An anemic offensive performance by the New York Knicks, coupled with a supreme defensive effort by the Indiana Pacers gave Indiana a controlling 2-1 series lead with a Game 4 still to be played on their home court. For most of the game, the Knicks and Pacers dangled in a middle ground, the score close enough for New York to make a run and make it competitive, the Pacers nearing blowout territory. However, neither ever really materialized. New York was able to grind out possessions, occasionally forcing turnovers or getting stops, and occasionally able to put in consecutive buckets. (As obvious from the score, the Knicks didn’t put together many strings of consecutive baskets). However, when the Knicks got within striking distance, it seemed the Pacers had an answer every time.
The first quarter more or less set the standard for the game. The Pacers came swingin’ out of their corner, knocking down open threes on slow rotations from the Knicks to quickly take a 9-2 lead. New York responded, however, with some fight from Tyson Chandler underneath the basket, and the smoothest offensive attack we’ve seen from Carmelo Anthony, other than that fourth quarter explosion in Game 2. ‘Melo forced his way inside for fouls, or otherwise bullied Paul George to the basket for some short jumpers. Around the halfway point, though, both offenses fell off a cliff, forcing the defenses to take center stage like these were the Knicks-Pacers playoff battles of the ’90s yesteryear.
The Pacers struggled to score baskets as they are wont to do; part of that credit goes to intensified Knicks’ defense. On the other end, New York’s offensive struggles were pushed along by a terribly inefficient grouping of Jason Kidd, J.R. Smith, Carmelo Anthony, Kenyon Martin, and Tyson Chandler. The big lineup clustered the floor, especially with Smith and Kidd’s inability to flip a coin into a fountain. With 4:20 remaining in the quarter, Chandler converted a layup. From then on, the Knicks didn’t score until Anthony hit a jumper with 20 seconds remaining. They trailed Indiana 15-18 after one.
The second quarter was highlight by New York turnovers and an immense struggle on the boards. Amar’e Stoudemire played for the first time since March 7, beginning the quarter paired with Martin and Smith in the front-court, Prigioni and Kidd in the back-court. Right off the bat, the Pacers’ size and aggression on the glass fueled an early surge that put them up by seven. The Knicks held their own, though, finding their only offensive success in the pick-and-roll, as Prigioni drove the lane and twice hit Martin and Stoudemire off drop-off passes for dunks. No ground was gained, though, and Woodson ditched the lineup experiment after a few minutes.
Interestingly, the Knicks tried out some zone defense for a little while, and it worked in forcing the Pacers into some missed shots due to their lack of consistent perimeter threats. Unfortunately, it seemed the zone also thwarted the Knicks’ rebounding efforts. Even once they went away from the zone, Roy Hibbert, David West, and the Pacers guards just pulverized the Knicks on the boards, snagging eight offensive rebounds in the quarter. And given the way Indiana’s defense was functioning, denying dribble penetration and closing on the Knicks hard on the perimeter, New York couldn’t afford to give away extra possessions.
The Knicks’ offense flowed more smoothly than the first quarter, as a combination of Anthony jumpers, a few tough baskets from Smith, and a generous amount of free throws kept the Knicks in the game. A solid close to the quarter, highlighted by Anthony’s pass out of a double-team to Martin for a layup brought New York within three – Pacers led 36-33 at halftime.
After closing the first half strong (“strong” meaning a 9-2 run), the Knicks failed to capitalize on any momentum. Though they got solid contributions from ‘Melo who continued to post and toast Paul George, and from some aggressive Shumpert drives, the Knicks had no answer for Roy Hibbert and the attention he commands down low. The Pacers grabbed three more offensive rebounds – an obvious improvement from earlier quarters – but Hibbert’s size alone granted him some smooth jumphooks on post-ups or defensive attention that opened up shots for the Pacers. Indiana isn’t the best three-point shooting team, but they hit 10 in Game 3 and three in the third quarter, all of which came at seemingly critical times.
The Knicks’ offense stalled once again when the looks stopped dropping for Anthony and Shumpert. After they both hit two shots early in the quarter, they both began misfiring as time went on. Felton, who wasn’t to be found all night, also forced some iffy looks off the pick-and-roll and saw a dip in playing time. Surprisingly, Stoudemire was able to give the Knicks a small boost before the quarter ended, tipping in a missed layup from Smith, and later hitting a pull-up three-pointer to beat the buzzer. The Knicks trailed by nine at the end of the quarter.
The aforementioned theme of the game hanging in the balance of blowout and competitive enveloped the fourth quarter. Anthony continued on a stretch in which he missed seven straight shots, unable to score other than through free throws. Felton teased us with an aggressive and-one drive for a layup, but did little else thereafter. Shumpert was unable to carry the Knicks (not that he should be asked to), J.R. Smith couldn’t conjure any feverish magic.
The Pacers continued bullying the Knicks down low and hitting three-pointers when left open. The Knicks didn’t help their cause at all by continuing to turn the ball over – especially Kidd who had back-to-back turnovers that turned an eight-point Pacers lead into a 13-point Pacers lead. The Knicks just couldn’t muster a comeback, and eventually succumbed, waving the white flag and pulling their starters.
