Oh man, we all needed that. The Knicks played a bad Pistons team missing several rotation players and did exactly what they should do against a bad Pistons team missing several rotation players. They shared the ball and the shot attempts, fought for rebounds, and defended aggressively as a unit. And sure enough, the balanced two-way effort earned them a blowout win against the meek competition. Funny how that happens, isn't it?
The Knicks finally dispensed with a bad team, which, like Lord Smackington said in the game thread, was quite a refreshing departure from previous games. Take the jump for notes on a very pleasant evening.
- The point guard shufflin' was probably the story of the evening, so let's begin there. Iman Shumpert started and did some wonderful things. Shump's minutes actually dropped slightly because of foul trouble, (That's one demerit for the evening. Shump picked up two in the first, then had to sit with a third seconds after returning) but he had plenty of time to make an impact, and did so on both ends of the floor. On defense, Shump did a splendid job of keeping Brandon Knight on the perimeter, (though, to be fair, Knight seemed perfectly content to stay there and hit 5 of of 13 threes) and gave other folks troubles when he found himself switched. With the ball, Shump was occasionally out of control, (as in the case of that third foul, which was an ill-conceived baseline drive that led to a charge) but mostly looked sharp and confident and made simple, useful plays. He didn't just go out there and heave jumpers-- which was a worry of mine going in-- and, in fact, made two gorgeous plays in which he split two defenders, penetrated, drew help, then dumped off to Amar'e Stoudemire for easy dunkin'. His ability to penetrate and collapse the defense is monumentally important, and we haven't even really seen him finish much yet (though he clearly can). Later on, he caught baseline alley-oops on passes from Tyson Chandler(!) and Jerome Jordan(!!!11). I'd call Shump's first start a success.
- Toney Douglas didn't exactly flourish as his back-up. His five minutes running point at the end of the first constituted New York's worst stretch of the game. The word later on was that his shoulder was acting up, perhaps because he got absolutely splattered by a Greg Monroe screen. Anyway, Toney didn't play again after those five minutes, perhaps because...
-...Mike Bibby was on goddamn fire! Again! The li'l Muppet sank four threes, and was instrumental in the second quarter run that pretty much ended the game. He also made a concerted effort to push the pace off misses and takeaways (of which there were many during that stretch) and notched 3 assists. That's pretty much a perfect Mike Bibby game. Nicely done, Mike Bibby.
- I swear one of Bibby's threes hit the underside of the rim, but, for some reason, had enough topspin on it to flip up and through the cylinder. Two wrongs DO make a right!
- Meanwhile, the purest point guard of the evening was Carmelo Anthony, who compensated for a 5-14 shooting performance with 7 assists, most of which were lobs or entry passes that ended in Tyson Chandler dunking and shouting a lot. Those two have a nice thing going, particularly when Chandler slips his screens very early. Melo also put one DOWN on Greg Monroe off a great feed from Stoudemire (and a nice Bibby screen):
- On the whole, was this not one of the dunkingest Knicks games you've ever seen? Melo had that one, Shumpert caught those two oops, Amar'e Stoudemire crammed a few (including one in Jason Maxiell's mouth), Bill Walker had a nice baseline drive, Renaldo Balkman tip-smashed in garbage time, and Chandler got to shout so many times. There were easily a dozen dunks, and it occurs to me that this new starting lineup is populated with very talented dunkers from top to bottom. All the more reason to attack the basket!
- Besides his neat slam jams, Amar'e had another streaky outing. His decision-making wavered from one possession to the next, with a few plays ending in gorgeous, in-rhythm shots or great feeds like the one above (4 assists) and others ending in rushed shots or drives directly into somebody's chest. He was, however, the only Knick to get to the line consistently (6-8), and he finished 8-15 for 22 points, 8 boards, 4 assists and 2 steals. Not bad at all.
- Besides Bibby, Josh Harrellson was the only major contributor off the bench. Jorts got a little heave-happy again (1-5 from downtown), but also led the team with four offensive rebounds (several of which he put back) in 23 minutes. The guy does have a knack for turning awkward plays into baskets just like has a knack for turning awkward denims into a signature look.
- Speaking of signature looks, Harrellson took a Jason Maxiell elbow to the eye, got himself a pretty nice shiner, and barely flinched because HE'S DIRT STRONG.
- The boxscore says Chandler had 3 offensive rebounds and Stoudemire had just 2, but there were stretches, particular in the first half, where it seemed like every missed shot got batted around by those two until it dropped. This pleases me.
- Landry Fields had a lot of trouble stopping Ben Gordon's rightward drives early on, but played a decent enough game (8 points, 5 boards), and presumably picked up the D on Gordon, because the perennial Knick-killer went cold after the first and finished with 9 turnovers to boot. I'd still like to see Landry hit more than one of four three-pointers.
- Greg Monroe played pretty well, even against Chandler. It kinda seemed like everybody forgot Monroe's a lefty. Jorts did have one great play where he just ripped the ball out of Greg's hands, though.
- I should add that I really, really like Monroe. He looks like he drinks straight molasses.
- At the end of Bill Pidto's basketball-highlights-set-to-heavy-percussion-with-an-arbitrary-countdown segment, the producers inexplicably highlighted a fairly mundane C.J. Watson tweet about missing his daughter's first basketball game but hoping that she "got buckets" like her dad. Pidto then cracked a joke about Watson's daughter preferring not to emulate him because he averages six points a game. I'm not sure why that bugged me so much. Just seems like a long reach to make a weak, mean-spirited joke without any appropriate context.
- Shumpert's most endearing moment of the night, besides those drop-offs to Amar'e, was probably when the MSG cameras caught him bending over to help someone on the sideline pick up a bunch of spilled popcorn. Such a gentleman, that Iman. No word on whether or not he invoked the five-second rule.
- I should mention that the Pistons were without Rodney Stuckey, Austin Daye, and Charlie Villanueva in this one. I don't mean that to devalue the win or anything; it was the kind of game the Knicks SHOULD have won by 20 or more, and they did.
- Ben Wallace-- who I love and is in great shape and played well, I should mention-- is unmistakably going gray, and now I want him to grow the afro back out so he looks like Cedric The Entertainer in the classic film Barbershop.
- Jeremy Lin scored his first basket as a Knick! I did not see it because I was really into this cookie I was eating. Still proud of you, Jerm.
- Kind of cool to see the Knicks produce a 100+ point win without relying on three-pointers or free throws. They just got the ball inside and executed. That tickles me just so.
And that is all. It was a wonderful evening and exactly the kind of game these Knicks should have against a threadbare lineup like Detroit's. They played as a team, turned good defense into fluid offense, and, most importantly, did so through all four quarters. Their second straight win moves them back to .500 at 4-4. Up next is a rematch with the Bobcats on Monday. I think it'd mean a lot to all of us if they could avenge Wednesday's loss and keep this momentum rolling.