The Knicks are above .500 for the first time since January 11th, and they got to that point with their most absurdly dominant win of the season. Pretty much everything went right. With Amar'e Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin both missing from the lineup, Carmelo Anthony took over and played one of his finest, most efficient games of the season. He drilled shots over single coverage and passed out of double coverage to keep the Knick offense flowing. And it flowed. Flew? Flowed. New York shot 51 percent from the field and hit twelve three-pointers while forfeiting just 11 turnovers.
Meanwhile, after struggling to defend Jameer Nelson's penetration in the first quarter, New York locked the Magic down in the second and third quarters, sticking to their men most of the time and rotating brilliantly the rest of the time to prevent another three-point bonanza from Orlando. That tightened defense combined with the crispy offense amounted to a 65-30 advantage in the middle two quarters, including a 21-0 run in the third. The Magic actually went on a pretty massive run of their own to chop New York's lead down to 19, but I was too busy dancin' to care. The Knicks eventually nipped that run and allowed extended garbage time to take hold.
In terms of pure delirium, that was probably the best win of the season. New York dominated so completely on both ends of the floor-- against a very good team, no less-- that, like Ruka35 mentioned in the game thread, it sort of felt like two wins.
Take the jump for some notes!
- Carmelo Anthony was definitely in pain, and he spent his rest breaks pedaling a stationary bike (maybe keep doing that?), but played one of his best games as a Knick. Melo's approach from the power forward position was simple: Beat single coverage, get the ball moving out of double coverage. He posted up quite a bit and torched guys like Hedo Turkoglu and Quentin Richardson with the type of turnaround jumpers and quick drives that had been rimming out all season. Tonight, they dropped or at least bought contact, and when the Magic doubled to counteract that, Melo was quick to kick the ball out and the rest of the Knicks were quick to swing the ball around the perimeter and find open shots. His defense, too, was a big help, and included a couple strips, a lovely swat of Turkoglu, and some nice foot shufflin' in help situations. Wonderful game, and he only had to play three quarters.
- The Knick offense described above was actually a lot like the one Orlando likes to run, but the Magic didn't have the luxury of frequent double teams on their star. Tyson Chandler took his lumps against Dwight Howard (including a bad foul call that led Tyson to flip out and draw yet another technical), but mostly had the fortitude to handle Howard one-on-one. He worked hard when the ball was elsewhere to deny Howard or at least force him away from the paint, and got a boost from four teammates who didn't need his help that often after the first quarter. Chandler finished one incredibly difficult alley-oop from Davis and had a bunch of tip-ins as well.
- Iman Shumpert, starting again because of all the injuries, played the most minutes, took the most shots, and had perhaps his best two-way game of the season. Shump came out firing and actually bricked his first three jumpers, but got to cookin' soup after that. He tied Melo with 25 points by drilling four of ten open threes (that's a lot of attempts, but you can't argue with the results), pulling up for short jumpers off the dribble, and finishing at least one transition play with a one-handed Shump Smash. On the other end of the floor, Shumpert had a bit of trouble early on with running into screens and falling down, but as the game progressed, he did a much better job of getting over 'em and/or drawing charges (three, I believe) instead of just getting smushed.
- Baron Davis had a pretty quiet game, which is probably a good thing when we're talking about Baron Davis. He had a ton of trouble with Nelson, but made up for it on the other end by not settling for threes, hitting some twos on the move, driving and kicking to open shooters, and pulling down seven rebounds out of the blue. Though they came on two of the most plainly awful passes I've ever seen, Davis had just two turnovers. Baron's hamstring was apparently bugging him again, so nice game, all things considered.
- Davis committed one of those awful turnovers in the final minute of the second quarter, then compounded his error with a useless foul on Nelson with six seconds left. But then Nelson missed one of two free throws and Davis hustled the other way to penetrate and kick to a buzzer-beating Steve Novak three and Baron looked like a mad genius.
- On that note, New York out-rebounded Orlando 49-34, including 16-9 on the offensive glass. Davis and Shumpert each out-rebounded Dwight Howard, which is fun, you see, because those guys are guards and Howard is a building.
- Landry Fields was pretty quiet on offense-- he missed his threes per usual but had one gorgeous under-dunk off a backdoor cut and sliced through an Orlando zone early in the third-- but did a nice job defensively, often against bigger Magic shooters.
- Worth mentioning: Orlando did go to a zone to start the second half, but New York just pissed on it with two quick Melo threes and that Fields drive and lay-in right up the gut. After that, Orlando went back to getting destroyed the normal way.
- J.R. Smith hit his jumpers again and quietly had a few more of those little helpful plays we talked about after the last game. He played some solid defense, including some nice coverage in help situations (including one fairly savvy, if possibly unintentional, kick ball to stop an entry pass to a wide open Howard). Smith had a few highlights, too, with a preposterous one-handed finish of a slightly inaccurate Mike Bibby lob, a backcourt steal and dagger of a corner three, and a viscous cross-up of DeAndre Liggins that got ruined by a missed jumper. I'll share some videos tomorrow morning.
- Steve Novak actually missed some open looks, which is so unexpected that it makes me a little dizzy to watch. He drained his share of threes, though, and finished 4-8 from downtown on the night. And that was, to my eye, a bad shooting night for Novak. You're pretty silly, Steven.
- Josh Harrellson played 20 minutes and fell short on a few attempts at the rim (the vertical leap on those shots can only be detected with a microscope), but wrassled his way to eight rebounds in that short amount of time.
- After we got all excited that Toney Douglas would get meaningful minutes, Mike Bibby was the first guy off the bench and didn't do much. Douglas briefly graced the scorer's table at the end of the first half, but couldn't enter because the man he was supposed to replace (Davis) was at the free throw line. Toney didn't end up spinning until garbage time.
- Big Baby dove into the crowd (seemed unnecessary to me. I sorta think he just likes crushing folks.) while chasing a loose ball, which prompted Bernard King to mention that Davis is a "400-pounder".
- Bernard King's laugh, which I believe emanates from somewhere in his large intestine, is wonderful. Also, I'm pretty sure I heard him pronounce "groin" as "grain" and confuse Hedo Turkoglu with his feathered counterpart, Turkey Lou. Easy mistake to make.
- I thought I noticed Tyson Chandler do a thing where he clapped his hands right after a free throw was attempted, perhaps to distract his fellow rebounders. I don't know if I was seeing things, but this older kid I used to play basketball with sometimes in high school (and, incidentally, one of the best athletes to ever come out of my school) used to play defense by doing exactly that. It was cheap, but terrifying in a way simply because he was so much bigger than everybody else. Kinda like Tyson.
That's it for now, y'all. It feels terrific to be back above .500 after so many flirtations with that winning record, and it feels doubly great to have reached this point with such an incredible short-handed win. I'll add some more notes, links, and videos tomorrow.
'Twas a great, great, great, great game in nearly every respect. One of the best wins in a long time. I love you all and loved sharing the experience with y'all.