- Part of the reason for the Knicks’ success is that they maximize possessions by rarely giving them away. They were first in the league in turnovers during the regular season. Tonight, they had 15, and often at inopportune moments.
- The other foundation to the Knicks’ success has been shooting the three-pointer (and making it at a good percentage). Tonight, the Knicks were just 3-11. Some of that was aggressive Pacer defense, closing out hard on shooters to force them into contested looks for inefficient mid-range shots. Other times, the Knicks have to be willing to pull the trigger. Shumpert, given room by West, has to punish him by just launching in West’s eyeballs and making a few, even if it’s not always the best look.
- Felton missed practice the other day due to a personal issue. It’s worth pondering if it had anything to do with his poor, quiet performance in Game 3.
- Amar’e Stoudemire played just shy of 9 minutes, and posted 7 points on 3-8 shooting, with 2 rebounds. He didn’t register a +/- for the game, which is a nice baby step. Hopefully some of his forced, arrhythmic post looks will come in better rhythm and timing as the series goes on.
- Jason Kidd hasn’t scored a basket since Game 2 of the Boston series. Yet he plays 20 minutes tonight, and registers a -16. That’s misleading, and he did provide 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals, but his on-court worth is not greater than Prigioni who played just 23 minutes tonight.
The Knicks now have off until Tuesday night. A win gives them back homecourt advantage and evens up the series. Honestly, I have positive feelings about Game 4.
Fears of a seemingly inevitable implosion are fair at this point. Losing one game, on the road, to a veteran team facing elimination – well, that’s OK. Losing a second game in a row, on your homecourt – scary. Doing so after self-imposed blustering of what-if sweeps and opponent funerals. Unbearable.
Yes, despite the Knicks’ brazen boasts that tonight would be the end of Celtics’ series, it was quite the opposite. The Knicks are heading into the hostile home of an opponent they’ve let back into a seemingly done-and-dead series. A poor, stagnant offensive performance and too-little-too-late defensive boost put the Knicks in a hole too deep. There were several ill-fated attempts to come back – a few stops, followed by quick free throws or made baskets – but the Celtics had the assassin-like answer for each and everyone of these attempts. Now the Knicks must head up to Boston for Game 6 this Friday and try to steal one or else come back to New York facing the frightening prospects of becoming the first team to lose after leading a series 3-0.
The shocking part of this loss is the way the Knicks cooked their way to an early 11-0 lead. They came out with the clamps on a jumper-happy Boston offense and took advantage of the initial penetration opened up by Raymond Felton-Tyson Chandler pick-and-rolls. A Pablo Prigioni three-pointer, Felton curl and elbow jumper, Iman Shumpert driving layup, Carmelo Anthony blow-by for a dunk – the Knicks’ offense was diverse and seemingly well-oiled. An early regrouping from Boston changed all of that, though.
It began with Brandon Bass leaking out in transition and making smart cuts to the basket off the double-team attention given to Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. Bass scored nine of the Celtics’ first 11 points and seemed to open the whole thing up. Boston began exploiting mismatches with Garnett and Pierce, they quickened the tempo, moved the ball, and began to get the shots they wanted. Meanwhile, after ‘Melo briefly cooked the Celtics on jumpers and dribble drives, the Knicks got stagnant, plagued especially by a wildly inaccurate J.R. Smith forcing shot attempts.
After beginning 11-0, Boston out-scored the Knicks, 20-11 the rest of the quarter. New York led 22-20 after the first.
The Knicks’ opening quarter lineup (part of a long line of questionable calls from Mike Woodson) hurt them. Kenyon Martin more or less got abused by Garnett, while on offense, the trio of Jason Kidd, Prigioni, and Smith failed to create any flow or momentum. Chandler and Anthony were quickly brought into the game, but the Celtics had already figured out their own attack: a quicker pace, more rapid ball movement, and continually taking advantage of the Knicks’ slow double-teams and poor rotations thereafter.
The Knicks fought for awhile, though. While Anthony and Smith remained ineffective, Felton’s basket-bound barrels were successful, and Chandler fought admirably on the boards to keep possessions alive. However, a late surge by the Celtics, and a collective fart by the Knicks, turned a back-and-forth, one- or two-point game into a sizable lead for Boston.
A turnover by Smith and missed layup, missed layups from Felton and Anthony, a shot-clock violation, in addition to free throws, layup, and a Jason Terry three blew the lead up to seven at the end of the first half. Boston led 46-39.
Despite a far better offensive performance in the third quarter (or at least a better offensive game plan), the Celtics’ offense was just better. Some of it was the Knicks’ fault, as they sent more shaky double-teams and consequently missed rotations, leaving shooters open. Other times, however, no matter, the coverage, the Celtics found a way to beat it. This was especially the case in a few laughable, bang-your-head-against-wall, turn-around, fade-away jumpers from Paul Pierce along the baseline and beyond the arc. Even when the Knicks closed out hard on Jason Terry, the Celtics’ shots were falling. Terry and Pierce combined for 18 of Boston’s 24 third-quarter points.
