Cheers, mates! The Knicks’ one-game stint in London proved to be a fun, albeit sloppy one as they took care of the Detroit Pistons, 102-87. The team took another step in the direction of full health by welcoming Iman Shumpert back into the rotation in a game that featured some entertaining moments. The lowly, perhaps jet-lagged, Detroit Pistons team never really made much of a ballgame out of it as the Knicks used a number of offensive bursts and just enough defensive clamping to ensure they’d receive their 25th win of the season.
The Knicks were undoubtedly more spritely to open up the game, boosted by the debut of Iman Shumpert, O Flat-Topped One. Granted, the Pistons are a bit of a sorry bunch – 16th in offensive efficiency and defensive efficiency doesn’t quite summarize their on-court transactions – but the Knicks looked far more energized than we’d seen in recent weeks.
New York got things going in a grand fashion. Some dishing and swishing around the perimeter led to a Jason Kidd three, some stopping and popping from Carmelo Anthony twice from downtown, some paint points from Tyson Chandler and Chris Copeland, a nice welcome-back corner three from Shumpert. The Knicks quickly ran out to a 16-2 lead. The offense stalled a bit thereafter, but they were diligent in preventing Detroit from catching up too much by allowing just 15 points the rest of the way.
After the hot start, the Knicks’ tempo slowed and they were plagued by especially sloppy basketball for a stretch. The Knicks committed six turnovers in the first quarter and prevented themselves from ringing up 30 or more points. They finished the first quarter up 29-17.
The Knicks spun with the bench bros to open up the second quarter. In what could eventually be a deadly second unit, Pablo Prigioni, J.R. Smith, Ronnie Brewer, Steve Novak, and Amar’e Stoudemire took the floor and initially had some offensive cohesion, knocking down some jumpers and feeding at the line (here’s looking at you, Amar’e). Stoudemire had a pleasant quarter, hitting a mid-range jumper from the elbow that he so desperately needs to be consistent at, finishing a little reverse layup, and drawing some fouls to get to the line. However, this group defended and rebounded as expected, and the Pistons’ rookie big man, Andre Drummond, was giving the Knicks some problems inside.
When some starters came back in, the defense tightened up again, and the Knicks took advantage of some folly from the Pistons to push their lead. Austin Daye took a swat at Tyson Chandler on a fastbreak dunk attempt and sent Chandler flailing into the cameramen, which earned Daye a flagrant one foul and Chandler two free throws. On the next possession, Chandler tipped an offensive rebound out to Smith for a three-pointer, and then moments later, Daye fouled Anthony on a three-point attempt, sending ‘Melo to the line for three free throws. In a matter of 1:30, the Knicks went on a 7-0 run to bump their lead up to 19 points.
While Detroit regained their composure a bit on offense, their defense continued to hack away at the Knicks who gladly took advantage of their free opportunities at the stripe. New York was 25-31 from the stripe tonight – good for 80%.
The Knicks went into halftime leading 56-41, led equally by some solid defense (and poor Detroit offense), and solid offensive execution.
To open things up in the second half, we were gifted some moments of Shumpsanity. Shumpert, who was on a 15-minute limit, opened things up with a corner three, then moments later, stripped Jason Maxiell and took it coast-to-coast for a layup after evading Tayshaun Prince with a lovely Euro-Step. If all of this wasn’t pleasing enough, he later drove the lane and fed Chandler with a drop-off bounce pass for an open dunk.
Thereafter, however, third quarter was one of those “Oh God, the Knicks are going to let this team back in the game and make this a nail-biter.” The Knicks simply stagnated on offense, mindlessly meandering around the perimeter or forcing bad shots in isolation. The Pistons, meanwhile, attacked the Knicks at the rim and made a more concentrated effort to get on the boards. 12 of the Pistons’ next 16 points came in the paint, while New York’s offense continued to sputter. A once-fourteen-point lead dwindled to four.
But the Knicks finished the quarter strong. Novak canned a deep jumper off a lovely cross-court pass out of a double team from Anthony, Stoudemire continued feasting from the free throw line, Smith knocked down a pull-up jumper in a two-for-one opportunity, and ‘Melo finished it off with a layup before the buzzer. The 8-0 run pushed the Knicks’ lead to 75-63 at the end of the third quarter.
The Knicks got their second half shakes out of the way in the third quarter. That, or the Pistons had expended all of their comeback energy by the time the fourth quarter came around.
Though the Knicks still played some sloppy basketball, Detroit was equally inept to ever gain ground on the Knicks. Despite Anthony mostly misfiring, New York found offense when they needed it. Stoudemire was continually hacked and sent to the line where he went 11-12. Kidd, Novak, and Smith all hit timely buckets to keep the Pistons at bay, despite Will Bynum’s best attempts to make it a game.
The Knicks’ lead remained double-digits nearly the entire fourth quarter, and they finished off the Pistons early enough to pull some of their starters in the waning minutes. Carmelo Anthony finished with 26 points to lead the team, and the Knicks’ bench provided 46 points as the Knicks picked up their second straight win and moved to 25-13 on the year.
- Iman Shumpert’s return to the floor was super exciting and encouraging. Surprisingly, he looked the most rusty on the defensive end. Though his one-on-one defense was OK, tipping balls away and pestering opponents’ dribbles, he got lost off-ball a few times, closing out late to shooters or losing guys backdoor. On offense, however, Shump looked great. His shooting form (tip of the hat Dave Hopla) looks improved as he canned 2-3 from downtown. His steal and ensuing layup was lovely, and when he broke baseline and rose up for a near-monstrous jam that was deflected out of bounds, I nearly had to change my trousers. On that dunk attempt, there appeared to be no hesitation at all and he looked explosive as ever. 15 minutes, 8 points, 3-7 FG, 2 boards, 1 assist, and 1 steal from Shumpert in his season debut.
- Amar’e Stoudemire, a fellow recent returnee to the floor, also had his best game yet. 20 minutes, 17 points, and 4 rebounds from the begoggled one. Better yet, 17 points on 5 shots. The Knicks still missed Amar’e on rolls to the basket a handful of times, but this was the most encouraging game in terms of getting him easy looks. He squandered some of said easy looks, but often ended up drawing the foul anyway. He can’t just rise up on a dime anymore, but if STAT can continue drawing fouls (I mean, 12 free throw attempts ain’t anything to sneeze at), then that is perfectly fine. Even better yet: he and Iman both have three more days to rest and practice until their next game.
- Carmelo’s hot start was extinguished as the game went on. At first, Anthony with a tummy full of fish and chips appeared to be MUCH better looking than fasting, empty-belly Anthony that we’d seen the previous few games. And not that I want ‘Melo to stop eating again – I don’t! – but he finished 8-19 from the field, which is kind of disappointing given his early inclinations.
- Mike Woodson continued to spin Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni separately which was disappointing, given the good results that came from their shared court time Monday vs. New Orleans. With Shumpert back, we may get to see some more two-point-guard lineups, which is what helped the Knicks early in the season and it seems to really benefit Jason Kidd.
- [Kind of concerned that Chandler actually did hurt something on his hard fall from the Austin Daye foul]
Overall, London seemed like a fun atmosphere for this NBA showcase, and MSG’s behind-the-scenes clips of the Knicks adventuring about the city were enjoyable. I don’t see how the NBA plans to expand its brand overseas, but the crowd was certainly delighted by some of the action-packed moments. The best part of all was the Knicks picking up another win.