So, um, as you may have noticed from the title, the Knicks (10-21) beat the Spurs (25-8). In an actual basketball game. No, really. Stop laughing! There were referees and fans and cameras and everything. It counts, I swear!
I don’t know what got into the Knicks, really. Perhaps they set some important New Year’s Resolutions? It was actually Chris Smith that was holding them up? Whatever it was, it worked in San Antonio. Iman Shumpert exploded for a career high 27 points on 13 shots, including 6 threes and the Knicks’ final two baskets, Carmelo Anthony played a masterful game scoring efficiently and passing splendidly, and—make sure you’re sitting for this—Mike Woodson played a small lineup for the last 8 minutes of the game. The Knicks ended up scoring more points than the Spurs, which, hard as it is to believe, is considered to be a win.
For the most part, the Knicks still defended like garbage, giving up some variation of an open three or a shot at the rim on most plays. The Spurs’ three point shooting fluctuated throughout the game, and while they still ended shooting 14-32 (44%) from deep, they could have easily made a lot more. Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard ended up a combined 6-18, which is something they have no business shooting against the Knicks considering they both are (a) quick and (b) playing against the Knicks. Stepping up for the Spurs instead was Marco Belleneli, who finished 12-16 for 32 points, including 6-9 from beyond the arc. Belleneli has no business doing that because he is Marco Belleneli.
The Knicks actually led for almost all of the second half, until the Spurs managed to tie the game by taking advantage of a very tired (and bad, tonight at least) Amar’e Stoudemire. Then, with under a minute left, the Beno Udrih tried driving the lane, ended up getting the ball poked away, then he and Tony Parker proceeded to dive for the loose ball forcing it to go into the backcourt where Shumpert retrieved it. He passed it to JR Smith, who then somehow got a step on Leonard and passed (yes, passed) the ball back out to Shumpert who buried his 6th trey of the game. The following Spurs possession, ‘Melo lost Marco Belleneli on an out of bounds play for a three. With a tie game once again, ‘Melo shot a fairly open corner three that missed long, only to see Shumpert come flying in to tip it back in. Then, the Knicks, defensive juggernaut that they are, got a stop, made some free throws, and left San Antonio with their first win of (new) year.
WHAT WENT RIGHT:
- Iman Shumpert is both the hero the Knicks want and the hero the Knicks need. Shump was downright fantastic, as he also held up well on defense against Tony Parker. The Knicks went small a lot (“New Year, new me.” -Mike Woodson) and the spacing and ball movement helped Shumpert lots, as he is a player who needs to play in the rhythm of an offense to really succeed. Shumpert also threw some nice passes out of the pick-and-roll, and had a monster jam on the fast break. I <3 Shump.
- After missing three games with a sprained ankle, Carmelo Anthony looked spry as ever. He moved well on defense, was active on the boards, and made generally great decisions on offense. He knocked down his fair share of tough shots over Kawhi Leonard, and finished 10-20 for 27 points. Without Felton, the Knicks ran less pick and rolls as the game went on, so their offense became almost exclusively reliant on ‘Melo making plays out of the post. The Spurs are a team that normally gives Anthony trouble but with Leonard in foul trouble they often threw the severely undersized Danny Green on him, and alas, he didn’t have much trouble.
- Andrea Bargnani was a +19 in 22 minutes. Yeah…I don’t know either. Lets just move on.
- This felt like one of JR Smith‘s better games of the year. He was 2-5 for 4 points, which is excellent because he only took five shots. I believe both of his made shots were tough step-backs in the fourth quarter, which were a product of the Knicks offense falling apart. He also tripped over his own feet defending a fast break. That made for some great comedy.
- And last but not least, Toure Murry played 15 really good minutes. He poked away some passes, stayed in front of his man, and knocked down some jumpers off the dribble. There is a common theme developing with Beno Udrih starting off playing well and then falling off in the 4th. It could be because Beno’s body shape is very similar to Ray Felton‘s. (That’s not good.) I would love to see Murry take some more of Beno’s minutes, maybe even replacing him entirely when Felton and Prigioni get back.
WHAT WENT WRONG:
- Don’t get me wrong, this was a big win by the Knicks. But, while they played well, the Spurs also looked like someone spiked their Gatorade during stretches. This is all to say, the Knicks still have problems.
- No team is more creative in how they give up points defending the pick and roll than the Knicks. They will trap the point guard 35 feet from the hoop, send two people at a guy in the corner on a rotations, hedge at the wrong times, etc. They have some sequences where teams get legitimately surprised at how open they are. The Spurs misses a bunch of open threes, and the Knicks are very fortunate. Maybe, and this is just an idea, the Knicks should try to not give up so many open threes. I don’t know. Just a thought.
- The Knicks won by five, and Amar’e Stoudemire was a -15 in 24 minutes. It’s hard to tell what’s worse: The fact that he was a -15, or that he played 24 minutes while Tyson Chandler played 22. Probably the latter, as Woodson played Amar’e for a solid 12 straight minutes and ended up bringing Chandler (who only had three fouls) back in with four minutes left to play and the lead down to two. Going forward, it’s becoming more and more evident that the Knicks big man rotations should be Chandler and Martin splitting all 48 minutes at center, with *one* of Amar’e or Bargnani spelling Melo at the 4 when he sits. It really isn’t as complicated as Woodson has made it out to be.
- The Knicks offense fell apart late, and if it wasn’t for JR hitting two tough shots, Amar’e draining a long two pointer as the shot clock expired, and Shumpert hitting the three off a broken play/tipping in the game winner, the Knicks would not have won.
- Finally, the Knicks still cannot run a fast break. Shumpert had a nice dunk on their first opportunity, but the followed it up by committing an offensive foul at the three point line on the next, and missing an easy layup after that. Knicks, just slow it down, please.
- The Knicks became the last team in the league to beat a team from the Western Conference. *pops champagne*
- Clyde called Toure Murry “Tracy Murry”, which was fantastic. Still waiting for him to call Beno Udrih “beans.”
- This is the beginning of a tough road trip for the ‘Bockers, and they play the Rockets today on Friday Night Knicks. Hope for the best, be ready for the worst.