A few months ago I finished reading Jon Krakauer’s Into thin Air. For those unfamiliar, Krakauer, a former Outside magazine journalist, was paid to cover an excursion up Mount Everest. The story – an entirely true one – covers the details of the ascent up the mountain, and the disastrous descent, which, plagued by a combination of human error and an unearthly blizzard, resulted in the deaths and severe injuries of several of the climbers. At the time, I thought, Wow, that is the story of hell 30,000 feet in the air.
Now, take those events, and more-or-less place them some 20,000 feet lower in the atmosphere, in the United States, and on a basketball court. This is sort of what tonight’s Knicks-Nuggets game felt like.
The game didn’t even scratch the hype surrounding it. The Knicks came in a broken and battered squad, facing a Nuggets team flying at a mile-high level, riding a nine-game win streak. Carmelo Anthony, Denver’s former beloved son turned Knick by demand, was making his first return to Denver sine being traded in 2011, despite carrying a balky knee that he seemingly refuses to give serious medical attention.
From the get-go, things tumbled out of control. Though the Knicks did their best to keep up with the Nuggets, it was clear that New York was going to be run off the court. Even with the Knicks’ offense functioning fairly well in the opening quarter, the Nuggets simply sprinted through, around, and past the Knicks off makes, misses, and turnovers alike. A heavy portion of these baskets came in demoralizing fashion – a made three-pointer by the Knicks turned into an Andre Iguodala-Kenneth Faried alley-oop five seconds later; swift passing and uncontested layups; offensive rebounds; putback dunks. And when the threes started raining, it spelled doom for New York. However, despite how easily the blood seemed to be flowing out of the wounds, the Knicks still only trailed 31-26 at the end of the first quarter.
That was when the tourniquet was yanked. Similar to the Golden State blowout just two days ago, the second quarter was the “avada kedavra” spell (*adjusts Harry Potter-framed glasses*) for the Knicks. Mike Woodson, still unlearned from blowouts past, inserted a totally incapable lineup of Jason Kidd, Steve Novak, J.R. Smith, Chris Copeland, and Kenyon Martin, and the flood gates opened (though in Woodson’s defense: who else was he going to play?). While the Knicks’ offense consisted of few passes and a bevy of hoisted, contested jumpers, the Nuggets continued to sprint out after every Knicks possession, running them ragged, feasting on the open opportunities awaiting them at the basket. As the Nuggets’ lead ballooned from six to 20, things managed to get worse.
On offense, while rolling to the basket, Tyson Chandler seemed to collide knees with Corey Brewer, crumpled to the ground, and remained on the floor, clearly in pain. The Knicks attended to him, and minutes later, he hobbled off the floor, requiring assistance from teammates to walk back to the locker room. The Knicks later diagnosed it as a “contused knee” – AKA a bruise – but this is both vague and uncomfortable as just a few days ago, Amar’e Stoudemire’s “sore knee” turned out to be an injury requiring surgery.
Without Chandler, you can guess where this went: even further down the drain. With the Knicks already trailing by 20-plus points in the second half, Carmelo Anthony, too, decided to leave the game, unannounced, and head back to the locker room with a sore knee. He also would not return.
At this point, it seems silly to recap the game further. The Nuggets’ high octane attack slowed a bit to a less dramatic pace and elevation, but the scoreboard did not reflect it. For the remained of the game, their lead stayed put between 20-30 points, while the crowd delighted in “Where’s ‘Melo?” and “Who needs ‘Melo?” chants. For the Knicks, nothing was notable except a few rhythmic, canned jumpers from Iman Shumpert, some pleasant dishing from Pablo Prigioni, and a few well timed swats from Kenyon Martin.
At this point, the Knicks can just hope to salvage a game or two on this road trip and desperately avoid falling below the fourth seed (a very real possiblity). The hopes of the team, already largely dependent on Carmelo Anthony’s jumpshot and Tyson Chandler’s command of the defense, now seem excessively flimsy, and we can only wait in angst for further details of Chandler’s injury.
Four healthy knees between the Knicks’ Big Three, and a most unpleasant beginning to a very important road trip. As noted on Twitter tonight: We’ll Always Have November.