It was not the prettiest game, in some aspects, hardly anything to be proud of, but the Knicks improve to 7-1 with an 88-76 win over the Indiana Pacers this afternoon. The matinee effect – slow starts, sloppy basketball – carried over through the whole game as neither team could ever really find their offense. For the Knicks, some sound defense combined with the Pacers’ abysmal performance shooting the ball was enough to get them back to their winning ways.
It’s pretty typical for Sunday afternoon games to get off to slow starts. As Walt ‘Clyde’ Frazier likes to always point out, basketball players are nocturnal creatures, and early starts do not always bode well when it comes to playing crisp, clean basketball. Today’s first half was not just an example, it was the definition. Under “Matinee NBA Games” in the dictionary (or perhaps encyclopedia), it would read: New York Knicks vs. Indiana Pacers, 11/18/2012.
The first quarter actually initially began pretty smoothly for the Knicks as Raymond Felton masterfully commanded the offense, finding Carmelo Anthony for some jumpers and Tyson Chandler on an alley-oop. The Pacers seemed up to the challenge early, featuring David West (with a mismatch against Anthony) and Roy Hibbert in the post. However, from then on, things began to slowly slink into the depths of basketball slop.
Anthony began the game on an array of jumpers that had no trouble finding the bottom of the net. Perhaps sensing his quickness advantage over David West, though, ‘Melo showed a surprising determination to get to the rim off the dribble. This actually lessened the efficiency of his shooting performance as he found little success finishing over the taller Hibbert, who blocked a number of Anthony’s shots and got away with a number of fouls, too. This trend of Anthony showing hellbent conviction to get to the rim would continue all game.
After a quick start, the two teams slowed down considerably and finished the quarter with the Knicks lead 21-18.
This is where both teams fell into the abyss and lingered with the angler fish. The Knicks ran with a bench unit of Pablo Prigioni, J.R. Smith, Steve Novak, Rasheed Wallace, and Marcus Camby, while the Pacers put out their own largely inefficient bench with some bros like D.J. Augustin, Tyler Hansbrough, Gerald Green, and Ian Mahimi.
Perhaps the most telling stat of the quarter was the 4:26 stretch where neither team hit a field goal. In fact, the only scoring during that stretch were four free throws made by the Pacers.
So, with both teams mired in their own offensive struggles, stuck in the 20s in the second quarter of an NBA game, some other good things have to have happened. And there were. Camby and Wallace sharing the floor proved to be a combination that rebounded pretty well (and there were plenty to be had) and defend the rim. Camby, whose lack of playing time has been well-debated amongst Knicks fans, made a pretty good impression, pulling down four rebounds in about six minutes, while helping create some new possessions, altering shots, and even diving on the floor to force a jump-ball. Wallace, who would stand to lose minutes with Camby’s insertion, seemed aware of this and also made a pretty concentrated effort to box out and rebound.
The Knicks finished the half with a quick flurry of offense, in no doubt due to Raymond Felton’s return to the game. Felton quickly canned two jumpers and a three-pointer, while also assisting on another Tyson Chandler alley-oop and a J.R. Smith jumper. Though he was quieter than Felton during that little run, Jason Kidd’s presence on the floor also likely had an impact in resuscitating the Knicks’ offense.
The same could not be said of the Pacers, who just floundered on the offensive end, with Roy Hibbert throwing up knuckle balls from the post, and the rest of the squad unable to throw it in from anywhere on the perimeter. The first half ended with the Knicks leading 41-30.
Things began to pick up in the third quarter and the Pacers showed some seemingly serious signs of getting back into the game. For the Pacers, David West suddenly got into a rhythm, putting in six quick points with some help additional help from Hibbert and Paul George. For the Knicks, Felton continually got others involved, finding Tyson Chandler for an and-one layup and hitting Brewer for a jumper.
Brewer shined for a brief stretch in the third quarter where he carried the Knicks offense on an array of drives, jumpers, and those crazysexycool cuts he makes off of other players’ penetration. And then oddly – perhaps from knee problems – Woodson yanked him in favor of Smith. As Mike Breen so lovingly likes to point out, Brewer’s contributions do not wow you in the box score – he finished with a line pf 8, 6, and 2 today – his effect on the court is definitely noticeable on both ends.
