Man, tonight really, really felt like the night the Knicks would break their trend of never losing consecutive games under Mike Woodson. It had all the fingerprints of a gut-searing loss: a big early lead surrendered, defensive breakdowns, crippling failure to box out, a li'l Mike Dunleavy Jr. explosion, and Brandon Jennings' awful, awful face. Somehow, though, the Knicks survived and grabbed one of their most crucial wins of the season, preserving that streak of resilience.
I think I'm gonna save my notes for the morning, but take the jump for a bit of summary.
After the Knicks opened the game with a spate of easy baskets past eerily sluggish Milwaukee defense, New York's bench gummed up the ball movement and promptly-- VERY promptly-- squandered what had once been a thirteen-point lead. From then on, the Knicks played pretty limp, sloppy offense, but managed to avoid their usual quarter-long doldrums on that end because of Carmelo Anthony's (32 points on 26 shots) continued excellence, improved free throw shooting, and efficient little offensive contributions from Landry Fields and Tyson Chandler (and Iman Shumpert at times).
The defense, though, was pretty miserable until crunch time. The entire backcourt-- Shumpert included-- looked totally ill-equipped to tail Jennings and Monta Ellis's speedy jaunts around screens (and the Bucks set some really great screens). Those two went off-- Ellis had 35 and Jennings 22-- and even when they didn't get their looks, the quasi-penetration pulled Chandler away from the rim and bought Milwaukee easy inside shots and offensive rebounds.
It was pretty awful basketball-- on both sides, really-- that saw the Knicks fall down by as many as eight points in the fourth. It was around then that my head started to pound and my vision began to blur. New York got back into it, though. Melo hit some shots, Steve Novak hit some shots, and J.R. Smith-- that scoundrel-- stuck around through some loooow moments and hit some goddamn shots down the stretch. In the closing minutes, New York finally strung together some stops, hit their free throws, and escaped Milwaukee with a massive win.
So, here we are. 'Twas a dirty, gritty win rife filled with playoff-type basketball, in the sense that playoff basketball tends to be dirty and gritty. The Knicks certainly didn't seal anything with the victory, but they've a bit more cushion on their eighth seed, now sitting two full games above Milwaukee. Meanwhile, I'm exhausted and feeling pretty vasovagal after that one, so the rest of my notes will wait until tomorrow morning. I'll try and get them up early for y'all. Enjoy the win/rest of your night!