarter), or let the smaller Kidd and Felton be punished in the post by Joe Johnson. The offense was hijacked by a reckless, early-in-the-shot-clock, jumper-heaving Carmelo Anthony, and a Ronnie Brewer in search of his shot and the rim. Kurt Thomas and Raymond Felton oddly remained the only effective members on offense as they coupled for 11 of the Knicks’ 16 first quarter points.

They trailed the Nets 23-16 at the end of the quarter, on pace to score 64 points while giving up 92 points.

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Second Quarter

Following the unsightly first quarter, the Knicks’ offense was revived as Pablo Prigioni and Chris Copeland resurrected Stockton-Malone-like magic in the pick-and-roll. Prigioni’s steady, crafty stewardship at the helm of the Knicks’ offense was especially impressive as he opened up with three assists at the start of the second quarter. A pick-and-roll with Copeland for an and-1 layup, a kick-out to a corner three from James White, and an assist to Kidd for a three-pointer quickly erased the Nets’ seven point lead.

The Knicks’ defense tightened up as well, swiping sloppy passes and dribbles from the Nets’ second unit and attempting to get out and run. This mostly occurred with Raymond Felton back in charge (spelling Prigioni after some really fantastic minutes). One sequence in particular featured Brewer stripping MarShon Brooks, initiating a precarious fastbreak himself, playing a little give-and-go with Felton and completing a reverse layup that dropped in after several bounces on the rim. This would be one of Brewer’s only two makes in the paint.

When the de facto starters came back in (Thomas, Felton, Anthony, and Brewer, with Copeland), the defensive intensity waned a little bit, but the offense functioned much smoother than their earlier stint. At halftime, the Knicks led 46-43, completing a 30-point second quarter while holding the Nets to 20.

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Third Quarter

The third quarter featured some competitive, fairly intense basketball from both clubs. Standing out for the Knicks was a brief, “saucy”(thanks, Mike Breen) explosion from Raymond Felton and a more cooperative, accurate Carmelo Anthony. Felton, on three different trips, dashed into the paint off pick-and-rolls and his own dribble penetration and completed little step-back push shots, and one particularly nifty reverse layup around a flat-footed Brook Lopez. Anthony, meanwhile, patiently waited for kick-outs, forcing the issue less, and knocked down a pair of three-pointers, using that snake-like recoil on his follow-through.

On the other end, the Nets displayed the potential potency of their starting five. Deron Williams (who was pretty quiet after that first quarter outburst), ran the offense and slithered his way into the paint, while Kris Humphries did Humphries things and Gerald Wallace showed a few signs of life. Brook Lopez did the lion’s share of the work, scoring eight points in the period. Without Chandler or Marcus Camby, Lopez (when not plagued by foul trouble like tonight) could be a problem for the Knicks, and open up other opportunities for his teammates. However, with Chandler in the middle, Lopez is the type of slow-footed, finesse type center that Chandler relishes match-ups against.

Knicks were still able to match the Nets’ output with their own offensive efficiency. The Knicks led by six going into the final quarter.

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Fourth Quarter

The fourth quarter saw both head coaches remove their starters and insert their benches. For the Knicks, Prigioni ran with the camp-invites crew of Copeland, Mychel Thompson (who, refreshingly, shot the ball quite well), John Shurna, and Henry Sims. The Nets’ unit possessed some higher quality, more experienced players like Andray Blatche and MarShon Brooks with their own trio of rookies.

The Knicks built a quick lead off some buckets from Copeland and three-pointers from Thompson, but the lead wouldn’t last. The Nets’ feisty, cat-like quick rookie Tyshawn Taylor torched the Knicks off the dribble on his way to some jumpers and fancy layups, while guys like Mirza Teletovic provided some timely treys. On the other end, the Knicks’ offense began to crumble under intense defensive pressure and a lack of familiarity with one another. Jump shots fell short and easy buckets were few and far between. In the last six minutes, the Knicks managed just five points – three of them from free throws.

