That was a pretty pleasant evening of basketball, no? The Raptors scrapped and kindasorta made a game out of it in the second half, but for the most part, tonight marked the first time in a while that the Knicks have gone out and spanked a spankable opponent. The faint odor of defense was detectable in the early going, but that mostly gave way to a high-volume footrace in which the Knicks hit a ton of threes and the Raptors missed a ton of twos. New York pushed the pace and moved the ball as well as we've seen them do since the trade, speeding their way to a wire-to-wire victory. The win was New York's fourth straight and, as 's Voicebox noted in the game thread (boy, is that fun to write), they might just have some momentum heading into tomorrow's meaningful game against the Sixers. (They totally might not. You never know. That smell might be false hope, which smells a lot like quiche.)
This'll be a light recap, but take the jump if you please.
- Chauncey Billups played aggressively, dropping an efficient 13 points and 9 assists in just 26 minutes. Billups got to rest his legs for the blowout, though, and it was Toney Douglas who really soared. Toney got 26 minutes of his own to DWTDD, drilling six of nine threes, turning steals into transition scores, and, most notably, making some dazzling interior feeds to Amar'e Stoudemire and others. He and Amar'e really have a nice two-man game going. They connected on a pick-and-roll or two, but my most favoritest of their connections was a play in which Toney baited his man with a pump fake behind the three point line, dished off to Amar'e at the elbow, then shimmied over a few feet to regain the ball and drill the open three.
- Seriously, though, watching Toney Douglas make smart plays in transition and hit the cutter on pick-and-rolls is beautiful. As was said to me on Twitter, it's like being a proud parent. Here's one neat pass of Toney's.
- Amar'e, incidentally, looked SO much more comfortable. His legs appeared to be fully under him on some silky jumpers and, even better, a couple of viscous-ass dunks. We haven't seen Stoudemire so plainly enjoy himself in quite some time. He, for whatever reason, didn't get to sit the game's final minutes, but I suppose D'Antoni felt it necessary to keep a babysitter on the floor during garbage time. Considering that the Raptors cut the lead to ten in the fourth quarter, that was probably wise.
- Carmelo Anthony, like Billups, played under 30 minutes and sat the entire fourth quarter. In that abbreviated stint, though, he was goddamn deadly. He had a couple gorgeous plays off the dribble (including one of those mini-Shammgod bounces to create a wide open path to the rim), but mostly struck from outside. He buried 5 of 7 threes, including an absolutely preposterous 30-foot pull-up bomb in the second quarter that had Mike D'Antoni just beside himself on the sideline. What's cool is that almost all of Melo's jumpers were open and assisted. Instead of him dribbling a hole in the hardwood, then launching at random, Anthony's buckets came on the tail end of good ball movement, often involving Amar'e Stoudemire. This pleases me to no end.
- I don't think I mentioned these numbers yet: 56% from downtown (15-27), 58% overall. That'll do it. Toney and Melo combined for 11 of those 15 threes.
- Landry Fields didn't do a particularly Landry job of sticking DeMar DeRozan (as usual, sluggish switching meant that it was often another Knick's fault when DeRozan strolled to the rim), but he did get back on track somewhat offensively. Landry hit his only three-point attempt, and also washed over Sunday's blown dunk with two very fine flushes. Really, neither he nor DeRozan could defend one another. They were mutually elusive.
- That faint odor of defense I was talking about? The Knicks looked solid to start, but the Raptors did their part by only shooting hideous, out-of-rhythm jumpers for the game's first few minutes. An Amir Johnson put-back with 8 minutes remaining earned Toronto their first two points of the game. Said Walt Frazier of Johnson's tip-dunk "Amir made sure!". (Naturally, "Amir" and "sure" rhymed.) From that point forward, the Raptors didn't have much trouble scoring, either by penetrating, getting second opportunities (they had 18 o-bounds and out-rebounded New York 46-34), or getting to the line. It kind of didn't matter at all.
- Jared Jeffries started, presumably because he matched up well with Andrea Bargnani (and Barn-yar-ni was just 0-4, though the injured ankle that limited him to just 9 minutes was probably at fault). Shelden Williams played 18 minutes off the bench and yo...that guy can actually hit that li'l Kurt Thomas mid-range J. He's drained enough of those baseline bunnies that it might not be a fluke. That's pretty cool.
- Anthony Carter is kind of fun to watch, isn't he? There are times when the little raisin just decides that this defensive possession is HIS, and he runs around the floor pestering every single ballhandler. The funny thing is that it's often effective and occasionally turns into transition the other way.
- Derrick Brown played! He made a few nice defensive plays, slipped a lot of screens, and drew some fouls, but his lasting impression was a confirmation of the rumor that he tries to dunk absolutely everything. This is undoubtedly true. He put one DOWN on Jerryd Bayless and was a hard Sonny Weems foul away from jackhammering another one later on. Not a bad outing.
- I heard that he knows karate, so this is probably going to get my cheekbones smashed...but James Johnson looks like a fool. Your hair looks stupid, James. I said it.
- Speaking of hair, Jerryd Bayless and Reggie Evans appear to be having a male-pattern race of some sort.
- Mike Breen's inability to distinguish twos from threes has always interested me. It's understandable that, from his low-angle seat on the sideline, Breen doesn't always have the best perspective. I don't think I've ever heard another announcer have quite the same trouble, though. Alexis Ajinca (who, to be fair, launched a three earlier in the game) hit a pair of jumpers from no further than 18 feet out that got Breen all hot and bothered over his three-point prowess. They weren't even close to the arc. I'm asking honestly, do other play-by-play guys have that problem and I've just never noticed, or is Breen's depth perception seriously askew?
- Speaking of which, some people have gap teeth; Alexis Ajinca has a gap beard.
- Update: SportsCenter just reminded me that Chauncey Billups threw a gorgeous behind-the-back dime to Jared Jeffries, who somehow composed himself enough to convert the lay-in. It took two hands, but it worked. Toney's definitely picking things up from Chauncey, by the way.
That's it, really. Tomorrow brings another game, this time a trip to Philadelphia with seeding implications. The last time the Knicks blew out another team with hot shooting (not to mention a big game from Douglas) in the first of a home-away back-to-back, they followed it with a pretty sickly road loss. Let's that doesn't happen again tomorrow. It'd be cool if this momentum we're sensing doesn't suddenly evaporate, ya know?