The Pacers hung around for awhile, though, and if not for their 26-point quarter, might’ve really been blown out. They eventually began to hit net on their perimeter jumpers and that really made the difference. Still, for the Knicks’ one quarter where their defense let up, their offense was even better, putting up 27 points of their own. At one point the Pacers did pull within nine points, only to be swiftly put back down by a three-pointer from Wallace that actually proved to be important in maintaining the Knicks’ momentum.
The Knicks extended their lead to 68-56 at the end of the third quarter.
The fourth quarter saw both teams more-or-less slide back into their offensive struggles, but the Knicks used the first few minutes to effectively put the Pacers away. Rasheed Wallace provided the impetus once again, first scoring on a cutting layup, and then finishing a beautiful pick-and-roll with Pablo Prigioni with a SHEED SMASH!! J.R. Smith hit a shaking-baking jumper from the corner, and the momentum completely swung in the Knicks’ favor, essentially deflating the already-flat Pacers.
The Pacers once again went for another four-minute stretch where they did not hit a field goal. Perhaps Danny Granger’s absence has really affected the flow and structure of their offense, but the Pacers just seem uniformly discombobulated, with no real set attack on the offensive end. The Knicks, meanwhile, looked far better-coached, with a defense that attacked the Pacers in the fourth quarter, and an offense that found itself just long enough to push them ahead for good.
The Knicks rode out the last few minutes of garbage time where Chris Copeland got his chance to shine, forcing some ugly shots, but eventually finishing a wide-open transition dunk, much to the delight of the Knicks bench.
The Pacers own bench brothers took turns getting ‘theirs’ in the final minutes, which brought the Knicks’ lead within 12, when it had hovered around 16-20 points all quarter.
And like that, the Knicks in pretty ugly fashion, still took the win and moved to 7-1, marking their best start since the 1993-94 season.
- Carmelo Anthony finished with 26 points on 9-22 shooting, with 9 rebounds, and, oddly, 0 assists. ‘Melo went to the post often in this one, but did not look to run things from there like we’d seen earlier in the season. Instead, his forays into the post usually turned into clobber fests under the rim and sent him to the free throw line. Overall, it was a fine afternoon for Anthony, with deceiving shooting numbers caused by some blocked shots and difficult attempts under the rim. In the coming games, I’d still like to see him move back to passing from the post and playing a little less iso-ball.
- Raymond Felton, for as nicely as he ran the offense, finished 5-15 from the field. A bunch of his deep twos off sagging pick-and-roll defenses, and threes seemed on target, but just wouldn’t drop. He still finished with 8 assists and no turnovers.
- Also, turnovers – the Knicks only had 9 today. As I wrongly explained in Thursday’s recap, if the Knicks turn the ball over less than 13 times in a game, the coaches run sprints; if the Knicks go over that, they run sprints. So far, the coaches have been getting the better work outs.
- Steve Novak’s shooting struggles continue to alarm me. 3-10 today, 3-8 from beyond the arc, including some wide open misses.
- Jason Kidd’s head caught Lance Stephenson’s elbow on a block attempt and forced Kidd to seek help from the doctors. He’d get seven stitches in his head and have to wear a big goofy headband to protect the bandaging. Jokes have been made all day about, but Anthony seems very business about it: “We’re not going to allow that [headband].”
- Unlike the two teams’ offenses, Clyde was in excellent form this afternoon. For one bit he talked about the advancement of medical help in today’s game, whereas back in his day, players would go to the hospital for injuries or consult the team doctor who’d do things like snap their broken noses back into place. Clyde exclaimed that he’d want a mirror before they went ahead and did that. He also hooked Breen into a joke that accidentally got blown up in the process. Talking about the New Orleans Hornets, Clyde asked Mike who was the guy last year that couldn’t speak English. Breen pondered it and said he’d have to think about it. Clyde jumped to the punchline and said, “Well he certainly knew backdoor!”
The Knicks have a day off before venturing to New Orleans to play the Hornets. In the meantime, enjoy the rest of your Sundays and the fact that the Knicks are still in first place in the Eastern Conference!