Tonight could qualify as one of those “ugly, grind-it-out” wins that are so often referred to when a basketball team squeezes out a victory by the skins of their collective teeth. Said games, however, are usually given such a description when both teams struggle to score the ball, and actually have to play ugly, hustling, desperate basketball in order to get the win. The Knicks and Hawks had to battle each other quite a bit tonight, but instead it consisted of two decent offenses going back and forth while the respective defenses played half-heartedly, with lackluster execution on both ends polluting the quality of play.
Mike Woodson and Larry Drew, the Hawks’ head coach, would probably both like their chances of getting a win if they knew their teams would shoot over 50% from the field and over 40% from three-point range. Instead, the outcome of the game hung in balance until the final buzzer. The Knicks used a heroic offensive performance from Carmelo Anthony, with some great bench production from J.R. Smith and Amar’e Stoudemire to make up for the fact that their defense begged the Hawks to take the game. A last-minute three-point play and a final stop (even with some poor defense) ended up tilting the game in the Knicks’ favor as they escaped with a win to move to 27-15.
Sometimes you can’t help but be pessimistic when certain things happen. Small, specific occurrences tend to have tremendous ripple effects, especially in sports. On Christmas Day, the Knicks opened up a box with two months of coal against the Lakers, when Raymond Felton broke the pinky finger on his shooting hand in a freak collision with Steve Nash. It would be the first in a series of unfortunate injuries for the Knickerbockers, but the most disastrous by far. The loss of Felton has turned the Knicks into a pretty good imitation of last year’s team, minus Linsanity and those 20-point blowouts of Miami.
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.
Breathe, breathe, breathe…. Okay. Excuse my blood pressure, still soaring to Everest-like peaks after that one. On a night when the Boston Celtics would be without their best player, Rajon Rondo – serving a one-game suspension for bumping a referee – all of the Knicks-Celtics rivalry talk seemed a little forced. After all, despite numerous close games in the past, the Knicks have never been on the Celtics’ level in previous years, and when the Knicks are finally an elite team this season, the Celtics have been struggling. However, the difference in the standings had no effect on the intensity of this one. An up-and-down, back-and-forth affair led to a battle of offense and defense, while both teams got heated, scratching at each other’s throats. Ultimately, it was the poise of the Celtics, the cold shooting of Carmelo Anthony, and a few daggers delivered by Paul Pierce that gave the Celtics the win.
The Knicks reclaimed J.R. Smith this past summer for practically nothing. Smith came over to the Knicks as a free agent in 2012, departing a short stint in China during the lockout, had a relatively down season for his standards, and then became a free agent. It was assumed Smith would flee the Knicks during free agency as the Knicks had little money to re-sign him. However, something about the Knicks – New York’s proximity to his home state of New Jersey, the teammates he’d grown close with, the nightlife… – brought Smith back for the 2012-13 season at only $2.8 million, with few other suitors around the league.
Raymond Felton’s succession of Jeremy Lin was well-documented coming into the season. Lin, a young point guard, a fan and media favorite, was replaced by Felton, an older point guard coming off the worst season of his career with limited potential upside for the future. Felton immediately proclaimed that he was going to come in with a “chip on his shoulder” and shut his critics up by having a great season. Early on, he was doing so.
The Knicks were handed their first home loss of the season from a Rockets team no one expected to snap New York’s dominance on their home court. Fittingly, one of the leaders of that Houston team was a guy who defied odds and led an underdog team back to relevance just months ago: Jeremy Lin. The Rockets and Lin, making his first return to Madison Square Garden, ran the Knicks ragged tonight, exposing an offense missing its primary weapons and a slow-footed defense, unable to contain the Rockets’ speedy ways, rim-darting guards, and three-point attacks. The Knicks lost their first game of the season in New York, falling to 18-6 on the season, thankful they’re done with the Houston Rockets this season.
On the night of three marquee returns to Madison Square Garden – Mike D’Antoni, Chris Duhon, and Jordan Hill – the Knicks nearly gave away a once-blowout game to the slumping Los Angeles Lakers. The Knicks kicked off the evening with Carmelo Anthony in the kitchen, cookin’ with fire. What began as a shootout, with Anthony hitting everything he put up, and Kobe Bryant responding with his own offensive spectacle, turned to a blowout. The Knicks posted 41 first quarter points, and 68 for the half, to the Lakers’ 49 in the first half.
Round Two in the heavyweight rivalry that is the New York Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets goes the the ‘Bockers. After being down by as much as 17 in the first half, the Knicks clawed their way back and pulled out an improbable 100-97 victory. Carmelo Anthony scored a season and Knicks career high 45 points. Jason Kidd, who hit the game-winning three-pointer, had 18 points, six rebounds and six assists in his first game against his former team as a member of the Knicks. Andray Blatche led Brooklyn with 23 points while Deron Williams had a double double with 18 points and 10 assists.
I was prepared not to write this. I was prepared to hit ‘Move to Trash’ on my first post as a writer for The Knicks Wall. Fortunately for us, the New York Knicks are now 2-0 versus the Miami Heat after another 20-point blowout, this time at American Airlines Arena. What makes this win even sweeter is the fact that Carmelo Anthony was absent, nursing a laceration on his non-shooting hand from a nasty tumble into the bench from the Knicks’ last-second win against the Bobcats.
An afternoon game that began with some wonderful basketball nearly turned sour before the Knicks were able to salvage a win over the Phoenix Suns. Thrice the Knicks built big leads and tip-toed on the edge of turning it into a blowout, only to have the Suns fight back into it behind some nice execution of their own and some lapses in effort from the Knicks. Behind some individual heroics of Raymond Felton and the strong performances of Tyson Chandler and Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks clung to the big leads they’d built in the quarters prior. It was close in the end, but the Knicks were able to pull out the victory to remain undefeated at home and kick off December the right way.
This had the potential to be a trap game – the Knicks, coming off an impressive win in Milwaukee, the Washington Wizards coming off their first win of the season. It would’ve been all too easy for the Knicks to cruise into and through this game, only to meet some hungry Wizards, clinging to their slowly dissolving pride, and find themelves engaged in a serious basketball battle (basketbattle). Luckily, the Knicks avoid such a typical letdown and effectively crushed their struggling opponent by 21 points.