Man, that took a lot out of me. Emotion-wise, the only difference between that game and the last game in Brooklyn is that instead of feeling like the Knicks nearly stole a game from the Nets, I feel like the Knicks stole a game from the Nets. The two evenings had a lot in common, you see.
Once again, New York looked bewildered defensively against a Brooklyn team that, even without Brook Lopez, completely has their number. Knick defenders switched ceaselessly and carelessly against the the Nets' 1-2 pick-and-rolls and gave up easy buckets over mismatches, easy buckets through backdoor lanes, easy buckets on put-backs, and every other kind of easy bucket you can imagine. Andray Blatche excelled in Lopez's stead and Brooklyn's backcourt dominated in the interior, though thankfully not at all from the perimeter. Deron Williams and Joe Johnson shot a combined 3-12 from downtown, and the various Stackhouses and Wallaces didn't step up this time. For that we thank them, because the Knicks had enough problems around the rim to be giving up threes as well.
New York's offense, meanwhile, was the opposite. They just couldn't get the ball inside with any success. Beginning with a deflection on Raymond Felton's first lob attempt of the evening, Brooklyn shut off the pick-and-roll and forced the Knicks to shoot. And shoot they did, with increasingly silly accuracy. After a cold start that saw the Knicks down as much as 21-5, Carmelo Anthony put a pot of soup on the burner and stayed cooking that soup to perfection for pretty much the duration of the evening. Soon enough, Jason Kidd joined him. And that was pretty much the offense. Melo hit everything, Kidd hit threes, and J.R. Smith-- playing with back spasms that were excruciating to even watch-- finally connected on some jumpers off the dribble. That's it. Raymond Felton, though he attacked better, couldn't get anything to drop, and Tyson Chandler hardly touched the ball against Brooklyn's impressive, collapsing interior D. While the Nets thrived in the paint. New York got next to nothing inside, so they just hit a ton of jumpers.
The improved shooting helped the Knicks bite off most of that embarrassing early deficit, then a stretch through the late third and fourth quarters in which they finally strung together some cohesive defensive possessions brought them back from a second double-digit disadvantage. In the final minute of a tied game, the best New York's offense could muster was a long, contested Smith three, but Chandler's massive tip-out of that miss ended up back in New York's possession and in the hands of Kidd, who calmly drilled a three while getting fouled on the close-out (I have no idea if it was a legit call. I was too busy kicking shit and screaming and punching myself in the bladder. He missed the free throw anyway). Despite some decent scrambling on Brooklyn's final possession, the Nets found two decent three-point looks with chances to tie, but missed 'em both.
Between the crowd craziness, the abundance of on-court violence and injury (This was a miserably refereed game. Both ways.), and the turbulent ending, it was, as Anthony Bonner's Subpoena commented, outright chaos. Just like the last game. Only this time the Knicks emerged from the rubble with a victory. It was amazing, once again, how the two teams could just batter one another and exchange massive runs, and somehow end up with a contest that came down to the final seconds. Whether or not this is a "rivalry" is of no concern to me but, ya know, those are the kind of things that happen between rival teams. On one hand, it'll be cool if this keeps happening. On the other hand, it's taking years off my life. I'm just happy the Knicks won this time.
I need to lie down, but let us discuss the individuals first.
- Carmelo Anthony, you magnificent creature. Melo actually started the game a little cold, missing four of his first five shots while unable to stop Blatche on defense. Toward the end of the quarter, though, he blew by Gerald Wallace for a baseline lay-in late in the clock, then drilled a turn-around J, then proceeded to dominate Wallace the rest of the evening. Wallace--no exaggeration-- kicked Melo square in the mouth at one point and it didn't stop him. Melo caught the net with every line he cast. He drilled jumpers from the right corner, drew friendly bounces and foul calls with drives along the baseline and up the middle, and nailed nearly all his pull-up threes, apparently drawing nourishment from sups of his own lip blood. He shot 14-19 after that poor start, including a fourth quarter in which he attacked relentlessly to get the fouls and buckets that initially put the Knicks ahead. In all: 45 points on 15-24 shooting, including 10-11 from the line and 5-7 from downtown. Pretty cool, guy.
