To quote the great Babu Bhatt, you are a bad man, Paul George. A bad, bad man.
The Knicks (3-8) lost a heart-breaker to the Pacers (10-1) last night, 103-96, and it’s fair to ask if things can possibly get any worse. Going in, this game had serious potential to be something close to a human rights violation. The Pacers were (and still are) owners of the best record in the league, and the Knicks were closing out a back-to-back set riding a three-game losing streak. And yet, somehow — despite playing once again without an injured Tyson Channdler – this was easily the Knicks’ best defensive performance of the season, especially considering their opponent.
Things looked bright at the start of the affair as New York jumped out to an 11-0 nothing lead. Their guards were getting around picks without switching, the big men were in good defensive positions down low, and Iman Shumpert was flying around like a maniac creating turnovers-galore. Eventually, though, the Knicks went cold and the Pacers got back into the game, capped off by a first quarter three-point bank shot buzzer-beater from Roy Hibbert. You know, typical Roy Hibbert stuff. Still, the Knicks led almost the entire way, and were up by 3 points with just 13 seconds left in regulation when Shumpert had the misfortune of grazing Paul George‘s elbow with his cuticle on a game-tying three-point attempt. The ref blew the whistle, because Knicks, and of course George nailed all three free throws to tie the game and send things to overtime. (It should be noted that on the Knicks’ last possession in regulation, ‘Melo was clearly mugged on a spinning drive to the hoop, but nary a blown whistle could be heard in the Garden.)
In OT, it sure looked as though the Knicks were out of gas. George alone outscored New York 8-7 in the extra period, and that was all she wrote. A pessimist might sum things up by telling you that New York snatched defeat from the jaws of victory — strategically, Woodson was faced with the decision to foul George on the floor or just play straight defense — when Shumpert was called for the game-changing foul, but hey, at least they didn’t give up the 4-point play! It’s the little things, Everyone. It’s the little things.
Anyway, other things (good and bad) happened, too.
WHAT WENT RIGHT:
- Carmelo Anthony came to play. Coming off a lackluster game against the Pistons where he turned the ball over seven times, ‘Melo bounced back with a 30-point, 18-rebound performance against one of the league’s premier front courts. Half of his rebounds were of the offensive variety, which helped him get some easy baskets in a game where he was incessantly hounded by George. Speaking of rebounds, ‘Melo is now averaging 9.5 RPG. To put that into some perspective, his career average is 6.4!
- And in other rebounding news, the Knicks collectively did a solid job on the boards against the Pacers. Kenyon Martin had 9, Andrea Bargnani, magically, had 8, and even Beno Udrih chipped in 8. The Knicks ended up winning the rebound battle 52-49. Sure, it helps that Indiana missed a whopping 54 of thier 87 shot attempts, but still.
- J.R. Smith played well (for J.R. Smith). Earl was 8-for-19 for 21 points, including 4-for-10 from 3-point land. He also had one lovely strip on a Lance Stephenson drive and moronically gambled for a loose ball that yielded an open trey for George Hill late in the game, but Hill missed so it’s all good, J.R. It is amazing how stark the difference is for the Knicks when Smith drives to the basket versus when he settles for jumpers.
- Udrih played 38 minutes, and while he looked deprived of oxygen for about 30 of them, he was surprisingly effective on offense. He made two threes after the Pacers went under a pick, and ended up hitting a ridiculous prayer of a shot after being trapped and harassed by George. Sure, Beno threw some dumb passes, but he did a solid job filling in for a still nicked up Raymond Felton. While Knicks Twitter might be going just a tad overboard with their calls for less Ray, More Beno going forward, Woodson would be wise to get Beno more minutes regardless.
- Shumpert, though committing one of the dumber fouls in recent memory, played a stellar game overall. Really, for the first 47 minutes, he defended George like only few in the league can, battling him in the post, and cutting off most of his drives. Unfortunately for Shump, however, George is shooting 58% on mid range shots this year, and ended up making a bunch of contested, fall-away jumpers. Sometimes, you just gotta tip your cap. It remains to be seen, though, if Jim Dolan and Mike Woodson look at things the same way when it comes to Shump.
- The Knicks trotted out a lineup of Pablo-Smith-Shumpert-Metta-Kmart in the third, and oh, Man, it had all of the defense. Shumpert, MWP, and Martin forced many a jump-ball, and the defense didn’t give up many open looks during their time on the court together. More of this lineup, please.
WHAT WENT WRONG:
- Well, the Knicks lost. That could have gone a little better, I think.
- Paul George, Wrecker of Worlds. I was taking notes during the game, and by the end of the night, I had scribbled “DIFFERENT SUPERLATIVE + PAUL GEORGE” at least eight or nine times. He really is incredible. The Knicks forced him to take some bad shots, and he made almost all of them. His handle is much improved from last year, and now he’s added a deadly mid-range game. Quite simply, it isn’t fair. Nope, nuh-uh, not one bit!
- The officiating was…not the best. There were some especially egregious offensive fouls called (and not called). Hibbert met ‘Melo at the rim on a layup that Melo ended up converting, but the basket was waived off due to a very suspect pushing off call. Of course, the story of the game today will be Shumpert’s foul on George at the end of regulation. Look, while that was technically a foul, it’s nearly impossible believe that: 1) the official could see that in real-time and; 2) the official actually had the cajones to make such a call in that game situation.
- Bargnani, defensively, wasn’t nearly as bad as he normally is. He battled Hibbert down low one-on-one, and was active on the glass. Unfortunately, though, the Italian brought almost nothing to the table defensively. Bargs had some pretty drives to the hoop early, but he left his jumper in Detroit, finishing 4-for-16 from the field (1-for-6 from three). There were also several ugly stretches where he would blew up New York’s offensive sets by positioning himself horribly — mostly by mistiming a cut and/or standing in the middle of nowhere for no apparent reason.
- Pablo Prigioni only played 15 minutes. Yes, Prigs was having an off night, and yes, I know that Beno played well — Mike Breen kept mentioning how he’s earned himself more playing time — the reality is that Udrih is a putrid defender and he isn’t exactly, um, in peak athletic condition. Prigioni should have taken some of Beno’s minutes later in the game, particularly when it looked like Beno was on the verge of passing out.
- The Knicks should have won this in regulation, because after ‘Melo missed at the horn, they looked dejected and Mike Woodson decided to stop coaching.
- Although the team went “big” and won the rebounding battle, they did it at the cost of spacing and pulling Hibbert away from the rim.
- The Knicks have now lost six straight games at Madison Square Garden, all of which coincide with Dolan’s decision to eliminate dancing from the set of responsibilities of the Knicks City Dancers. So there’s that.
- Bargnani and Hibbert got tangled up and issued a double foul, to which Breen commentated, “Joey Crawford does not like shenanigans.” Painfully accurate assessment.
- Dr. Oz was interviewed at halftime by Jill Martin, leading to many a hilarious thing. First, Breen had earlier claimed to have hit 50 out of 50 free throws versus Dr. Oz’s 40, and the latter got awfully defensive when Martin questioned him on it. Then Oz picked ‘Melo as the Knick player he’d play 1-0n-1 with. Finally, Oz complimented Clyde on his halftime meal of Sushi in a cup. It was riveting, riveting television.
- Metta World Peace and Tim Hardaway Jr. got into a little pushing scuffle, in which Metta did all the pushing, Pablo played peacemaker, and Hardaway cowered in fear because Metta is insane.
- The Knicks next play the Wizards in Washington on Saturday at 7:00pm. The Udrih vs. John Wall match-up has the potential to go down as one of the greatest all-time point guard battles the league has ever seen.