For the Knicks, the combined ineptitude of Anthony and Smith (who was oddly checked in less than four minutes into the quarter) was unlike anything they’ve demonstrated during the season. No matter the shot, range, or coverage, neither player could find nylon. Instead, the Knicks’ offense came almost solely from the unstoppable dribble penetration of Raymond Felton. Felton, whose been arguably the Knicks’ best player in the series, continued his stellar play by repeatedly torching any Celtic covering him. Off Chandler picks or his own handles, Felton dashed his way to the basket for layups on all angles, earning himself eight points and a lob assist in the quarter.
However, the Knicks closed the quarter poorly again, having not gained any ground on the Celtics, and by leaving Jason Terry open for another three-pointer, which he sank. Boston led 69-60 going into the fourth quarter.
Things got worse before they even got marginally better. From the end of the third quarter to the first three minutes of the fourth quarter, the Knicks didn’t score a point. On field goal attempts alone, the Knicks’ play-by-play at the start of the quarter goes as follows:
Smith 3pt shot: missed, Kidd driving jump shot: missed, Anthony driving layup shot: missed, Smith step back jump shot: missed.
Meanwhile, six quick points for the Celtics, punctuated by a slam by Jeff Green put the Knicks’ in a 15-point hole. The Knicks’ comeback attempts in response were highlighted by suddenly staunch defense led by Shumpert. Though the Celtics’ own suddenly lackluster offense helped the Knicks’ cause, Shumpert played
aggressive nay, ferocious, tight defense on Pierce, prompting other Knicks to increase ball pressure and attack the glass hard. Though New York’s offense never untangled itself, they drew fouls, stopped the clock, and tried to trickle away the lead with free throws.
However, the attempts were for naught. Several times the Knicks chipped away at the lead, but the Celtics had answers. First, after cutting it to eight points, a Brandon Bass spinning layup and Terry three pushed it back to 13. Later, back-to-back Jeff Green three-pointers kept the Celtics lead at 12. Then, when the Knicks made it a five-point game from quick baskets by ‘Melo and Smith, Garnett answered with a mid-range jumper with less than a minute to go.
- There’s a lot of debate as to whether the Knicks’ funeral talk and wearing black to a game really affected anything. To me, it had a psychological effect on the Celtics and it relaxed New York too much. Trash-talking with such bravado doesn’t have a place in a 3-1 series, especially for a team that hasn’t gotten out of the first round in over a decade.
- Carmelo Anthony’s shot was astray after the first quarter, but his aggressiveness waned, too. At times, he forced, and other times, he was too reluctant to attack. Over the last two games, he’s a combined 18-59 from the field – 30.5%.
- Let’s quickly acknowledge Felton. 21 points, 10-19 FG, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 TOs. He’s been the best Knick in this series, but that’s not the formula for winning. He needs to be the second or third best player, and Anthony and Smith haven’t stepped up.
- And yeah, hey, maybe a little less J.R. Smith? Perhaps he was rusty, just out-of-rhythm, or really, plain sucky – either way, Smith just brutalized the Knicks during his time on the floor. His shots almost never came in any kind of flow, and his 0-11 start was bringing up sour memories of a John Starks performance I don’t need to go to any length to explain. His third basket – one of three – came in the final seconds with the game’s fat already sealed.
- There was a post-game near-scuffle. Jordan Crawford – he of the DNP-CD tonight – can go back to the hole he crawled from. Luckily, the incident didn’t amount to anything.
- Hey, the Knicks’ bench was a combined -38 tonight!
- Marcus Camby played 58 seconds and he tipped a shot in. #SilverLinings
- Shumpert, in my opinion, played his best defense of his season tonight. He looked quick on his feet, hands-y, strong getting over screens, bumping players on dribble drives, and while he finished with 3 steals, he nearly came up with about three or four others on 50-50 balls. #ShumpertLinings
That’s it for now. Game 6 in Boston on Friday will not be a sane time or place for me and many other Knicks fans, I imagine.
The New York Knicks will head up to Boston with a 2-0 lead over the Celtics. For the second straight game, the Knicks used a big second half, highlighted by stingy defense and efficient offense, to put the Celtics away, and seal the victory. After withstanding a strong second quarter from the Celtics, New York came out with a palpable, contagious energy to propel themselves to a double-digit lead. Led by Raymond Felton’s dribble penetration and Carmelo Anthony’s sudden precision from the field, the Knicks offense launched them back into the lead. Their stern defense, however, all but shut the Celtics down as Boston’s one-and-done arrhythmic jumpers continually clanged off the rim to the sound of their own flat-lining.
The series is far from over, especially as Boston returns to a vigorous home crowd, but for now, the Knicks are sitting pretty having dutifully protected their home-court advantage.