- And yet the hero was Jason Kidd. Whether or not the Knicks would have won the last Nets game with him, I'm certain they would have lost this one without him. In the early going, when New York couldn't get anything to drop, there was Kidd burying an open elbow three off a Ronnie Brewer steal. In the second, when the Net bench swatted aside New York's first comeback attempt and threatened to blow it open again, there was Kidd to sink a big three off the catch. He had two more in the third, both off the catch, one off a pick-and-roll feed from Felton, one off a strong side dump-off from Melo. And in the fourth, the three that tied the game with four minutes to go was Kidd's. The one that won it was also Kidd's. Shit was valiant, and the dude quietly scampered near triple-double territory, too, with six assists and six rebounds (and zero turnovers) to go with those 18 points behind the arc. It's scary that the Knicks needed 37 minutes of Jason Kidd to win this one, but I'm thankful for every one of those minutes.
- Applause for J.R. Smith, too, who evidently just needed his spine wrenched in six different directions to break out of his shooting slump. Despite suffering from back spasms, then getting repeatedly, violently slammed to the floor, J.R. stuck in the game and hit some big pull-up jumpers peppered throughout the second, third, and fourth quarters. Made some great defensive rotations during that team-wide stretch of competence in the fourth quarter, too.
- Tyson Chandler's tip-out at the end was huge, but he had his worst game in a while. The need to help after so much switching kept pulling him away from Blatche and Reggie Evans (who he guarded interchangeably because, again, so much switching) and ended with easy buckets or fouls. All night, Chandler struggled to corral rebounds, helped at inopportune moments, and gave silly, unnecessary fouls such that he had to sit for a decent chunk of the second half. That tip-out, though.
- Rasheed Wallace wasn't much better. Sheed's early stints included a couple blocks and some smart fouls, and he did drill both of his threes, but he fell off considerably as the game progressed. Perhaps a little winded after missing a game because of that sore foot, Sheed got burned repeatedly by Blatche and Kris Humphries in the fourth quarter, just sorta feinting and pointing at them as they cruised by him to the rim.
- Raymond Felton played an awful game, but it was a different kind of awful from the first Nets game. Instead of settling for jumpers over the Nets' sagging defense, he probed relentlessly, but found himself in all kinds of traffic upon arriving in the paint. That led to so, so many missed layups and seven highly aggravating turnovers. Felton also got bullied on a few Williams post-ups. I'll still take this game over the last one, where he was just heaving jumpers. At least the man was attacking, and for all his blunders, Felton did penetrate and kick to set up some of those big shots down the stretch.
- And that's it. Those are the Knicks who contributed. Six Knicks scored, with Anthony, Kidd, and Smith producing 79 of the 100 points. Ronnie Brewer couldn't get anything to drop and sat most of the second half. Steve Novak hardly touched the ball in 22 minutes. Pablo Prigioni and James White were silent in their short stints. It was an incredibly lopsided effort.
- I don't know if it's just the size/strength/talent of the Nets backcourt, but Mike Woodson really loves helping and switching in Brooklyn, and it really killed the Knicks for a while. So many of those early Blatche baskets were scored over Jason Kidd. So much of the help defense on Johnson and Williams came slowly and from guys who couldn't afford to help. To their credit, New York rotated and scrambled to cover the weak side, way way better in the latter three quarters than they did in the first five quarters (including last game) of doing that in Brooklyn, but the strategy is still problematic.
- Another thing that I mentioned elsewhere and mentioned last time: The Nets once again got away with arranging the match-up they liked (Wallace on Melo, though it didn't work out so hot) while sticking Reggie Evans on the smaller Ronnie Brewer. Brewer, again, couldn't do anything to exploit what should have been a mismatch. Ronnie also get barked at pretty harshly by Chandler for dropping a pass/rebound Tyson tipped his way. Poor Ronnie. He means well.
- Pretty funny to see Woodson respond to his guys getting beat up inside by sending out a lineup of Felton, Kidd, Smith, Novak, and Anthony. Melo at the five. I'm pretty sure the Knicks went on a little run with that group, too.
- You kinda had to hear it but Clyde's "Good screen by [deep voice] Sheeeeeeeeeeeed" call was pretty great. So, too, was his "Oh, that's the Kardashian guy" line when Humphries was shooting free throws.
- Very, very slow game. Dubin tells me it was 84 possessions. That's astounding. The Knicks and Nets are both bottom-ten in the league in pace (the Nets are down at the very bottom with the Hornets), and that's even slower than both teams tend to play. Not a lot of transition in this one.
That's all I've got. It was a wild, wildly uneven affair. I can't believe we have to do another one of these in a week. Have a good night, everybody.