Oh man, I did not miss this feeling. My head's pounding, my temperature's high and, like gymtanlandry, my heart hurts. This used to be a nightly occurrence, my feeling physically ill while I feverishly replayed the blown opportunities that led to a heartbreaking Knicks loss. Through nine games, the Knicks had been kind to us, but that one brought all the old symptoms back.
The Knicks opened this one looking terrific on offense. Carmelo Anthony was crowded and a bit cold, but his passing out of doubles and Raymond Felton's headstrong, creative work off the dribble had the Knicks finding and sinking open looks aplenty. Splendid ball movement led to 9-19 shooting from behind the arc and 12 inside points for Tyson Chandler in the first half. It really felt like they should have been up a lot, but Dallas nearly kept pace with them in each shooting category thanks in large part to New York's sloppy switching around the perimeter and poor attention to their defensive glass. O.J. Mayo and Vince Carter tormented late-arriving close-outs from behind the arc and Dallas's eight offensive rebounds helped them out-attempt the Knicks.
We're used to these Knicks clamping down after the break following sluggish first halves, but they looked more like the old Knicks tonight. Things just Chinua Achebe'd, with problematic interior help against penetrators joining the flaky perimeter D on one end while all that ball movement dissolved into abject chuckery (looking at you, J.R.) on the other. After what felt like a dozen uncontested threes by Carter and Jae Crowder and a couple brutal and-ones, we found the Knicks down by double digits midway through the fourth. I don't know about you guys, but I was comfortably in "welp, not their night" mode at that point.
But goddamn, they came back. A J.R. Smith and-one, a Jason Kidd three, and some intrepid work by Raymond Felton got them all the way back into it. Felton's high pick-and-roll with Tyson Chandler fed a succession of and-one finishes while the defense ratcheted up to feed the rally. The Knicks had the momentum and, in the end, several chances to tie or win.
So, why'd they lose? Well, before we get to the endgame, let me get out of the way that Mike Woodson whiffed pretty hard rotation-wise. He played eight men on the second leg of a road back-to-back, which, even after a light workload in the first game, may have been asking too much. Guys were not sharp on their defensive rotations. Steve Novak ruined numerous defensive stands and typically reliable guys like Kidd, Brewer, and Smith were sloppy as well. With limited resources on the bench, I guess there's only so much Woodson could have done to resuscitate the perimeter D, but on top of that, one of the best rebounders on Earth-- Marcus Camby, y'all-- chilled on the bench nibbling his cuticles while Chandler and Rasheed Wallace got badly out-rebounded by a very bad rebounding team (and routinely failed to provide help defense in time to boot). So, all evening long, I think Woodson's rotation was unfit for the occasion, and it sounds like he agrees with me.
But let's run down the last few minutes. So, the Knicks' high 1-5 pick-and-roll ripped the Mavs apart. It set up every one of those Chandler and-ones and it fed a decoy Melo for a three-pointer that cut Dallas's lead to four. All that was working for the Knicks. Working against the Knicks were:
1. The heinous stylings of Vince Carter, whom I loathe.
2. One of several exceedingly questionable calls in which Melo drove diagonally to the rim, barreled into Carter, and banked in one of the more absurd circus shots I've ever seen one-handed, backward, and falling to the floor. The basket was negated by an offensive foul (Melo's third or fourth of those), but replay made it pretty obvious that Carter was sliding, if not actually jumping sideways, to draw that charge. It was an awful call. These things happen, and a defensive foul call would only have cut the deficit at the time to two had Melo hit the free throw. But yeah, there were several rough calls and non-calls in this one, another of which was the Chris Kaman facepunch that had Melo in the condition pictured above late in the fourth. I'm sure there were slights going the other way that we didn't notice, but still, fuck...[checks box score]...Tony Brothers. I think you're a butt, Tony Brothers.
3. A very bad final set out of a timeout. Down one with a full shot clock remaining, the Knicks let Raymond Felton wind down about ten seconds of clock, then fed Melo for an isolation fuck-up on the left wing. Melo drove, got a step on Shawn Marion, then stopped well short of the paint to pull up, only to lose the ball as he rose and end up shooting well short. I don't know why they went iso after so much pick-and-roll success (at least run it to shake up the D a bit, even if you're going to go iso eventually) and I REALLY don't know why they ran off clock. After Melo missed and New York quickly fouled, they only had three seconds-- with no timeouts-- to run the length of the floor and attempt a last-second overtime-seeking heave (Felton could've gotten a bit closer, but whatever). If Melo had taken that shot much earlier, he could have missed and still left the Knicks ample time for a good game-tying attempt.
Yeap. Such is life. On one hand, even a very good team is gonna lose the occasional road SEGABABA when the opposition gets hot and the whistles don't help. On the other hand, the Knicks squandered a really terrific shooting performance and a dominant offensive outing by Chandler. They came sickeningly close to stealing this one back from the Mavs. The game ran a very weird course from "they've got this" to "uh-oh, this is too close" to "uh-oh, they're about to lose a game they should have won" to "whoa, they're about to win a game they should have lost" to "FUCAKCDJAS;FLKDAJS;DFLKJ".
Tonight did not feel good. 8-2 feels pretty good, though, and for that we can give thanks. And on that note, enjoy your holiday. I'm keeping my notes just in case I feel inspired to go into greater detail about this one in the morning, but I doubt that'll happen. If we don't speak tomorrow, have a wonderful Thanksgiving. I love you all very much.