I did not have good feelings heading into this game. The Knicks were coming off a dismal performance against the Rockets, Carmelo Anthony was either going to play hurt or sit, and things just didn't look promising. But the Mike Woodson-led Knicks have made a habit of rebounding from disaster, and so they did against Brooklyn. Like Ozraider commented in the game thread, the effort we saw tonight constituted egg-zactly what we'd like to see from these Knicks after a bad loss.
That effort, recapped: Carmelo Anthony returned and played as if he had not one, but three healthy ankles. Actually, Melo did look a hair heavier on his feet, but hit a whole mess of open jumpers off the catch and used some gorgeous hesitation dribbles and fakes to make up for any deficit in quickness. In the second half, the Nets began to throw borderline comical help defense at Melo-- like, three guys crowding him and poking him in his nipples right when he crossed halfcourt. New York failed to exploit that pressure initially, but found a groove once J.R. Smith replaced Ronnie Brewer and the Nets could no longer afford to defend five-on-four. New York's pick-and-roll dominated from then on, headlined by Tyson Chandler dunking loftier and loftier lobs with ever-increasing fury, like a giant snatching comets out of the sky (a totally legitimate analogy because I've seen that happen). It was a great relief to see New York's offense look like itself again-- Melo Meloing, Chandler finishing pick-and-rolls, and a semicircle of shooters punishing the Nets anytime they collapsed. The Knicks undressed that sorry Brooklyn defense.
Better and more remarkable than the above, though, was New York's own defense in the second half. Early on, New York did a better job around the rim than in previous games, but experienced the usual troubles whenever Joe Johnson handled the ball. Jason Kidd fronted and wrassled with Johnson as best he could, but that sleepy lump was hot from the perimeter and kept earning his touches in threatening spots, which compelled the Knicks to double with abandon. As was the case in previous games, the doubles proved ill conceived. Johnson easily zipped cross-court passes to open weak side shooters with time and room to fire. Fuckin' Keith Bogans joined Johnson in dominating the second quarter as the Knicks serially failed to recover.
New York adjusted at halftime, though. Deron Williams couldn't miss to begin the third, but cooled off after a few minutes. New York's doubles looked stronger and more tactfully applied. Quicker rotations to the weak side denied Brooklyn the open looks they'd enjoyed prior. The Knicks contested everything, forced more turnovers, and paid closer attention to the defensive glass (Brooklyn had just two second-half o-bounds after eight in the first half). Big stops fed easy buckets, and the momentum generated in the late third carried New York through a breezy fourth quarter.
Lovely, heartening effort by those Knicks. Some more notes:
- Melo really did look surprisingly close to his healthy self. If anything, the lack of agility stirred him into different kinds of attacking feints-- more abrupt changes in velocity than in direction, including some especially gorgeous moves. Some of Melo's hesitation dribbles and head fakes had me over here peein' pants, like not just my pants but other people's pants that I borrowed for peeing. Melo got his buckets off a couple dribbles or off kick-outs to the perimeter and created plenty of looks for the others by passing out of double and triple teams. I enjoyed that one swipe-block on Kris Humphries, too.
- Chandler somehow outdid himself alley-oop-wise in this one, both in terms of style and violence. That one reverse finish off a Raymond Felton lob demonstrated just how coordinated the man is and the maniacal two-handed spike of another Felton lob (out of a timeout) hit the floor harder than any Chandler dunk I've ever seen. Research tells me that New York City's global antipode is a patch of the Indian Ocean off the southwest coast of Australia. Well, I bet there was a little splash there when the force of Tyson's jam penetrated through the Earth's core and blasted out the other side. Also excellent: Chandler's interior defense on Brook Lopez (8-18) and the occasional Brooklyn penetrator, plus a few Tyson Tap-Outs that really crushed Brooklyn's hopes in the second half.
- Jason Kidd's poor shooting continued: just 2-9 from downtown, though those two threes were big 'uns. As usual, he compensated for the inaccuracy with eight important defensive rebounds, three steals, and plenty of savvy entry feeds and extra passes around the arc.
- Ronnie Brewer got himself a couple early offensive rebounds, but mostly looked out of sorts when neglected by the Brooklyn defense. Perhaps because he's lost confidence in his outside shot (and recent returns on said outside shot warrant a loss of confidence), Brewer spent a lot of time loitering just below the free throw line, somehow at the center of New York's attack, but not in a position from which he could comfortably score. New York looked much, much better with J.R. Smith on the floor in this one.
- And whaaaaat a game J.R. had. One of his best, I thought. We saw him do all the good things: Stout one-on-defense against both Johnson and Williams, accuracy off the catch and off the bounce, drive-and-kick feeds to open shooters, tough rebounds, useful off-ball screens, evasive dribble moves to find the rim, a chase-down block of Lopez, a stunning last-second wrap-around entry pass to an open Chandler...everything. The Knicks played their most dominant ball with J.R. on the floor.
- Raymond Felton played a handful of Bad Raymond Felton possessions-- pulling up for long twos when Brooklyn sagged and flinging weak floaters of Brook Lopez when they switched-- but managed to avoid (I think) a Bad Raymond Felton game. He made up for spots of poor shot selection with some pinpoint lobs to Chandler and excellent kick-outs off the dribble, not to mention a nice coast-to-coast drive and a put-back in the early going. On one bruised flipper, 4-15 shooting. On the other bruised flipper, five rebounds, four assists (seems low), and zero turnovers in 32 minutes.
- Of note: Woodson sat Felton through most of the fourth quarter, sending him back out with about 4:30 remaining and the game already tipped in New York's favor. A Kidd-Smith-Melo-Copeland-Chandler lineup occupied the floor before that (Felton replaced Cope).
- Cope did a pretty nice Steve Novak impersonation, and then some. He drilled both his threes off the catch, finished one nice baseline drive off good ball movement, and managed to defend decently without getting his hair tangled in Gerald Wallace's.
- Pablo Prigioni forced a few of his passes into impenetrably tight spaces, though he did navigate expertly away from a Melo double to hit Chandler with a nice lob. Pablo also drilled two of four threes, much to the delight of Mr. Woodson.
- I thought Kurt Thomas played pretty solid defense in his eight minutes, no?. Didn't maim anybody, either. At least not in plain view of the camera.
That's all I've got for now. New York's off Thursday, so we'll have plenty of time to marinate in this win come the morning. 19-6, y'all. Have a good night.