Both teams sputtered out of the gate, afflicted by their own general incompetence on both ends of the floor and some quick, continuous whistles from the referees. Noticeable immediately for the Knicks, however, was a seemingly more mobile Tyson Chandler and the return of Pablo Prigioni. In the early going, Chandler and the Knicks controlled the boards and Prigioni’s presence seemed to ease the Knicks stagnation on offense.
Said stagnation had a lot to do with the Celtics’ ability to blow up pick-and-rolls and Carmelo Anthony’s insistence on posting/facing up on defenders and settling for mid-range jumpers. When he attacked the basket – which he did at a decent rate – he was able to get to the free throw line, collecting critical fouls on the Celtic starters in the process. Raymond Felton got off to a good start, however, knocking down his first three-pointers of the game and turning the corner on screens to get to the paint for his own hoops or on kick-outs to teammates.his
J.R. Smith stole the show, though. Fresh off winning Sixth Man of the Year, Smith checked in, promptly dribbled the ball for ten seconds, passed up on passing, and opted for a double-pump, step-back jumper that hardly hit nylon. Smith continued his antics throughout the quarter, nailing more of his favorite fade-away jumpers, and spinning to the rack, and dumping off a beautiful pass for Kenyon Martin for the open slam. He punctuated it all by hitting one more deep jumper with six seconds to go, then forcing Paul Pierce into a turnover, and nailing a 30-foot three-pointer as time expired.
New York led 26-20 after the first quarter.
Through two games, so far, the Knicks have had one let-down quarter. In Game 1, it was the third quarter; in Game 2, it was the second. With most of the starters resting, the Knicks’ bench failed to generate momentum on offense while letting the Celtics get on a roll of their own. Smith’s magic seemed to run out, and Boston’s fortress-like defense forced the Knicks into a series of bad looks. On the other end, Boston pushed the pace, spread the floor, and punished the Knicks’ porous defense.
The turning point came early in the quarter with New York up five. A shot clock violation on the Knicks led to a basket by Jordan Crawford, followed up by a bad pass from Jason Kidd, and a jumper from Avery Bradley. Kenyon Martin turned the ball over on the ensuing possession which led to another layup from Bradley. Two missed jumpers in a row from Smith sandwiched a turn-around jumper from Kevin Garnett. To cap it all off, after yet another turnover, Jason Terry sank a pull-up three. Just like that, New York’s lead had been squandered into a four-point Boston lead.
Things didn’t get much better. Anthony checked back in and isolated and jab-stepped himself into a bevy of contested, missed jumpers. The Celtics kept coming on offense, ballooning their lead to nine twice as Paul Pierce took advantage of his sizable matchups with New York’s guards. The Knicks did a solid job closing the quarter, however, by rallying off five quick points so that they only trailed 48-42 at halftime.
Game 1 third quarter :: Game 2 second quarter as Game 1 fourth quarter :: _______ . You guessed it! The Knicks used a pivotal third quarter, just as they used a pivotal fourth quarter in Game 1 to recapture the game.
It began with Iman Shumpert knocking down two consecutive three-pointers to tie the game up. Later, after some free throws by ‘Melo, bedeviling the Celtics into foul trouble, a Felton drive put the Knicks up two. And the train kept-a-rollin’ from there. Prigioni and Chandler ran a pick-and-roll to get Chandler a layup and a foul (his only basket of the game). Anthony joined in on the fun, canning a three-pointer and then a posting up Jeff Green and hitting a difficult turn-around jumper along the baseline. Felton capped things off with crossover to get in the lane, pull-up, and hit a little floater. Just like that, New York’s 23-4 run to kick things off put them up ten, deflated the Celtics, and set the Garden crowd ablaze.
The defense was the key, though. Part of it was the Celtics’ own lack of energy, but the Knicks’ rotations were crisp all night, and in the third, their individual defense was on point. Boston tried to run their offense through Kevin Garnett, and while Chandler was slightly immobile against smaller players driving to the hoop, on Garnett’s post-ups, face-ups, and jumpers, Chandler contested very well. Boston became careless with the ball, and soon the whole team was thrown into an inescapable funk as the Knicks constricted tighter and tighter.
Anthony capped the Knicks’ explosive quarter by blowing by Garnett on a switch, and taking it to the rim for a dunk. The Knicks led 74-59 at the end of the third quarter.
The Knicks’ third quarter diligence did them well as they were able to sort of cruise through the fourth. One frightful stretch began with Steve Novak’s inability to cover Jordan Crawford, who scored five quick points, along with a Pierce three to cut the lead to nine. The Knicks rebounded quickly, however.
‘Melo flipped the switch again and splashed the net on three straight jumpers, mostly off the catch. The quick flurry all but eliminated Boston’s chances of coming back. More turnovers led to exciting moments like a Felton-Smith alley-oop on the break to put the Knicks back up 13. Kenyon Martin provided his fair share of excitement and tenacity with crowd-pleasing swats into the stands and his ensuing war cries.
Mike Woodson replaced Kidd, Anthony, and Felton in the last three or four minutes of the quarter and sent out the bench squad to ride out the victory. The crowd gave a thankful ovation as the Knicks took a 2-0 series lead over their long-time tormentors.
