That comment quoted above, which came from our good friend flossy in the game thread, sums up my thoughts exactly. Tonight's game against the Jazz was one of the most thorough spankings of a Knick opponent I've seen in quite a while. By the middle of the third quarter, when Amar'e Stoudemire's personal scoring flurry put New York up 30, you kind of just felt bad for those poor, struggling Jazzmen and the quarter and a half of giddy mayhem they were about to sit through. And that was really the majesty of this one. A good third of the 48 minutes were zany, wonderful garbage time, with Carmelo Anthony sticking around to babysit only until the end of the third period. 'Twas a beautiful display of mop-up basketball and Humptyness. That fourth quarter felt like something from '07-'08, only with considerably less tearful shrieking on my part.
Before Mike D'Antoni gave us an extended look at our beloved bench bros, the Knicks put together one of the tidiest, most efficient offensive spectacles we've ever seen from them. Beginning with an incredible 15-22, 40-point first quarter, the Knicks moved the ball crisply to create open looks for Amar'e, Melo, and Toney Douglas, who had himself another splendid performance as Chauncey Billups's understudy. The Knicks got their scoring from those three and pretty much nobody else, but that was quite alright. Amar'e, Melo, and TD combined for a preposterous 30-40 from the field, with the rest of the friends defending and filling in the cracks on offense. New York raced ahead in the first, held their ground in the second, blew it open in the third, and went bench wild in the fourth. Not a number went uncalled, and each Knick made us smile in his own special way.
Take the jump for a bit on each contributing Knick and some other odds and ends.
- A game in which Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony throve (which is apparently, and happily, a real word) in isolation and in harmony was almost too much for me to handle. Amar'e was at his familiar best, creating his own shots with quick, decisive moves off the dribble and catching passes for jumpers in rhythm and finishes in the secondary break. We're used to performances like this from Amar'e, but I don't want his evening to be overshadowed by any of my following notes, so let's all take a moment to wear towels like head scarves and tweak our nipples a little bit. 31 points on 12-15 shooting in 24 minutes is just silly, okay? Cool? Good.
- Okay, so this was a big night for Carmelo Anthony, and not in ways that we've seen before. For one, his scoring in isolation was on point throughout, with a healthy blend of pantherine rim-attacks off the dribble and jab-step fades fades on the perimeter. For two, Melo finally displayed some touch in catch-and-shoot situations, draining three of his four threes off assists from Toney Douglas. For three, Melo threw some gorgeous feeds to Amar'e, including a pinpoint pick-and-roll bounce job, a well-timed dump-off for a trailing and-one, and a back-to-the-basket bullet for an easy Stoudemire finish. For...uh...four, Melo defended with some verve. Anthony didn't really have to do much against a Utah team that sought little offense outside the paint, but he did single-handedly force some turnovers to contribute to that mounting momentum in the early going. Just a terrific game, and exactly the kind of performance we'd love to grow accustomed to as Melo gets comfortable.
- Oh, and Anthony gets the award for silliest plus-minus (+30) on a night with some pretty silly plus-minuses. Well done, sir. Treat yourself to a Snack Pack or something. You earned it.
- A brief moment of recognition for the Utah centers. The Jazz pulled down a ridiculous 22 offensive rebounds (without which this could have been a blowout of historic proportions), mostly in the hands of the excellent Al Jefferson (36 points, 12 boards) and Derrick Favors (a very active 16 and 8 off the bench). Okay, moment over.
- Do what Toney Douglas do, my children. Do it with pride. What TDD this evening was take care of the ball (just one turnover), make crisp, simple feeds to scorers (6 assists), and, best of all, make sweet splashy love to the net from downtown (5-7 on threes). Toney's had a thing for shooting accurately right from the tip of late, and you just hope he'll maintain that level of readiness when he returns to the bench.
- Landry Fields didn't have the Landriest of evenings (perhaps because he got betrayed by some avocados earlier in the day. Happens to the best of us, Landry.), but he was perhaps the only Knick to put in solid defensive possessions against Gordon Hayward, so that's something.
- This was as vintage a Jared Jeffries performance as they come. Jared was a terror without the ball, playing excellent man and help defense, boxing out, and saving possessions with his hustle. He was also a terror with the ball, using his ineffective (and possibly paralyzed) left hand for an abominable baby hook and a slippery missed lay-up. Mostly good things from Jared, though. I'd have no problem with him staying the starting center. I'd also have no problem with Jared undergoing an elective surgery to transplant all of the fingers from his left hand on to his right hand so that he has one ball-swatting club and one fine motor MACHINE.
- My eyes told me that Roger Mason didn't defend very well, but he came away with 3 steals to go with his 9 points, so I'll shut up for now. It's going to be verrrry interesting to see what happens when Bill Walker returns.
- Roger bricked one pull-up three so boldly and abruptly that I felt I had to make a note of it. Classic "wrong button" shot. He totally meant to pass but hit B instead of A.
- Anthony Carter's touch wore off (1-7) and he committed a few dumb fouls, but he did roll his way to 5 assists, 3 steals, and countless hilarious tribal tattoos.
- Shawne Williams pooped once (1-3 from downtown), which makes us tied for the day.
- Shelden Williams enjoyed some moments as THE big man, and demonstrated a pretty remarkable ability to draw contact with his butt. By the way, for irony's sake, I like to imagine that Shelden's butt is proportional, perfectly sculpted, and quite attractive to those who enjoy manbutts...but I digress. She-Will and his tushy earned a 7-8 evening from the line, which is nothing to sneeze at*.
- *Why is that an expression? Do folks sneeze at things they find disagreeable? That's rude, folks. Use your words.
- Also, the She-Will/Sha-Will tandem is enough to make me permanently switch to ESPN box scores. I use Yahoo whenever possible (and I like their box scores better), but as long as both the "S. Williams" bros are playing, I'm going to favor the site that shows me full first names. Yeah, I could just take the time to look and see which one of them attempted threes, but EVERY MOMENT IS PRECIOUS.
- Poor Joe Frazier. Al Trautwig interviewed the legendary boxer, who was sitting courtside in a giant cowboy hat (tough shit, second row!), and got nothing even vaguely resembling a coherent answer from the fellow. He seemed genuinely excited about...something...but years of head trauma have rendered Joe more than a little aphasic, if not outright demented. At least he seems to be enjoying himself. Frazier also got a bit standing ovation from the Garden crowd, which was excellent.
- Craig Sager and Becky Hammon were also in attendance, sitting right in front of Allan Houston.
- Let's hear it for the mop-up crew! Derrick Brown played a full 12 minutes and went 3-3 with two rebounds, including a very nice tip-dunk and an exceedingly viscous spike in transition. Renaldo Balkman played almost 8 minutes with a shit-eating grin, heaving jumpers with delight and actually sinking one of them (followed, naturally, by a salute to the crowd). Latrell Chokewell gets a gold star for deeming a Balkman poop the "Humpty Dumpty". I wouldn't expect to see much more pooping from Renaldo, although he did once get busy in a Burger King bathroom.
- Finally, after persistent chants of his name, rowdy Andy Rautins got to spin, and he looked...well, more than a little nervous. Andy did drain one of his jumpers (and quite snappily, I must say), but somehow managed to throw three bad passes in just five and a half minutes.
No worries, though. Tonight was pure, unadulterated celebration. Smiles all around. Next on the schedule is a day off, followed by a tough away back-to-back in Memphis and Dallas. Ride that momentum, Knicks.