Okay, I think I'm settled now. If I tried to write this recap right after the game, it'd just be me pounding capital letters with my fists until I either bled to death or beat my computer beyond repair. Even now, I'm a bit of a mess-- I think I swallowed a tooth-- but let us recap an incredible night of Knicks basketball that had pretty much everyone in babbling disbelief like $100 Million Contract was in the game thread and our headline.
The Knicks and Spurs played a pretty even first half. Neither defense stopped much. The Knicks held leads early because a well-checked Carmelo Anthony was passing very nicely out of help, because Raymond Felton was making everything happen for himself and his friends over picks, and because threes off the catch continued to fall. The Spurs hung around with some pretty nice shooting of their own plus a few offensive rebounds, then pushed ahead to close the half with a small lineup that opened the floor up for plenty of Tony Parker dribble penetration, a ton of points in the paint, and a big Danny Green three in the final seconds.
After the break, New York gradually fell apart. With Melo still unable to get comfortable touches, the Knick offense stalled. While Knick possessions devolved into that desultory one-and-out hideousness, the Spurs found their groove. At first, it was Parker peeling away from Felton over screens and finishing as only he can around the basket. Then Tyson Chandler looked to help on Parker more, which left Tiago Splitter of all people to score about 98 straight points right at the basket, including a back-breaking and-one when a late-recovering and frustrated Chandler assaulted him on a made lay-up.
The doom was palpable, but San Antonio missed some opportunities to blow the thing open from behind the arc, and that came back to
bite them in the ass gnaw off their entire collective ass. I'd pretty much accepted defeat when a Felton lay-in and a pair of Jason Kidd threes cut the deficit to four, at which point I suddenly realized there were still six minutes remaining. The Knicks, thankfully, did not need to be reminded of that fact. The defense multiplied all at once to the point that it felt like there were six or seven guys on the floor (and hey, maybe there were). Swarming and fluidly recovering help harried Parker into some misses off the dribble and the rest of the Spurs lost their composure. It was surreal-- I know I've been using that word a lot-- to watch the Knicks spontaneously coalesce into a marauding, five-headed, magma-spewing swampbeast while the Spurs unraveled. New York matched ever San Antonio turnover and desperate miss with a clutch basket. Melo and Felton provided for a a couple more huge buckets by Tyson Chandler, Smith, and Kidd, then Chandler sledgehammered the final nail into the coffin with a violent-- like genuinely, deeply disturbed-- put-back of Felton's missed lay-up. The game ended on a 25 to 6 run (correction: It didn't end on that run, but that run did occur in the fourth quarter), and now here we are, six and fucking zero. I can't believe it.
I'm so thrilled with some of the individual performances we saw and would like to talk about them, so let's do that:
- Carmelo Anthony's line looks underwhelming:
11 12 rebounds, but 3-12 shooting for nine points, and not even a big assist total to make up for the lack of scoring (just three). That line fails gravely to illustrate what was one of Melo's most brilliant games as a Knick. The Spurs locked him up. They really did. A tag team of DeJuan Blair, then Stephen Jackson, then Kawhi Leonard, then Boris Diaw, then multiple help defenders, then possibly a rabid boar or two somewhere in there fronted and shoved and prodded and grabbed Melo such that he simply couldn't catch the ball with space and time to operate. But goddamn, y'all, the Spurs handed Melo lemons and Melo made Melonade. To begin with, that 3-12 mark belies it but Melo did get some good looks. He made a few tough jumpers, but also used screens and his own footwork to get near the rim. He just couldn't get a roll, and nary a call either. Melo didn't let that faze him, though, at least not for long. When the Spur defense really stacked up against him, he passed-- out of the post, on the move, from the perimeter-- and either assisted or hockey-assisted a number of big, open buckets. And on top of all that, Melo pushed and clawed for those 11 12 boards and played a willing, unflinching role near the middle of that fourth quarter defense. It was the kind of rugged, intangible performance one expects from a scrappy benchman, not a mononymous superstar, but Melo recognized a game in which his star wasn't going to shine and dove headfirst into the mud. It was fucking beautiful.
