For the second game in a row, the Knicks faced a team determined to punish Jeremy Lin and end the winning streak. And again, the Knicks appeared to be out of it on multiple occasions, including at several points well into the fourth quarter. But like $100 Million Contract said in the thread, Iman Shumpert and Jeremy Lin (and some brilliant team-wide defense) just wouldn't let the Knicks lose. Shump picked up Jose Calderon after Lin had struggled to defend him in the first half and just slashed the tires on what had been a terrific individual performance. That effort-- pressuring Calderon's dribble and sticking with him on the move-- spearheaded much sharper, more aggressive D by the whole squad. The Knicks forced 9 turnovers and held the Raps to just 12 points in the fourth.
Know who else had 12 points in the fourth? Jeremy Lin. He'd spent much of the night forcing shots and turning the ball over in traffic (though he had a pretty decent line anyway), but just gritted his teeth and attacked in the fourth quarter, repeatedly scoring and drawing contact on the move. After missing some important free throws, Lin converted an absurd three-point play to tie the game, then, with the game tied and time winding down, he waited...and waited...and waited...and...
Just absurd. This came after Shumpert rimmed a nice look at a mid-range jumper and Tyson Chandler tipped out an offensive rebound. Mike D'Antoni opted not to call a timeout, and instead told the Knicks to space the floor and let Lin work. He dribbled out the clock while I jumped up and down on my chair screaming "GO! GO! GO!". Calderon sagged off a step, and Lin just pissed in his eye. It just gets crazier and crazier.
- Defensively, the Raptors' approach was similar (at least to my untrained eye) to the Wolves' in the previous game. They trapped HARD on picks and roughed him up as much as possible, occasionally getting away with uncalled contact. That didn't stop Jeremy from handling the ball a lot, and in the midst of so much traffic, he ended up missing some tough shots and coughing up the ball a few times. It was an off night, though that didn't stop him from notching 27 points and 11 assists to go with his unsightly 8 turnovers. Those are...ya know...pretty good numbers. Lin's major issue in this one was repeatedly losing Jose Calderon over screens (and getting no help from Amar'e Stoudemire) and giving him wide open jumpers, which led to...
- ...Shumpert picking up Calderon in the mid-third and then for all of the fourth quarter. He got over plenty of screens, and went under the rest of them with gusto so as not to give Calderon a sliver of space to score. Though Lin had the shots to tie and win the game, it was Shump's backcourt pick and coast-to-coast finish against Calderon that cut the Raptor lead to 3 with a minute and a half left. The Knicks needed several big, big plays to steal this one, and Shump's was the first of them.
- (Shump was quietly 3-9 and blew yet another open dunk, but all is forgiven.)
- Stoudemire, in his return, had a few nice moments but looked quite a bit like his mid-January self. On offense, he rimmed out his open jumpers and tried to create a bit too much for himself, stumbling into eeeeasily half a dozen blocked shots without any burst toward the rim. We got a little peek at how deadly a Lin-Stoudemire tandem can be, but just a peek. Still, much more than we'd seen with anyone else the Knicks started at point guard this season. That'll improve. On defense, Amar'e was up to all his old tricks. He was partially responsible for Calderon's dominance in the first half (negligent help and half-assed switches) and just let guys like Linas Kleiza and James Johnson smoke him off the dribble a couple times. For what it's worth, Amar'e appeared (to me) to do a much better job of helping and sticking with his man and stuff in the second half.
- Clyde totally predicted all this, by the way. When asked before the game what he expected, he replied: "I expect...a Linsation! [chucklechucklechuckle]"
- Back to Lin, it seemed like he had plenty of success eschewing the pick-and-roll and just rocking Calderon off balance to beat him one-on-one off the dribble. He made some very lovely passes in that setting as well. Driving the wrong way off the pick seemed to work early on as well. Something to consider, no? When teams are trapping over the screen, he's repeatedly demonstrated enough of a first step to just drive away from the screen and get to the basket.
- Tyson Chandler had a pretty quiet game because of some dumb, dumb fouls (some dumb on his part, some dumb on a ref's part). He was obviously instrumental in that fourth quarter defense, though, and had a big block on Leandro Barbosa after Shump's coast-to-coast finish.
- Landry Fields also looked a bit like his mid-January self in at least one respect: his drives to the basket were untimely and often ended in him just flinging in the ball straight up in the air whilst trying in vain to draw contact. On the other hand, Fields was a superb playmaker off the dribble (as he's been for a couple games running). He made a couple gorgeous dishes to Chandler (including some off picks), as well as some smart extra passes on the perimeter.
- Jared Jeffries didn't have a great defensive game-- he lost track of Kleiza and Johnson just as much as Stoudemire did-- but he did do a better job of helping to guard Calderon when Amar'e was off the floor.
- This was the second consecutive game (this was very similar to the Minnesota game, in case I haven't made that clear) in which the Knicks really should have shot themselves in the foot (the team, collectively, has one foot) with their bad fourth quarter free throw shooting (Lin and Chandler each missed several).
- It was sad to miss Clyde say "Barn-yar-ni", but at least we got to hear him say Linas "Klay-zer" a few times. Another classic. I miss the days when Chris Barsh and Jorge Garbajosa (THAT one Clyde could say) were around.
- Amar'e's post-game tweet (and photo of his new tattoo honoring his brother) is worth a look.
- Is Aaron Gray the largest toddler on Earth? He's gotta be in the top ten. Kid's gonna be like 9 feet tall when he hits puberty and stuff.
- While Amar'e's offensive futility was a little worrisome, I wouldn't discount the fact that Amir Johnson is quite a talented shot-blocker and showed off some perfect timing when Amar'e had good position.
- The post-game bro smooch! Beautiful!
So, yeah. This was the second straight game that felt like a loss the whole way. The Knicks of a month ago would have lost both. But, yet again, Jeremy Lin overcame some struggles and New York made massive improvements on what had been some seriously shitty defense to steal a win on the road. Impressive, unfamiliar stuff. The Knicks, who hit 14-15 with the win, now head home for a little while. That little while starts tomorrow night against the Kings.