Tonight's game had all the early makings of a signature Knicks loss. They kept pace with the Bulls in the first quarter with some hot shooting from Landry Fields and inside punch from Amar'e Stoudemire, then collapsed in the second quarter and seemed to let the game slip away. The second unit came in missing shots and practically assisting Chicago baskets with their turnovers. Overall, the team coughed up ELEVEN turnovers in that period, allowed C.J. Watson to torch them the way Derrick Rose (more justifiably) had in the first quarter, and fell behind by 11 heading into halftime.
And then something seemed to turn in the second half. Suddenly, the Knicks moved the ball like pros and made nifty feeds to folks cutting inside. Carmelo Anthony (3-10 in the first half) began to pick his spots wisely and thrive from the right block. As a team, the Knicks began to force turnovers and chip away at the lead.
And that's the "this" alluded to by moose35 in the comment quoted above. Even without a point guard and even without a shred of help from their bench (six points, all from Toney Douglas), a Knicks squad that moves the ball quickly but carefully, hits some open shots, and plays halfway decent team defense is effective enough to compete with a good team. This one was a close game throughout the fourth, but the majesty of Rose and a few missed opportunities lost the game down the stretch.
Take the jump for some individual notes.
- I can probably just knock out the bench in one bullet point: Toney Douglas played terribly. He did a semi-passable job against Rose, but shot just 2-7, recorded zero assists, and committed some of the most egregious turnovers I've ever seen. At one point, he drove under the basket and attempted one of those hockey passes that goes behind the goal to a guy on the other side. Only that's illegal in basketball and it was just out of bounds and a turnover. Jared Jeffries did a good job trapping and helping on defense but brought none of his hilarious offensive contributions. Bill Walker did nothing and a brief experiment with Renaldo Balkman-- endearing as it was-- failed. There's the bench. Chicago had a 25-6 bench scoring edge and they were playing without two starters. That feels important.
- The above meant that no starter played less than 36 minutes, which isn't ideal for the first game of a back-to-back-to-back.
- For the first time all season, Amar'e Stoudemire had a pretty uniformly terrific game. We saw a couple missed jumpers that were a bit too far out and a bit too uncertain, but other than that, Amar'e just smoked Carlos Boozer. Said smoking occurred in a variety of ways: We actually saw Amar'e get some looks off the pick-and-roll (both slipping and actually setting the pick), we saw him sink a few routine elbow jumpers, and we saw him just blow by Boozer a couple of times, including this jaw-dropping turn of events:
That is not a thing I knew Amar'e could do. I'm not wearing a cap, so I'll just doff some of my hair. Wow. 11 rebounds and a couple of nice recovery blocks to go with those 34 points, too. Excellent game.
- Carmelo Anthony's night (26 points on 26 shots) wasn't quite as excellent, but it was a hell of a lot better than it looked to be at halftime. Melo started the game in his usual distributive mindset, but began to force passes and miss his jumpers as the first half progressed. He was just 3-10 at halftime. In the second half, he looked much sharper. He tossed one beautiful alley-oop to a trailing Tyson Chandler, made a few other spiffy passes, and finally capitalized on his isolation plays from the right block, just displacing the much smaller Ronnie Brewer to get good, close looks. The ball did get a bit sticky in the fourth quarter-- Melo got several baseline layups blocked when he probably could have dished off-- but 1. at least he was trying to get to the rim and 2. He made a terrific pass out of a double team on one of the game's crucial possessions (that led to an extra pass from Stoudemire and a Landry Fields finish).
- Fields had another pretty solid game, but was rather spotty despite playing 42 minutes. He drilled two threes from the left elbow in the first quarter as part of a personal eight-point run, then hardly scored again until the fourth quarter. On defense, Landry had an especially difficult time tailing Kyle Korver through screens and got burned for jumpers several times. And when Korver didn't connect, the ball often moved into the paint, where one of the Knick bigs had abandoned his post to try and help. It seemed like the majority of Chicago's baskets, particularly in the first half, resulted from breakdowns that emanated from Fields losing Korver or Iman Shumpert losing Rose.
- And Shump got pretty soundly dominated by Rose. He got caught on a ton of screens (when Joakim Noah's setting 'em, it might make sense to force your way over the top and try to sell a foul, because he's often committing one.) and let Rose get inside to tear shit apart pretty much whenever he wanted. Shump probably deserves some of the credit for Rose's tendency to settle for outside shots during stretches of the second half, but I wouldn't say he had much of an impact on that end. The good news was that he had a pretty nice offensive line of 10 points (5-9) and 8 assists, though some of both came from near-turnovers that somehow ended with the ball back in his hands. Overall, it was an okay game and about what we've come to expect from a rookie starting out of position.
- Tyson Chandler did his thing but was relatively quiet. It would have been great for him to get more attempts inside and get to the line some, but the Bulls crowded the paint pretty well and did so without fouling. Or at least without getting whistled for fouls.
- I know he's not the only one to do this, but when Reggie Miller talks about something like the bulls "adding a Rip Hamilton", it makes me want to vomit out of my ears. Rip Hamilton, as far as I know, is not a common noun.
- Oh, also everything else Reggie Miller says ever. I find it pretty incredible that Reggie Miller-- who says some of the most grating things I've ever heard in one of the most grating voices I've ever heard-- gets paid to speak into a microphone. This is akin to me getting paid lots of dollars to play basketball or, like, deliver babies or something. I am very bad at both of those things, you see. Well, to be fair, I've never actually tried the second one.
- Down three, Mike D'Antoni drew a play for Amar'e to cut to the top of the key off a screen, catch the ball, and either attempt a three up top or kick the ball to Melo on the wing. Amar'e found himself a good, open look up top, but missed it. Didn't bother me.
And that's pretty much all I've got. Let's see if New York can recreate any of the wonderful moments they had tonight against Boston tomorrow and New Jersey on Saturday. That'd be pretty good if they could do that.