- And now to Raymond Felton, who deserves a full, sound sleep in a comfortable bed after all that. Shit, have a night popsicle, Raymond. You earned it. To get it out of the way: Felton couldn't stay in front of Parker. He, like many brave men before him, lost a step on screens and let Parker wreak havoc from the paint. It happens, and the only way to correct it is to return the favor, and that's what Felton did. More often than not, San Antonio ducked under screens and gave Felton the same runway he saw against Orlando. This time, he rarely stopped short for jumpers. Instead, Felton would accelerate into the open space, hesitate, then jink abruptly to find routes around and between help defenders and kiss the ball off glass. When paths weren't available, Felton kicked to the perimeter or stepped into his own shot, culminating in a 10-20, 25-point performance to go with seven assists and just two turnovers. He and Melo set the table for that fourth quarter burst.
- Those guys set the table, then Jason Kidd feasted off said table. Through three quarters, this wasn't his best outing. Kidd hit a couple shots, made some nice extra passes, and made some surprising defensive plays around the rim (three blocks!), but spent a lot of time getting dusted on and off the ball by Green, Parker, and Patty Mills. Then the fourth quarter came and Kidd not only disrupted the Spurs on defense but sank three of four threes off the catch, each tastier and more sinister than the one before it.
- Tim Duncan and Splitter got theirs, but Tyson Chandler got his, too. After missing a couple jumpers (one of them by about a fortnight. That's right, a fortnight.), Chandler started catching some passes in the paint, spiking a few lobs and drawing contact on some regular ol' lay-ups. Like Kidd, Chandler struggled to check and help on defense, but like Kidd, he put some big points on the board (and denied a few to the Spurs) down the stretch. Very solid game.
- Bad J.R. Smith reared its snarling head and chucked a few jumpers during a stretch in the third, but good J.R. Smith was otherwise in control. After losing track of Leonard a few times early, Smith's defense tightened up, with the highlight being an outstanding recovery to pin a Stephen Jackson layup. And outside of that third period, Earl got his jumpers to fall and spun his way to a few fantastic finishes (two during the comeback) from a couple feet out. And after that, he drilled the three that put New York up two, then the free throws to ice the game after an uncharacteristic backcourt turnover from Kidd gave us a brief scare.
- Ronnie Brewer put light minutes (18) on his sore knee, but did plenty of good in that time. In the first quarter, he cut backdoor on the strong side for a baseline dunk courtesy of Melo, then caught and drilled a three on the weak side of a Melo double. In the second half, he made a tough, crucial jumper off the dribble late in the clock and sliced up the middle behind Felton to draw a shooting foul. Defensively, Brewer shared everyone else's trouble tracking Leonard around the perimeter, but played spots of great ball denial and picked a bad pass or two. Brewer also paved the way for a historic occasion. He stole a telegraphed pass, dribbled full speed up the floor, then dished off to...
-...Steve Novak, who hit a layup. It happened. On November 15, 2012, with 11:21 remaining in the second quarter in San Antonio, Steve Novak attempted and made a layup. Unfortunately, such heretical behavior lost Novak his usual three-point shooting abilities. He shot just 1-5 from downtown, and a couple of 'em were wide open enough that I was already buckling my championship belt when the ball struck rim. Pretty eerie.
- Rasheed Wallace had a much better outing than his previous few. He hit two of his three attempts from outside and a couple of those half-spin post fades to boot. On the other end, he altered a few shots, grabbed a few rebounds, and even with some lapses, look considerably more engaged than he did in Orlando.
And that's pretty much the rotation. Pablo Prigioni played seven quiet minutes (only one two-handed floater and one "he told me all the nice things about the NBA" quote regarding Manu Ginobili to speak of), and that was it. Nine men played, with Kurt Thomas and Marcus Camby both left on the bench. Given the lineups Gregg Popovich played and given the fact that New York won and is undefuckingfeated, I shan't complain.
A couple quick numbers before I sign off for the night:
- The Knicks forced just ten San Antonio turnovers but only committed SEVEN of their own. That continues to be a thing.
- 11-25 from three, 15-23 from the line for the Knicks. 8-29 and 16-21 for the Spurs.
- Out rebounded 48 (14 offensive) to 40 (10).
- The Spurs held a substantial points in the paint advantage for a while, but ended up winning that battle 44-36.
And that's all I've got for y'all tonight. That was an astounding, exhilarating gem of a win and I couldn't be happier to have shared it with all of y'all. I'm saving my notes so we can chew on this a bit more in the morning, but not for long. It's on to Memphis for another exceedingly tough game tomorrow night. For now, good night. Great night.