Oh man. Oh man oh man. Ohhhhh man. I'm back from the Garden at a friend's house and I'm still quaking with excitement. What a game, y'all. Definitely the best I've seen in person. The Knicks just went out and won that one. It wasn't cute, nor did it require something fluky like stupid three-point shooting or an offensive collapse by the Spurs. They just outran and out-executed the best team in the NBA. Edgware's comment from the game thread pretty much encapsulates how surreal a feeling that is.
Take the jump for some brief notes from the Garden.
- Walt Frazier's suit was legendary tonight, even for Clyde. From the sound of things, the jacket was of the bovine persuasion, but in person and from a distance, it looked more like rival ice cream gangs were engaged in a chocolate vs. vanilla shoot-out and Clyde got caught in the crossfire.
- That wasn't a joke, bros. Ice cream violence is plaguing our streets.
- Both teams set the tone early with ridiculously hot shooting. The Knicks ran very little pick-and-roll, instead favoring their "Elbow" play with Amar'e Stoudemire starting the offense from the...elbow. Guys like Felton, Chandler, and Fields (who opened the scoring with one of those signature backdoor oops) all ran a carousel around Amar'e and shook free for open looks. On the other end, DeJuan Blair dominated. Tim Duncan attracted mostly single coverage from Ronny Turiaf, but drew enough attention to let Blair slip in for easy finishes and put-backs (and by that I mean Stoudemire completely zoned out on like a dozen straight possessions).
- Amar'e and Raymond Felton got good long rests in the early second quarter, and that was due in large part to an energized second unit holding its own against that of the Spurs. The offense wasn't pretty, but Toney Douglas, Bill Walker, and Shawne Williams found a way to put points on the board. Extra E sank some (two-point!) buckets, Toney penetrated in transition, and Walker ripped down boards and converted a splendid and-one. New York was actually able to build its lead with Amar'e and Felton on the bench, and neither was forced to play 40 minutes. Splendid.
- Perhaps because they're facing the Celtics tomorrow, the Spurs rested Duncan and went with a pretty small lineup for significant stretches. This allowed the Knicks to play Chandler at the 4 at times, and even go with the Felton-Douglas-Walker-Williams-Chandler unit for a moment or two.
- The third quarter saw a potential turning point go unturned (does that make sense?). After a flurry of Stoudemire buckets put the Knicks up 8, Felton saw a jumper go 75% of the way down, then toilet bowl out. The Spurs immediately went on a 6-0 run, and things started to feel rather threatening. In perhaps the most important stretch of the game, though, New York held San Antonio scoreless for the next three minutes by holding their ground and forcing turnovers. They built their lead back up to 8, which provided the cushion necessary to weather a potential fourth quarter run.
- The run never really came, though. The teams traded baskets for a few minutes, then Douglas and Felton pretty much iced the thing from outside. With 3:30 remaining and the game not totally out of reach, Gregg Popovich was ready to cut his losses and empty the bench in anticipation of their next game. VICTORY.
- The Knicks played some token full-court press in the fourth. The Spurs tried their hand a little zone now and then. Neither was especially effective. Gian will have more on that tomorrow.
- New York ran more pick-and-roll in the second half, but really, most of the halfcourt offense came from good team-wide off-ball movement and sharp passes from the elbows. I really love the Amar'e-Felton hand-off and was pleased to see it featured throughout the evening.
On the individual performances of note:
- A few guys played well, but Wilson Chandler is unquestionably your man of the match. He hit his outside shots (3-6 from downtown) but mostly got his points by attacking every inch of space the Spurs gave him. Anytime San Antonio switched or doubled Amar'e, Wil barreled right to the rim for athletic finishes. He identified and exploited nearly every mismatch and was unfazed by contact and crowding around the rim. 31 points (13-19), 9 rebounds, and 4 assists for Wil on one of his best nights in orange and blue. With Danilo Gallinari out, that's exactly the kind of play New York needs from him. Chandler won't get 30 or even 20 every night, but if he's punishing teams for gravitating to Amar'e, then good things will happen.
- Credit Raymond Felton with finding Chandler on those mismatches and slips to the rim, and also credit him with relocating his jump shot after a few off nights. Felton was 10-17 from the field for 28 points, and a bunch of those came from simply pulling up for Js when the opposing guard ducked under the pick-and-roll. Felton really couldn't stick with Tony Parker on the other end, but...who gives a shit? They won!
- Amar'e Stoudemire was more than happy to be pretty deferential in this one. Sometimes it felt like he wasted opportunities to attack, but most of the time, Amar'e's choice to pause and survey the floor from the elbow made for easy buckets for Wil and the rest of the gang. It also got the big fella 6 assists. That Amar'e managed 28 points while mostly acting as a point man is a testament to his greatness. He dominated for a couple of very brief stretches, but mostly took a backseat and let the offense come to him. Like Felton, he provided very little resistance to Parker's drives, but it was just that kind of game.
- Perhaps because the Spurs went small for so long (we saw lineups with Antonio McDyess at the 5 and Matt Bonner at the "4"), Ronny Turiaf didn't end up playing that much. He had two nice finishes, though, and set some splendid off-ball screens (and directed traffic a bit after setting said screens) to open up shooters. Ronny also got pretty soundly crammed upon by DeJuan Blair, then immediately drew a technical. That wasn'tt his finest moment, but it was an overall solid 21 minutes for the fuzzy one.
- Toney Douglas didn't shoot well (3-10), but he attacked, generally made the right decisions in transition (usually in the form of reining it in), and did what Toney Douglas do on defense (lots of gambling, 3 steals, two charges drawn by sacrificing his body over screens).
- Landry Fields, Shawne Williams, and Bill Walker couldn't really cash in from downtown (2-12 as a unit), but each had an impact on the game. Fields had some fine finishes in the open court and on second chances, Williams actually made some stuff happen going to the rim, and Walker played more active off-ball defense than we've ever seen from him.
A few other notes from the game and my trip to the Garden:
- Boos for Antonio McDyess? Really?
- "E-VAAAA" chants for Tony Parker, on the other hand, don't surprise me in the slightest.
- Pauly D from The Jersey Shore and Joe Frazier were both sitting courtside. It baffles me that those two are the same species, and also so am I.
- To the kids in front of me wearing Gallinari jerseys and waving an Italian flag, I'm truly sorry you didn't arrive a few days sooner. Then again...you picked a hell of a game to attend, paisano or no paisano.
- The halftime show was some "Kidz Bop Sports Jamz". I can't believe they misspelled "sportz" like that.
- Tonight's game probably came close to killing Gregg Popovich, but it wasn't even the most threatening thing in the building. The Knicks City Tumblers, or whatever those fellows that do flips are called, ran their routine rather close to the Spurs huddle, and one of the acro-bros nearly KO'd Pop with a Forest Law-esque flip kick.
- Highlight of the evening in an evening full of highlights: When I caught the lady security guard surreptitiously boogying to "I Like to Move It", we made eye contact, and she just kept right on boogying. That's somehow representative of how the game went for the Knicks.
- Unearthing a dingy-ass Metrocard in my wallet with a few dollars still left on it was pretty splendid as well.
- Update: I don't know how I forgot to mention that the Knicks committed just six turnovers, but...yeah, that was key. Nice, crisp ball movement.
Again, that was as much fun as I've ever had at the Garden. I'm glad we get a few days to marinate in this win before the Knicks head west. The next time I'm feeling down, just remind me: That. Happened.