However, the Knicks’ own defensive efforts shaped up as well and managed to clot the Nets’ own offense to hold them from scoring down the stretch, thus… forcing OVERTIME!

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Overtime

The Nets’ kept their same bench bros in for the final five minutes, but Woodson, perhaps letting pride get the best of him, inserted Steve Novak into the lineup and reaped the benefits. Novak, who had only played sparingly in the first half and did not attempt a shot, came through with two clutch three-pointers in the overtime. Thompson knocked down a bench-arousing trey to put the Knicks up four, and seemingly put the Nets away. But these are the Knicks and even preseason has drama.

After a quick Nets bucket, the Knicks botched an inbounds play as Copeland stumbled and fumbled the ball and gave the Nets possession, down two, with 14 seconds left and a chance to win the game. MarShon Brooks blew by Mychel Thompson’s turnstile-like defense, but missed a tough finish over Henry Sims who likely fouled him on the way up. But nary a whistle blew and the Knicks came away with the rebound and the win to conclude their preseason.

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Notes

  • Ronnie Brewer still needs to get back into the rhythm of the game, but his, at times, woeful attempts on offense won’t do it. Healthy roster or not, Brewer will get his chances to score and he needs to be aggressive in doing so, but 14 shot attempts (he made four) is probably too much. Around the basket, Brewer’s knee looks untrustworthy as he missed five shots right at the rim, two of them blocked. The explosion just isn’t there yet, and Brewer is normally a fine finisher – normally in the mid-60s in FG% around the rim for his career. All this will come in time, but on a few occasions, it seemed Brewer was over-anxious and took some bad shots
  • After a brief stint of Bad ‘Melo, Anthony settled down and stopped forcing as much. Most notably, upon being shifted to power forward, Anthony really went after offensive rebounds, especially on free throws, and looked to finish around the basket. Even with this increased hustle, I got the sense that Anthony was going half-speed, wanting to preserve himself for the season ahead.
  • Though it isn’t official (that decision will com on Monday), Chris Copeland will almost certainly receive an offer to stay with the team. Tonight he was productive again on offense with 16 points on 5-12 shooting in 37 minutes. If the Knicks continue to be short-handed upfront, Copeland could really find himself rotation minutes, though he’ll have to improve his rebounding and defense. Turnovers, too, as he had 7 tonight on some flat-out silly mistakes.
  • Pablo Prigioni has also made a case to be part of the regular rotation. Thus far he’s proven to be more effective than Jason Kidd, both at running the offense and playing defense. He gambles a bit much, but players’ dribbles are almost never safe around Prigioni’s quick hands, and on offense, his ability to run the pick-and-roll and hit open shooters is really valuable off the bench. For stretches, Prigs was honestly masterful.
  • Mike Breen couldn’t wrap his head around the idea that the Nassau Coliseum – less than an hour out of New York City – would be so full of Knicks fans, excitedly reacting to the game action. But hey, it did sound fun in there.
  • James White did not play in the second half with a “sore” foot of his own. Tomorrow, White will undoubtedly only have one foot left, because that’s how the Knicks’ diagnoses go.
  • Assistant coach, Darrell Walker. Meth-dealer extraordinaire, Gus Fring. I see it.
  • Chandler left the arena on crutches, but said that he’s fine. He’ll have an MRI tomorrow, so we’ll know more. Get better, Tyson!!

The Knicks now have a full week off until their season-opener in Brooklyn against these same Nets. I’m sure there will be a fair mixture of practice and rest during the span of that week, but it’s especially important that the Knicks get some bodies healthy again. If the Knicks’ staff is to be believed (I hardly do), Chandler and J.R. Smith should be ready to go for the opener. Marcus Camby is a maybe. I’d welcome any of them, all three would be nice, but Chandler and Smith especially make this Knicks team better.

And the countdown begins! Seven days until real basketball!