- The Knicks have now allowed a total of 48 points in the second halves of these two playoff games. 48. As our friend Jared Dubin points out, the Knicks’ second half defensive efficiency is 55.6, which would be the best, like, ever.
- Though Carmelo Anthony (34 points, 11-24 FG) and J.R. Smith (19 points, 7-15 FG) had the two explosive nights, I thought Raymond Felton was the key factor. In the first half, Felton was tentative to drive the lane, and was overly passive trying to distribute the ball. In the second half, Felton attacked the paint with gusto, and didn’t make, seemingly, a single mistake with the ball. He finished with 16 points on 8-15 FG, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, and zero turnovers.
- Despite getting dunked on in the final 30 seconds of the third quarter, Kevin Garnett finished his third quarter by setting a very illegal, rough screen on Shumpert (didn’t get called), and then blocked Shumpert at the rim at the buzzer, and continued his constant barking. This made the Knicks’ double-digit comeback, and the Garden crowd’s “KG sucks” chants all the more delightful.
- Though the defense suffers because a guard is forced to cover Paul Pierce, it appears the Knicks’ only shot at running semi-fluid offense over the Celtics’ stern defense is to play two point guards at a time. The only real exception to this was the Knicks’ giant run to start the third quarter, though.
Th Knicks have two days off before playing the Celtics in Boston on Friday night. It’s somewhat expected that the Knicks will lose a game in Boston, but winning Game 3 would be very important to closing out the series. Historically, the team up 3-0 in the playoffs in the NBA, has won the series 100% of the time.
Resting on the shoulders of an absolutely torrid Carmelo Anthony and a rejuvenated defense, the Knicks continued their hottest stretch in decades, winning their tenth in a row by using a dominant fourth quarter to blow up a close game. While neither New York nor Atlanta played their best basketball through the first three quarters, the teams went opposite directions in the final 12 minutes. The Knicks strung together several solid possessions on both ends of the ball, locking down Atlanta’s offense, and exploiting a defense keyed in on stopping Carmelo Anthony. Raymond Felton took advantage of this neglectful defense and repeatedly burned the Hawks in the pick-and-roll, getting to the basket for easy layups and organizing a Knicks offense that nearly doubled up the Hawks in the final quarter.
The Knicks opened the game in a little bit of a daze as they missed seven of their first eight shots, while Atlanta canned open threes, layups, and contested, improbable deep jumpers. Carmelo Anthony knocked down his first shot attempt, but struggled shortly thereafter, misfiring on some turn-around jumpers and failing to finish around the rim. J.R. Smith checked in early to give the Knicks’ offense a boost, but he, too, missed on several close attempts after working his way towards the paint off the dribble.
The Hawks, meanwhile, jumped out to a surprising 10-2 lead, before the fortunes switched. For Atlanta, Josh Smith, Jeff Teague, and Al Horford began to eat up a majority of the Hawks’ possessions, bricking routine jumpers close and far, and bricking bunnies at the rim. For the Knicks, after an initial slow start, both Anthony’s work on offense began to pay dividends as he found success driving to the cup for layups and fouls, and eventually began snapping the net on some pull-up jumpers and catch-and-shoot three-pointers.
After one, the Knicks led 23-18.
The second quarter didn’t find either team executing their best, either. Kyle Korver and J.R. Smith kicked things off for both teams with five consecutive points, respectively, both hitting on three-pointers and jumpers off the dribble. Shortly after, however, points became hard to come by. Kyle Korver oddly missed on his most wide open looks from beyond the arc while the rest of the Hawks’ thin bench failed to generate much offense at all. J.R. Smith continued to do the lion’s share of the work, but the Knicks had almost nothing to show for it.
As both starting units came back into the game with a little more than half the quarter remaining, the heat turned up again. Anthony promptly returned to disregarding whoever put their hands in his face, and was able to score on a variety of pull-up jumpers and aggressive takes to the basket. Korver made up for his misses from deep by exploiting a shaky perimeter defense and hitting jumpers off the bounce or just taking it directly to the cup.
While the Hawks’ offense was hardly scorching, the Knicks once again exhibited bad tendencies on switches and doubles, and just plain slow-footed defense on the perimeter that allowed the Hawks to get easy baskets when they actually executed. Also, once again, Knicks not named Carmelo Anthony failed to hit open looks they received from the defensive attention being paid to ‘Melo who remained blistering.
The Knicks, however, were still able to build their lead in the quarter – a testament to the Hawks’ general listlessness – and went into halftime leading 47-40.
The third quarter found Carmelo Anthony at his tip-toppest offensive form while the Knicks’ defense took a collective nosedive. Kyle Korver continued to be the Hawks’ only consistent form of offense, while everything on that end of the floor went through ‘Melo for New York.
