The Knicks continued their home dominance this season with a 112-106 win over the Denver Nuggets tonight in MSG. The game completed a four-game-in-five-nights span, in which the Knicks finished an impressive 3-1, beating the Charlotte Bobcats, Miami Heat, and now the Nuggets. Neither team was particularly focused on defense, but typical of both clubs’ early season inclinations, the game featured an offensive showdown with a total of 11 players scoring in double figures. In the end, behind some big shots from Carmelo Anthony – in his first game back from a finger injury – and a timely run in the fourth quarter, the Knicks held on to remain kings of the Eastern Conference.
The Knicks began the game with a sort of carry-over from the previous night’s contest against Chicago. The defense was a little slow and the offense was poor. On the opening tap, the Nuggets leaked out and got Kenneth Faried an open layup. The trend would continue early on as the Knicks rimmed out jumpers while allowing the Nuggets easy baskets in the paint. The Nuggets’ first 19 points all came in the form of layups, dunks, or free throws, as the Knicks kind of lackadaisically allowed penetration from guards without much help on the recovery from Tyson Chandler or Anthony, back in as power forward.
The 1-5 pick-and-roll, however, proved to be the pivotal play for the Knicks to get out of their early slump. Raymond Felton used Tyson Chandler picks to wiggle into the paint and throw some splendid alley-oop passes for his big friend, or kick it out to open teammates.
The effectiveness of the pick-and-roll stemmed largely from Carmelo Anthony’s ineffectiveness to begin the game. This was ‘Melo’s second time playing his former team, and his first game after missing the previous two, and a combination of rust and over-powering ego drove Anthony into some iffy jumpers and ill-fated drives into the basket. Of course, some of those misses could have resulted from the tape wrapped around his lacerated middle finger, but the quality of shots suggested there was a little too much pride at play for ‘Melo.
Tyson Chandler’s swooping ‘oops and janitorial work around the basket largely kept the Knicks in the game, as they finished the first quarter trailing 25-23.
The second quarter saw the Knicks hit their groove with the help of their bench crew. Though their problems with denying the Nugs in the paint remained, a quick offensive start got the ball rolling for New York. A Jason Kidd three, J.R. Smith pull-up, and Pablo Prigioni-Kurt Thomas pick-and-pop rallied off seven quick points to open up the second quarter. The Nuggets, for most of the quarter, were mired in foul trouble and repeatedly sent the Knicks to the line, to the tune of 16 of the Knicks’ 38 points in the quarter.
On defense, however, New York’s guards had trouble staying in front of the speedy Ty Lawson (who Clyde reckons is the fastest in the league). Lawson squirmed his way through a more solid defense to get to the rim, or burned folks for the room he was given on picks. The Nuggets still managed 16 points around the basket in the quarter, despite a seemingly better defensive effort from the Knicks. Kurt Thomas filled the role as backup center for the still0injured Marcus Camby, and the foot-pain riddled Rasheed Wallace. Wallace has done a surprisingly nice job defending the rim, so in his absence, the Nuggets didn’t meet a ton of resistance from Thomas down low.
The Knicks mostly made their living at the free throw line in the second, but some still-hot three-point shooting provided the necessary boost. The Knicks went into halftime leading 61-58.
In the third quarter, the Knicks were out-played. The Nuggets beat the Knicks by seven in the quarter, 26-19, behind a big quarter from Danilo Gallinari and Corey Brewer. They each finished the quarter with seven points. The Nuggets’ 26 points came on just 16 shot attempts, which ended up with 8 makes. Thanks to a plethora of whistles, the Nuggets were at the line 12 times in the quarter, knocking down 8 of the attempts.
Kidd ket the Knicks in the game, thanks to two three-pointers, but the rest of the team shot a combined 5-22. All in all, it wasn’t a ggreat quarter and left Knicks fans on edge about the outcome of the game. After all, the night before, against the Chicago Bulls, the Knicks were never able to battle back and secure the victory.
All in all, it was a fantastic win, but I’d like to highlight two things:
1. Jason Kidd.
2. Mike Woodson’s play-calling coming out of timeouts has been superb. Last night was no different, especially this play, in particular.