Knicks 99, Jazz 88: "WOW."

I just spent a good twenty minutes combing the threads for a comment that I felt did that game justice, but nothing really worked except for the one quoted above (uttered by quite a few people, but copied and pasted from Spike4Prez). Just wow. With Jeremy Lin suddenly thrust into the starting lineup, this game already felt bound to be a letdown following Saturday's rapturous spectacle. When Amar'e Stoudemire had to leave town, the odds became even more imposing. And when Carmelo Anthony strained his groin in the first quarter, a win seemed near impossible.

But they did it! And by "they", I mean Lin and his sidekicks, the foremost of which were Steve Novak and Jared Jeffries. Those guys did it. That sentence was as blissfully baffling to write as it must have been to read.

Take the jump for details.

- So, yeah, Melo checked out pretty quickly. He pulled up lame while running up the floor and, despite tossing a pretty sweet alley-oop to Tyson Chandler right afterward, had to leave the game pretty quickly. He's got a strained groin now to go with his sprained ankle and wrist. D'Antoni said he's day-to-day. Moving on...

- Jeremy Lin kind of did it again, guys. In the first half, he did the same excellent job of keeping his dribble and waiting patiently for lanes to open off picks set for him by big men. When they did, he slipped bounce passes in to Chandler and Jeffries or accelerated toward the rim and finished the play himself. And again, a number of those plays were simply executed, but some were incredibly difficult maneuvers against pretty solid defense-- hanging off-balance lay-ins, split double teams, and precise passes through narrow openings. Once more, he showed the rhythm and gift with angles to identify fleeting channels of opportunity and, even better, the uncanny athleticism to exploit them. We got more nifty pick-and-roll feeds and an even greater helping of acrobatic finishes off the glass (my favorite being one where he drove left around the pick, then switched hands under the rim for the righty up-and-under finish while getting fouled by Al Jefferson).

- In the second half, the Jazz gave Lin a different look. Devin Harris practically dry-humped him over halfcourt, and the Utah bigs began hedging and trapping with abandon and forcing Lin toward the sidelines, even doubling him occasionally in the absence of a screen. It was in that second half that Lin committed all eight of his turnovers, though that number isn't nearly as discouraging as it sounds. For one, the kid looked like he was going to vomit and/or die in the third and fourth quarters. For two, that trapping and doubling (which, in itself, was kind of encouraging) was a luxury the Jazz could only afford without Melo or Amar'e to worry about. For three, at least a couple of those turnovers were passes that went awry because he was too ambitious or because the receiver wasn't expecting to be fed. I've got no problem with those kinds of turnovers. So, eight turnovers in a half is pretty outlandish, but it just seemed like Lin was tired, victim of an attacking defense, and bold more than he was shoddy or out of control. And, shit, he made some fine-ass plays in between those turnovers. Lin finished 28 and 8, and he would've had more assists and that double-double if Chandler and Jeffries finished a couple more of his sexy passes.

- Jared Jeffries was again the co-MVP with Lin. Tyson Chandler played just 22 minutes because of foul trouble, so Jeffries was often the lone interior defender on the floor. Jeffries had to let Al Jefferson burn him on occasion, but he also provided countless deflections and distractions and drew FIVE charges in the paint. He had a massive defensive game and, though he blew a number of offensive finishes, he made good on the contact he drew by shooting a solid 7-10 from the line. Terrific game.

- Chandler was great, too, but his curious character flaw of biting on obvious fakes got him in trouble, hence the 22 minutes. He finished quite a few Lin passes, though, and got to the line when he didn't. Also, his block on Gordon Hayward in the final seconds was BADASS.

- Steve Novak, guys! Novak scored an incredibly efficient 19 points on 10 shots (in 17 minutes), including 5-8 shooting from downtown. This was NOT a one-dimensional performance, though. Sometimes he faked the three and pulled up for a long two! The guy's versatile as hell! (Seriously, though, great game. The Knicks, as they always do, needed shooting tonight, and Novak gave them exactly that.)

- Raja Bell's sneaker fell off in the quarter and he got all mad when the ref didn't stop play for him and he had to foul somebody. I guess basketball games usually stop and start at Raja Bell's convenience?

- Landry Fields made a few nice basketball baskets early, but typically didn't look to score as much as the game progressed. Meanwhile, Fields has quietly become pretty adept at handling the ball in the pick-and-roll. He had a few very Landry connections with Jeffries in the second half.

- We saw zone defense for a moment in the second quarter, and possibly once or twice thereafter.

- Iman Shumpert's four threes--all misses- were in rhythm, but he still looks a lot better attacking the basket and trying to create something for somebody. He made a couple slick plays in transition, a nice extra pass or two, and some pretty important strips in mismatch situations.

- Bill Walker played 30 minutes, hit three of his nine threes, and put in some pretty nice defensive possessions. Few of those nice defensive possessions came when he was playing power forward and had to guard, like, Derrick Favors. (A Lin-Shumpert-Fields-Walker-Chandler saw some minutes at the beginning of the fourth).

- Pretty cool that the Knicks forced Utah-- one of the league's least turnover-prone teams-- into twenty turnovers. To be fair, the Jazz really did look like they'd shared a pot of barbiturate gazpacho before the game, but still, that was great, active floor defense by the Knicks. They made up for Utah's massive interior advantage (particularly sans Chandler) by ramping up the poking, prodding, and pestering away from the rim.

- Okay, a few more things about Lin. A few people talked about this in the thread and D'Antoni alluded to it after the game, but Lin's intelligence is readily evident. Simple, small things like nipping at the ball when he knows a big man is preoccupied with finding an outlet or waving off Shump to hit Novak on a second opportunity really add up.

- Oh, and when the Jazz were coming back and the Knicks really needed a big shot, Shumpert air-balled a jumper and Chandler tipped out the miss to Lin, who...

Lin1_medium

Buzzer-beating three -> Backpedaling nod + wink -> SKINK MOUF. Wonderful.

- Jerome Jordan finally got to spin in meaningful minutes, which was not as triumphant an occasion as I had imagined it to be.

- Clyde, reacting to a bad lob from Fields that slipped through Chandler's fingers: "Looked like Wes Welker on that one! Ha-ha! Yeahhhhhhhhh!".

- If the Knicks had squandered that lead down the stretch, we all would have pointed to six missed free throws-- four from Chandler and two short ones from a panting Lin-- that would have kicked the lead up to double digits in the mid-fourth. Didn't matter.

- 'Twas great to see Melo come out of the tunnel in street clothes and cheer the team through the final minutes of the game.

And that is all. Without two of their stars and with only half a game from the third, the Knicks relied on two former D-Leaguers and Jared Jeffries and shut down a pretty good, considerably bigger team. It was...wow.

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