Anthony kicked things off with an offensive rebound and layup after a missed three from Prigioni. He then operated in the pick-and-roll a bit and found Prigioni with a kick-out pass for an open three on the elbow. Later, Anthony welcomed Josh Smith and the Hawks’ sturdiest defense by simply netting difficult turn-around jumpers and splashing one- and two-dribble pull-up jumpers over out-stretched hands. Even when Smith managed to deflect the ball out of Anthony’s hands, he was able to regain possession along the baseline before it went out of bounds, and launch a 20-footer that didn’t even touch rim. 15 of the Knicks’ 21 third-quarter points came through Anthony, either by shooting or by passing.
The same lackluster defense remained for the Knicks, however, and Atlanta was actually able to work their way back to take the lead at certain points. Korver managed nine points, all on threes, in the quarter, and gave the Knicks, particularly Iman Shumpert fits, as he benefited from the space given to him off the Knicks’ needless switching and doubling. In one stretch, Shumpert left Korver open for a corner three, then proceeded to get blocked by Korver on a pull-up jumper attempt. Shump then rotated and closed out slowly on Deshawn Stevenson who scooped in for a layup and a foul on Kenyon Martin.
Jeff Teague and Shelvin Mack also gave the Knicks problems as they scooted into the paint and took advantage of the Knicks’ general lack of size down low (Chandler sat out for most of the quarter, appearing in pain). The two teams traded baskets back and forth, capped off by a stepback jumper from J.R. Smith to beat the buzzer and tie the game up at 68 heading into the fourth quarter.
Once again, heading into a pivotal final quarter, the Knicks pulled themselves together, this time basically running over the Hawks. It began with far more aggressive perimeter defense, and some handsy deflection and steals in the pick-and-roll, as seen the previous night in Miami. Felton (who’d been quiet heading into the fourth) picked Mack’s pocket and went coast to coast for a layup. Smith, sensing his size advantage on Atlanta’s smaller guards, went back to work off the dribble, and spun and twisted his way for some easy, close buckets. Careless passes coupled with a feisty New York defense led to copious amounts of Atlanta turnovers; the cough-ups just kept piling up and giving New York more chances to score.
While ‘Melo sat, Felton took the reins of the offense and punished a lackadaisical Atlanta defense. Three straight times, Felton squiggled his way through the defense off the high pick-and-roll and finished at the rim for mostly uncontested layups. Quickly, the Knicks built their lead up to eight. Then, Anthony checked in.
The Hawks’ defense was already spread thin, but Anthony’s presence only furthered their problems. After checking in and executing a post-up-spin-off-alley-oop with Jason Kidd, the Hawks focused their efforts almost solely on Anthony. The Knicks used this defensive attention to get Smith going. On one gorgeous sequence, Anthony sucked in the defense, threw a cross-court pass to Smith, who blew by the later-arriving closeout, and took it in for a two-handed jam.
The Knicks built up their lead to double-digits and were slowly able to ride the game out, punctuating it with a baseline jumper from Anthony that gave him a 40-point follow-up to his 50-point explosion the night before.
- Simply stunning work from Carmelo Anthony. In his last 81 minutes, he’s netted 90 points on 35-53 shooting from the field, almost all of those coming from outside of the paint. The man is in a rhythm like never seen before while he’s worn a Knicks uniform, and his offense has been good enough to carry the Knicks through some comatose starts. It’ll be interesting to see if ‘Melo can continue to get off to hot starts (he’s scored 81 of his total points in the first three quarters of the last two games), and attract opposing defenses so much that it allows other Knicks to get hot in the fourth quarter. It’s not an ideal attack, but there isn’t a hotter player in the NBA right now.
- To speak to the above point: Smith and Felton finished with a combined 33 points on 15-31 FG. In the fourth quarter they were a combined 9-11 from the field for 19 points.
- The buzzkill in all of this is that Chandler isn’t physically right, and now Kenyon Martin’s knee is “sore” which means he’s moments away from losing a lower limb entirely.
- Those fourth-quarter Hawks turnovers that I mentioned before – seven of them in the final 12 minutes. Some of it was pesky defense from the Knicks, some of it was carelessness from Atlanta.
- Tom Izzo randomly joined the ESPN broadcast in the second quarter and spoke pretty glowingly of about every person mentioned during his air-time. This was very different than what I imagined Tom Izzo to be like in person.
- Fun sequence in the 4th quarter: J.R. Smith fronts Josh Smith in the post, gets a steal, races down court, trips over his own feet, turns it over, DeShawn Stevenson picks up the ball, races down court, gets discombobulated between passing and dribbling, turns it over.
I’m not sure how I could handle a seven-game series between the two teams, but the Knicks, in both meetings, were able to out-execute the Hawks in the fourth quarter, and come up with the win both at home and on the road. If the two teams were to meet in the playoffs, as of right now, it’d bode well for the Knicks. New York will look to continue their streak when they face the Milwaukee Bucks at home on Friday.
