I am the sleepiest person on the planet and we've got an off day to roll around in this win, so this'll be a short recap. First of all: Many thanks to everyone who came out to Full Circle tonight for the meet-up. The turnout was terrific, the group was lively and amiable, and we pretty much had a bar to ourselves for a terrific night of basketball. Thanks to the bar proprietors for welcoming us and to gbaked for arranging the whole thing. And hey, thanks to those of you who kept the game thread going in our absence. Wonderful night.
And, uh...yeah, I loved sharing that game with a couple dozen other P&Ters, but that Knicks performance would have felt amazing if I was locked in a closet alone with some mops. Yes, the Spurs were road-weary and yes, none of their starters played more than 30 minutes, but the Knicks still deserve credit for locking 'em all the way down. Right from the outset, tactical adjustments made a difference: Mike Woodson's decision to start Marcus Camby at the four and play him a season-high 16 minutes gave New York's defense a whole new edge. The Knicks hustled back in transition to cut off quick attempts, then Camby and Tyson Chandler helped one another wall off the rim. At the very least, when one had to switch and roam, the other could protect the rim. At best-- when rotations were sharp and the bigs could stay home-- the Knicks boasted 14 feet of looming, shot-altering manmeat in the lane. That presence limited San Antonio to twelve(!) points in the paint to New York's 36. We like that. Smart move to promote Camby, Mr. Woodson.
But as I already sorta alluded to, effort made a big difference on defense as well. We saw better communication, tighter rotations, MUCH better rebounding team-wide, etc. The Spurs found-- but missed, thankfully-- a bunch of open threes, but got hassled into many tough attempts as well. New York came away with ten steals, too, including some signature Pablo Prigioni sneaks and even some quick hands from Steve Novak, who just snaggled possession away from some Spur. Can't remember who, so let's just say it was Jaren Jackson.
So, for once, New York defended from tip-off forward. The defense-- plus a bunch of offensive rebounds to make up for ten turnovers-- was enough to buoy them into halftime, at which point the offense arrived. Melo didn't have his best shooting night (9-20. Not bad.), but ran a whole bunch of pick-and-roll and made some beautiful first steps and savvy passes over those picks. Pablo Prigioni-- playing starter's minutes off the bench-- injected a bit more life into his own pick-and-roll game than Jason Kidd had been doing in the same position and made some beautiful pinpoint feeds for easy buckets. Steve Novak, at long last, reawakened and drilled five of his seven open three-pointers, even busting out the championship belt late in the game. Even Ronnie Brewer hit a couple more threes. Amar'e Stoudemire still looked rusty as hell and thoroughly uneconomical with his movements, but got some short shots to drop. And J.R. Smith nailed his pull-ups, tossed perfect passes on the move, and did the one thing that made our happy little group and the inside of my skull explode and that I've been waiting this whole time to relive:
It's like five hours after that play and I can barely keep my eyes open right now, yet my response on my 58th watching is the same as it was the first time: just a string of vowels emanating from somewhere deep within my belly. That dunk hijacks the ordinary functioning of every one of my internal organs. It requires that each organ turn into a gurgling dunk-processor. When the video ends they just sit in there squishing in awe about the dunk. I can hear them.
Seriously, you can't do that. You can't catch a chest-high pass while lifting off and just flick it through the rim backward over your right shoulder. It's not allowed. The Knicks bench knew this. Look at Tyson Chandler in that video. He saw the dunk and immediately decided he had to leave. Rules were being broken and Tyson didn't want to be there for the repercussions.
I love that dunk. I want to go apartment hunting with that dunk.
The funny thing is J.R. had another highlight when he swatted the simmering shit out of Gary Neal's layup in the first quarter, but I don't even care anymore because that dunk makes me forget that other things ever happened.
Where was I? Oh, yeah, so the Knicks' offense snatched the game and ran away in the second half. All sorts of pick-and-rolls stirred up the lane and created space for open looks from outside that, for what felt like the first time in ages, dropped pretty regularly. New York took a seven-point lead out of the third, then all but ended the thing with a 10-0 run to open the fourth. Like Tomahawk Stomp said in the thread, the Knicks poured it on-- just ladled sweet, syrupy points onto the Spurs' heads-- for a 33-point quarter that had the San Antonio starters done early and gave New York's garbage crew (which, incidentally, includes Amar'e fucking Stoudemire) plenty of time to frolic.
Mmhmm. The Knicks reminded us tonight of the things they can do. All it took was a little rotational jiggling and a lot more effort for New York to suddenly reanimate into the marauding force we saw earlier in the season.
I look forward to reveling in this game more tomorrow and hope the above suffices for the time being. I sleep now. <3 <3 <3