Knicks 102, Pistons 87: "Happy Shumpmas!"

Jamie McDonald

Iman Shumpert returned, New York's bench came up big, and the Knicks beat the Pistons in London.

And a happy Shumpmas to you, Tomahawk Stomp. The Knicks' game against the Pistons in London was headlined by a most encouraging return for Iman Shumpert, and they went ahead and gave the British fans a blowout win, too. As was the case in the Pistons' visit to New York, the Knicks' performance was inconsistent and incomplete, but a couple big runs kept Detroit from overtaking them.

New York bolted ahead to an early 16-2 lead behind a frenzy of Carmelo Anthony soup-cooking reminiscent of his record-setting day against Nigeria in the very same building last summer (the largest vat of soup he's ever cooked. Like a goddamn soup swimming pool). New York hit 11 of 18 shots, grabbed nearly every available rebound (13-3!), and let the Pistons miss pretty much all their jumpers en route to a twelve-point first quarter lead. Had they not turned the ball over seven times, the lead might have been 20.

Amar'e Stoudemire's foul-drawing carried the Knicks through a weaker defensive second quarter, then Detroit made a serious run after Tyson Chandler sat with his fourth foul early in the third. While New York's offense devolved into isos and turnovers, Will Bynum torched them over screens and the Detroit big men worked to draw switches and get easy buckets around the basket. Pretty much the standard shitty Knicks defensive stretch.

But, as they do, the Knicks let the Rockets Pistons draw near, then zoomed away from them all at once. Jason Kidd's help D forced a few turnovers, the Knicks drew some fouls and bought Steve Novak some open threes with the pick-and-roll, and the lead shot back up to double digits for good.

The Knicks didn't play well enough to beat some teams, but they definitely played well enough to beat the Pistons and entertain what seemed like a Knicks-friendly London crowd.

Notes:

- We begin, of course, with an obsessive, slobber-drenched breakdown of Iman Shumpert's first fifteen minutes of the season. Those fifteen minutes couldn't have gone much better, I thought. Shump changed directions and sprung off the floor smoothly and with confidence. He said he wouldn't return if he still felt tentative, and that promise seemed to hold up. On defense, Shumpert played like the Shumpert-toothed tiger we know and adore. He guarded Tayshaun Prince during his first stint and, after committing a small shooting foul on the first possession, did a nice job contesting Prince's jumpers and generally frightening folks with his long arms. He fought over a pick to draw an offensive foul and very nearly picked someone clean at halfcourt in the first quarter. In his later stints, he showed some of the familiar struggles with losing his man over off-ball screens, but made up for some surrendered baskets with an armful of strips and one backcourt steal that led to a gorgeous transition lay-in.

And that coast-to-coast finish (a lovely Euro Step to a righty finger-roll on the left side of the rim) was just one of several impressive offensive plays. Shumpert drilled two of three three-pointers off the catch, giving the first unit a nice wrinkle unseen since Ronnie Brewer's halcyon November. At one point, Shumpert drove baseline and tried to fuckin' yam on two Pistons, but got blocked up high by Kyle Singler. I think he might have actually connected if not for the block, and I think I might have shouted my eyeballs straight out of my skull had he done so. On another drive, Shumpert kinda lost control of his shot, but recovered the rebound and drew a foul on the way back up (then missed both free throws). My favorite shump of the game was Iman's lone assist, a gorgeous bounce-lay-off for a Tyson Chandler dunk. He wheeled into the paint off a kick-out, drew help, and dished across his body for the easy finish. I loved it. I loved most of it, really. Welcome back, Shump.

- Melo's game was a little odd. Like I said, he was cookin' soup early, following a beautiful entry pass to Chandler with that torrent of pull-up jumpers. He cooled off from there. We saw a great effort to post up early in possessions during the second quarter, including one quick post, catch, and turn to earn an and-one over Tayshaun Prince. He passed snappily out of doubles, too, but mostly missed out on assists when guys bricked their open jumpers. I almost wonder if those misses colored his decisions coming out of the break, because he took and missed a heap of doubled jumpers in the third quarter. Later on, though, he tossed a couple nice cross-court feeds out of help and one sharp entry feed as the decoy in a Kidd-Stoudemire pick-and-roll. 26 points on 19 shots and four assists ain't bad. Can't have those five turnovers, though.

