That was April basketball from start to finish. The Knicks (without Tyson Chandler) and the Hawks pretty much made a pact to go small, play shaky defense, and trade spurts of gunning, isolation-heavy offense. It was pretty weird to watch from two of the league's better defensive teams, but, like Vinny Chase commented in the thread,
"I am Queens Boulevard" it got kinda fun anyway, especially toward the end.
Both teams shot better than 50 percent from the field and better than 60 percent(!) from downtown. Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams, and Jeff Teague all went off for the Hawks while Carmelo Anthony was cookin' soup for large portions of the afternoon, Amar'e Stoudemire looked much better in his second game back, and each other Knick starter made a useful offensive contribution.
In the end, Johnson and Anthony traded big, ballsy buckets, with Melo's thoroughly silly pull-up long two with a minute and a half to go ending up the game-winner. The teams went back and forth flubbing possessions through the final minute and the Knicks iced Atlanta's final inbound play to leave Atlanta with the win. Take the jump for just a few quick individual notes.
- Carmelo Anthony did his thing. Not much to it. He went cold for some stretches, but the Hawks pretty uniformly met him with single coverage, and Melo happily turned that into a parade of dribble-drives, step back jumpers, and free throws. Canned a few off the catch, too. All good things.
- Amar'e Stoudemire looked pretty great, too! His defense was ghastly to start, but I'd say it improved to "spotty" later in the game. His offense, though, was very encouraging. He finished some pick-and-rolls-- including a few tough ones far from the rim-- drilled a couple elbow jumpers, and was mostly patient enough around the basket to get guys in the air and draw contact. Oh, and Amar'e got way up there for a couple truly viscous dunks and, in perhaps his most pleasing moment of the afternoon, hopped right up off the floor after getting knocked on his backside by Jeff Teague. Wonderful to see. Oh, and 12 rebounds, too!
- Baron Davis opened the game with some really hideous turnovers, but improved considerably as time passed (this is very rarely the case). He made some gorgeous finishes off the dribble, sank three of four three-pointers, and ran some beautiful pick-and-roll and penetrate-and-dish plays alongside Amar'e. Those guys haven't played much together, but they appeared to have a nice thing going today.
- 31 minutes for Baron, and he genuinely improved throughout the game!
- Iman Shumpert had to guard a number of guys, and didn't look as sharp as usual on that end-- a bit of unnecessary switching and doubling, but that is and was a team-wide problem. On offense, though, he did a pretty nice job. Shump sank four of eight shots, including a couple gorgeous diagonal drives early on.
- Landry Fields wasn't doing much until he exploded completely out of the blue in the third quarter. He, like Shumpert, drove right through the defense for some wonderful finishes and, in the day's most thrilling turn of events, drilled three of three three-pointers off the catch. They actually had arc on them and stuff! And he hit a free throw! I can't even articulate how great it was to see Landry sink some jumpers. I'm disappointed that Fields didn't get to reenter the game in the fourth, and I hope it wasn't a fluke but a turned corner of some sort. 16 points in that third quarter, by the way.
- J.R. Smith hit a few shots and made some perfect reads at the top of the pick-and-roll. He also passed up an open shot in the final minute in favor of passing to the back of Stoudemire's head, but it was a mostly positive game.
- Nobody else on the bench contributed anything of note. Steve Novak hit a three and Josh Harrellson got blocked on the slowest dunk attempt I've ever seen in my life. (If "viscous" didn't mean "vicious" around here, I'd have called it that.)
- As is often the case with Knicks-Hawks games, this one got a bit hostile (though, now that I'm watching Lakers-Thunder, it wasn't THAT chippy). Jeff Teague just annoyed everybody and Amar'e Stoudemire and Jannero Pargo bickered a little bit. Nothing physical/serious.
- Fun lineup: Shumpert, Smith, Fields, Novak, Anthony. No point guard, no center, no problem.
- Clyde doesn't have Mobb Deep on his iPod. "Generation gap".
- When discussing Fields's shooting slump, Clyde claimed that he'd never had a slump of more than two to three games. Bernard King said his longest was two to three minutes. I kind of believe both of them.
- Though he struggled a bit on that end, it should be noted that Shumpert's defense on Joe Johnson was crucial to New York's game-winning stop. He guarded him on the inbound pass, then did a terrific job of busting through a hand-off to deny him the ball. Marvin Williams had a step on Amar'e when he turned and made his drive as the second option, but not enough time or space to get off a good look.
Maybe we'll talk about this more later. The game itself was pretty silly and not worth getting worked up about one way or the other, but we saw some solid individual performances from all the Knick starters, including some particularly encouraging ones from Davis, Stoudemire, and Fields.
Meanwhile, the Knicks clinched their second winning season in a row, maintained their slim chance at the sixth seed, and preserved the streak of not losing consecutive games since Mike Woodson became head coach. Pretty cool all around! I'm hungry. More later.