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The Knicks returned home and got themselves a much-needed blowout victory over a badly struggling team. After a brutal 1-4 Western Conference road trip, in which a number of key players went down with injuries, the Knicks have a small window of easy games to try and regain some ground, and they kicked off the stretch with a double-digit victory over the Orlando Magic. While it wasn’t a completely reassuring outing, given that the Magic are the second worst team in the league and were missing their starting center, Nikola Vucevic, the Knicks should welcome all wins with open arms as they try to get their feet back underneath them in the home stretch of the NBA season.
The Knicks began the game with the same uber-small lineup that they utilized Monday against the Utah Jazz. Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni split backcourt duties while Iman Shumpert, Carmelo Anthony, and Kenyon Martin manned the frontcourt. Initially, given the relative inexperience of the lineup, the Knicks looked a little hesitant on offense, but that was quickly shattered by Anthony hitting his first three-pointer of the game, followed by a jumper from Felton, and a fastbreak layup from Shumpert. On defense, Orlando struggled to scrape up points as the Knicks actively trapped ball-handlers on the perimeter and attacked anyone that entered the paint. The five Magic turnovers in the quarter simply gave the Knicks more opportunities to score the ball.
The defensive intensity was nice, and the offensive cohesion was unlike anything the Knicks had demonstrated in the past few weeks. The ball swung with ease around the perimeter, setting up three-pointers for Anthony, Chris Copeland, and J.R. Smith. Inside of the arc, Felton and Martin worked the pick-and-roll successfully, connecting on one pretty alley-oop. Anthony and Camby got in the act, too. Early in the clock, ‘Melo posted up on the right block, kicked the ball out to Camby on the perimeter, and then spun around and caught a beautiful pass in the air from Camby, and threw it down.
At the end of the quarter, the Knicks were en route to a blowout, up 26-15.
However, the Knicks being the Knicks, some kinks reappeared, despite the promising first quarter. The Magic used a 7-0 run to start the quarter, and cut a double-digit lead to four points. Initially, the bench lineup of Jason Kidd, Smith, Steve Novak, Copeland, and Camby struggled to defend against a semi-reckless Orlando bench squad. The Knicks took arrhythmic contested jumpers on offense, and were unable to stop penetration or inside baskets by the Magic.
While said defensive issues plagued the Knicks all quarter, the offense eventually came back around. For the second straight game, J.R. Smith made a point to work off the dribble and get to the basket where he finished a few nice drives and set up teammates with some good, open looks. Later on in the quarter, the game still only within two baskets, the Knicks and Magic shared baskets back and forth. Anthony and Shumpert connected on back-to-back threes, all the while Orlando’s indomitable Beno Udrih carved up the Knicks’ pick-and-roll defense for some floaters in the lane and some set-ups for teammates.
Despite a nice offensive showing, the Knicks only led 51-46 at the half after surrendering 31 second quarter points to Orlando.
Whatever was said to the Knicks at halftime seemed to light the fire back underneath them. Kenyon Martin opened the quarter with a nice post-up move for an and-one layup. Although he missed the free throw, Felton scurried in to collect the offensive rebound, pulled the ball back out and nailed a three-pointer. Prigioni, who actually seemed to spend more time on the ball than Felton, also made his presence felt with a three-pointer, and then ensuing assists in a pick-and-roll with Martin and a cross-court pass to Smith for a three-pointer.
Much of the Knicks’ offense thereafter came from Anthony, Smith, and Copeland, all of whom mixed up their looks on offense going inside and out, and benefiting from the generally good ball movement. Orlando, on the other hand, just didn’t have the talent to keep up. Part of that was the Knicks’ collective defensive efforts. The guards pestered Orlando’s backcourt, and even Anthony and Smith got caught in the energy, each displaying a willingness to play solid, man-to-man defense.
The Knicks outscored the Magic 32-19 in the period and led 83-65 going into the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter followed the Knicks’ usual blowout script. Woodson rested guys like Anthony, Felton, and eventually Martin, and ran out a wily group featuring Kidd, Smith, James White, Copeland, and Novak, along with Martin to begin the quarter. Kidd and Smith whiffed on an alley-oop attempt. And as expected, the Knicks let up on the gas a little bit and played slightly nonchalantly, allowing the Magic to actually get within striking distance. At one point, with the Knicks’ lead down to 11, it looked as though Woodson would have to reinsert starters to take control of the game.
He didn’t, though, as the bench responded. Steve Novak hit a three-pointer to push the Knicks’ lead back to 13, then James White came up with a steal and went coast-to-coast for a dunk much better than anything he gave us in the dunk contest. Even with the game’s fate all but sealed, the Knicks didn’t let up. J.R. Smith chased Andrew Nicholson down in the final 50 seconds and pinned his layup attempt on the glass to protect the score.
When the buzzer rang, the Garden stood to its feet and applauded the Knicks for possibly the best overall effort and confident game they’d seen in recent weeks.
- Iman Shumpert didn’t play the second half after he appeared to tweak his knee at the end of the first half. He was available to play, but Woodson chose not to. Tina Cervasio grossly explained the situation that appears to not be too serious.