- Tyson Chandler had himself a splendid defensive game. He held Greg Monroe to 4-12 shooting (with plenty of help from doubling guards) and gobbled up rebounds (14). Normal rotation and second half foul trouble mostly saved him from matching up with Andre Drummond (who is a terrifying creature), so that helped. On offense, I thought I saw Chandler use off-ball screens to shake free a bit more often than usual. He caught a few feeds rolling a bit too far from the rim, including one transition pass that culminated in Austin Daye clothes-lining him out of the air. Chandler fell directly onto his back, with just one awkwardly bent arm bracing the impact, but somehow managed to survive the accident unscathed (and, in the process, save London from getting besieged by Knicks fans hunting Austin Daye). Other than that, Chandler didn't receive very many useful touches, in part because other Knicks developed a weird habit of firing "lobs" his way at a velocity far beyond anything any human could reasonably be expected to catch. I...blame the miles per hour to kilometers per hour conversion?

- Chris Copeland forced a lot of early shots, but finished a solid 3-6 from the field. I barely noticed him except for that early offensive over-excitement and one nice defensive stand against Singler in the second half.

- Jason Kidd committed his too-common spate of unforced turnovers (the boxscore says just three, but I counted at least 13,500), but hit a couple open jumpers and played some of his best help defense. The roaming and leaving people open looks a lot better when he arrives on time and from the proper angle to help force a big man into a turnover on the baseline.

- Pablo Prigioni got a nosebleed and/or a cut on his nose and had to leave a game for a bit. I have a problem where every time I see Pablo hurt or affronted in some way, I worry that he doesn't want to be here anymore and just wishes he could go back to Spain or Argentina forever. I was over here like "oh no oh no his face is bleeding he probably hates America now". Sorry Singler or whoever it was elbowed you in your face, Pablo.

- Amar'e Stoudemire drew a whole bunch of fouls, and that's great. His defense was mostly un-nauseating (though I really, really wish the Knicks wouldn't switch him onto guards accelerating over picks. That does not work ever.) and he scored 17 points on just five shots and I cannot argue with that. The more guys find him in the pick-and-roll, the more that'll happen.

- J.R. Smith has swung back to chucking a lot, but hit a not-quite-terrible six of his 15 chucks. As sometimes happens, I think J.R. hit more contested step-backs than he did open threes off the catch.

- Ronnie Brewer played just four minutes. He knocked the ball away from Austin Daye and missed a three.

- Steve Novak drained five of nine jumpers, one of which came inside the arc off a couple dribbles to his right (!!) and three of which came during New York's game-clinching run in the fourth. At least one of his misses was from a borderline disrespectful distance.

- Cool minute, James White.

- The Knicks and Pistons both wore some unusual, light blue, sorta Argyle-y looking high socks for this one. I kinda liked them, but then Clyde called them "ghastly", so now I think they were ghastly.

- Clyde called a Chris Copeland transition put-back that kinda fell into his hands "a very opportunistic opportunity". He aimed to emphasize the opportune nature of the endeavor, you see.

- Pretty crazy that the Pistons grabbed three rebounds in the first quarter. It can be explained in part by the Knicks' ample turnovers and fouls, but still... Chandler had seven.

- Lots of fun technical difficulties in this one. First, the microphones given to Amar'e and Prince for their pre-game addresses cut out mid-speech. Prince talked to himself for a good ten seconds and Amar'e cycled through like four mics. The British microphone industry is all about quantity, not quality. You can buy mics in packs of twelve, but only nine of them actually work. There was also some ominous feedback reverberating throughout the arena in the early going that could be detected on the TV broadcast, but that went away. That MSG broadcast, meanwhile, lost its video feed for a minute-long chunk of the first half and had weird little lags all afternoon. London is NOT ready for the NBA, guys.

That's all. 'Twas an entertaining if not entirely impressive win, a fun alternative to the usual timing and location of Knicks games, and a most trishumphant return for our dear Iman. The Knicks'll have a couple more days off, then they'll return to the Garden for another matinee on Martin Luther King Day against...the Nets! Thanks to those of you spent the afternoon commenting with us, and shouts-out to our London-dwelling bros who got together for the occasion. Your gathering warms my heart and I very much look forward to reading your stories of the evening.<3

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