There's something to be said for winning without much fanfare, and that's a skill the Knicks are starting to learn. Playing against a depleted Hornets team (David West was off somewhere barfing, Chris Paul pretty much barfed all over the court), the Knicks defended well, executed their offense, and stifled New Orleans in decidedly unspectacular fashion. The comment in the headline from "giantg" sums it up: there's something very sweet about grabbing wins without making a scene. It's a sign that winning is growing into a habit instead of an event.
Take the jump for a few notes.
- The game had an eerily familiar start. All of the early season ingredients were present. Emeka Okafor got point-blank position against Amar'e Stoudemire and scored easily around the rim. Jason Smith filled in swimmingly for West, scoring 8 early points on uncontested midrange jumpers (word to Taj Gibson, Drew Gooden, Andray Blatche and all the other power forwards to torch the Knicks in first quarters). On the other end, the Knicks forced contested jumpers early in the shot clock and grabbed very few offensive rebounds. The Knicks were able to tighten up the defense a bit later in the period, and the first frame ended with New York down 26-21 on 31.8% shooting.
- From that point forward, the Knicks were on their collective grizzy. When the Hornets matched up, Raymond Felton ran splendid pick-and-rolls with Amar'e Stoudemire, hitting him in stride (and only a dribble or two away from the rim!) for close finishes. Felton was patient and discerning in his entry passes, alternately threading the needle and lobbing it over the top. Amar'e, too, made some truly excellent catches, and finished with contact on more than one occasion. If the successful pick-and-rolls didn't get you a little choked up, then you probably weren't paying much attention in early November. Amar'e had 22 points at the half, and finished with a dominant 34 on the night. When the Hornets clogged the paint to stifle the P 'n' R, Felton fed the perimeter, and an unlikely Knick cashed in.
- Your unlikely Knick: Shawne Williams, everybody. After Bill Walker checked in and bricked a couple of threes, Williams started the second quarter and promptly showed off his outside stroke. The second quarter play-by-play is fairly remarkable. Until Danilo Gallinari made consecutive threes in the final two minutes, the scoring came almost exclusively from Amar'e and Extra E. I love me some Bill Walker, but whoever hits from outside is going to get those second unit minutes. Don't be surprised if Williams is the first of the two off the bench when the Knicks next play.
- Walt Frazier: "Flannel's back!". See!? I TOLD you guys!
- Last night's game was captured by "Frenchy", a performance artist/Howie Mandel look-a-like who made a painting about Amar'e Stoudemire during the game. Mike Crispino was enthralled with the entire endeavor.
- You haven't fully appreciated D.J. Mbenga until 1. You've seen him in pinstripes and 2. You've heard Clyde call him "Muhbanger".
- I'm usually opposed to chants led by the in-arena PA system, but I'm a big fan of the call-and-response "Woo! WOO!" thing they have after free throws in New Orleans.
- Tina Cervasio brought Crispino and Clyde some catfish during the second quarter. Both lamented the lack of silverware, but we were all relieved to learn that Clyde carries napkins in his bag.
-Timofey Mozgov finally figured out how to catch passes in this one, but looked pretty dreadful after that point of each play. It's maddening to watch him roll to the basket perfectly, catch the pass in stride, then pussyfoot a little chip shot at the rim instead of dunking the ball. It really is a matter of confidence, and I know Mozgov's going to figure it out, but I think I'm with all of y'all that were hankering for some Anthony Randolph last night.
- The "Friday Night Knicks" featured artist was The Neville Brothers, and Crispino mentioned a couple of times that the drummer for said Neville Brothers is Willie Green's father. That really surprised me. For the son of a drummer, Green has an incredibly arrhythmic game. Given the way Willie plays, I'd expect his dad to solo constantly and maybe even steal the microphone away from the lead singer.
- Chris Paul really, really stunk in this one, but give some credit to a handful of Knicks for keeping away from the rim. Raymond Felton did his darnedest to hang with Paul over screens, but Landry Fields and Danilo Gallinari each did a splendid job of staying in front of the little dude when the Knicks were forced to switch. Really, though, Paul looked disinterested and rarely asserted himself. As great as it was to watch the Knicks win, that was kind of upsetting.
- The Knicks went a bit cold in the fourth quarter, but Wilson Chandler and Shawne Williams hit some big threes (Chandler, incidentally, was 4-8 from outside), and the game was iced by a delightful little sequence in which Felton hit Amar'e off a screen, then Amar'e swatted the bejeebus out of Quincy Pondexter (he wasn't credited with a block, but believe me, it was.), then Danilo Gallinari converted a gorgeous up-and-under in transition. That put the Knicks up 13, and they never really looked back.
All told, this was the kind of performance we dreamed of when the Knicks made moves this offseason. The defense was stout and the offense was an impressive blend of pick-and-roll magic and outside sniping. It was simple and unspectacular, suggesting that the Knicks might finally be figuring out how to win without drama. New York's next four games are against mediocre opponents (TOR, MIN, TOR, WAS). Let's see if they can't put this winning gameplan to work and beat those teams like we know they should.