- The Knicks actually shot less free throws than the Magic (who are one of the worst in the league at getting to the line) and grabbed fewer boards. However, they made up for it with four less turnovers than Orlando, and by shooting a blistering 44% from beyond the arc, connecting on 15 of 34 attempts.
- Two very efficient nights for Anthony and Smith. Anthony finished with 21 points on 7-14 shooting, with 8 rebounds, 1 steal and a block. Smith finished with 22 points on 8-16 FG, grabbed 7 rebounds, and dished 2 assists.
- I don’t get MSG at my current residence, so while I watched League Pass Broadband’s coverage of the game, I missed the postgame which included Patrick Ewing(!). He and John Starks sat courtside together and received a standing ovation.
- Also, Patrick Ewing said the Knicks can’t beat the Heat.
- I’m pretty much flat-out amazed every time Kenyon Martin jumps in the air to dunk a ball or block a shot. Considering the guy is 35-years old, has undergone microfracture surgery, and been in and out of the league for the last two seasons, he’s probably still one of the Knicks’ best leapers. Thus far, I’ve greatly enjoyed Kenyon’s presence.
- The Knicks’ starting five was a combined +77 for the game. The bench was a combined -17, with Smith being the only player with a positive +/-
- A fun exchange between Clyde and Mike Breen about Kurt Thomas’s long journey through the NBA and the number of people he’s played with. Clyde: “Did he play with George Mikan?!” Breen: “Yes, he remembers playing with Dr. James Naismith!”
The Knicks still sit in third place in the East and didn’t put any distance between themselves and the Nets for the Atlantic Division lead. The Knicks play a home-and-home with the Toronto Raptors Friday and Saturday, in what could be two crucial games before another tough stretch.
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.
The Knicks defeated the short-handed Golden State Warriors in an absolute barn-burner to spoil Stephen Curry’s eruption for an NBA season-high, 54 points. What looked like it was going to be breezy win for the Knicks in the early going turned into an edge-of-your-seat, big-play-after-big-play trade-off between two teams who desperately wanted to come away with a win. Curry nearly gave the Warriors the game, throwing them on his shoulders as he repeatedly launched from downtown, lighting the Garden ablaze with a multitude of long shots, contested and open. In the game’s final minutes, J.R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony each scored big baskets for the Knicks, and Raymond Felton, Tyson Chandler, and Iman Shumpert contributed big plays on the defensive end to give the Knicks the edge.
The first quarter was hardly indicative of what was to come later in the game. Both teams struggled out of the gate, the Warriors missing two-thirds of their frontcourt with Andrew Bogut out with a cranky back, and David Lee suspended because of his scuffle with the Indiana Pacers Tuesday night.
The Knicks, meanwhile, defended more ably than we’d seen in opening quarters in quite awhile. Their offense, however, took awhile to get going as Anthony continued his mini-slump from outside, while Jason Kidd and Iman Shumpert both laid bricks. The positive for the Knicks was Tyson Chandler’s youthful energy as he ravished the boards, collecting 10 rebounds in a matter of six minutes. He also skied to finish alley-oops and clean up misses from his out-of-tune teammates.
The Knicks’ defensive energy stemmed largely from Chandler’s dominance on the boards and Shumpert’s sudden aggressiveness in his on-ball defense. Shumpert bounced back and forth guarding Harrison Barnes, Klay Thompson, and Steph Curry, and was able to pester each of them, nabbing three steals in the opening period, showing signs of his exciting rookie year D. Chandler, too, bothered the Warriors into a couple turnovers, after which the Knicks generally looked to push the pace. One particularly splendid Shumpert steal from Curry led to a fastbreak dunk for Smith.
The Warriors struggles forced Mark Jackson to go very small, putting the 6’8″ Carl Landry at center, with Barnes at power forward, Thompson at the three, and Curry and Jarrett Jack in the backcourt. This small lineup prompted Anthony to go down on the right block where he continually abused whomever tried to guard him. Even when he missed, Chandler was able to finish over the much smaller Warriors. Anthony and the Knicks finally got some rhythm on offense and finished the quarter up 27-18.
The Knicks snapped a four-game losing streak by defeating the Philadelphia 76ers, and retaining first place in the Atlantic Division. Heading into the game, the Knicks had been mired in a major slump on both ends of the floor, undoubtedly playing their worst basketball of the season. A last-minute loss to the Toronto Raptors on Friday seemed to be the tipping point, the time where the panic button ought to be pushed. Granted, it was against a weaker opponent, but tonight’s win over the Sixers displayed better effort and determination for longer stretches than we’d seen in recent weeks.
The Knicks had somewhat quietly won three games in a row before bursting out with a 39-points squashing of the Sacramento Kings this past Saturday. The Knicks continued to make noise tonight, winning their fifth straight game – and their fourth by double-figures – by knocking out the Detroit Pistons tonight, 99-85. A fiery hot start for New York blasted them off to a 20+ point lead for most of the first half and, thankfully, buoyed them through a sluggish second half. When the Pistons cut it close in the fourth quarter, some timely three-pointers – a trend on the night – kept them at bay and gave the Knicks the win.
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.
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.