The 2012-2013 Knicks were far from perfect-- they were downright deficient in certain major respects-- but they won a whole mess o' games. New York proved quite good at making shots and quite bad at stopping shots, so they set about taking a lot more shots than their opponents. The same switching, doubling, and gambling that granted open shots actually did some good, especially against ill-prepared teams. Opponents would travel and throw dumb passes and dribble off their footsies and ultimately produce a line of over-50% shooting on a dozen or so fewer shots than the Knicks took.
Saturday night was an extreme throwback to last year. The Hawks shot crazy good percentages because they were usually open. They got right to the rim in transition and found open threes galore every time they set screens for one another. Of course, "usually" and "galore" are relative terms because Atlanta rarely had the ball. A combination of New York actually trapping effectively and the Hawks snoozin' around the night after an overtime win made for 27 Atlanta turnovers and just 66 Atlanta field goal attempts to New York's 87. The Hawks just gave the ball away, sometimes literally.
The Knicks' offense had some '12-'13 qualities, too. Without Kenyon Martin, Mike Woodson turned to a smaller lineup with J.R. Smith joining Pablo Prigioni and Iman Shumpert in the backcourt. Carmelo Anthony enjoyed a spread floor, finding both touch off the catch and room to attack off the dribble. Andrea Bargnani finally got to cookin' soup with the ingredients Pablo offered him in the pick-and-pop. Mike Woodson even played two point guards for a few seconds there.
New York nearly blew it when the breakdown chain (guys switch -> one of the switched guys doubles off his new man -> open three on the weak side because you can't expect a THIRD Knick to pick up an assignment) gave the Hawks a slew of open third-quarter threes, but the Hawks just didn't feel like coming all the way back. And after a brief spell of isolation ugliness (during which his closest attempt was a fumbled dribble that squirted toward the basket), Melo caught fire and put the game out of reach. And the Knicks won. For real. The beat a pretty good team. On an off night, sure, but I'll take that.
Just a few notes:
- There were possessions in which New York's traps actually forced turnovers, and there were possessions in which New York's traps allowed bail-outs. There were ALSO-- I swear-- a few possessions in which traps failed, the ball swung to the weak side, and someone was actually ready to close out and prevent an open shot. Those were cool. Also cool when the Hawks just threw passes into the crowd. I'm fine with that.
- Melo looked like he really screwed up his hamstring in the second quarter, but then he kinda just kept playing. Very competently. So I guess he's fine?
- Tim Hardaway Jr. was the Knicks' most productive shooting guard once again. He only took three threes (and only hit one), but got himself ten more points by slicing, curling, and driving toward the rim when New York's ball movement created seams or just crammin' on folks in transition. J.R. Smith gave the Knicks pretty much nothing and looked very sad sitting on the bench during garbage time, which apparently has a bit of a backstory. Iman Shumpert much preferred to make the extra pass (and he made some beautiful extra passes) than to shoot. Shump helped force some turnovers with on-ball D and helpsmanship, but some of his cheating let Kyle Korver shake free for open shots. The Knicks were lucky Korver only shot 4-9 from downtown.
- Pablo Prigioni maaaaaybe shouldn't get the ball anymore in transition. The keep-the-ball-until-all-the-way-under-the-rim-then-hurl-it-off-the-shot-clock play isn't the most efficient thing ever.
- Clyde: "Last year, home court was their Xanadu. This year, it's been their Waterloo."
- Amar'e Stoudemire did some genuinely great things defending Al Horford early-- interfering with entry passes and the like-- but struggled later. He made up for it with some great, quick, deep, nice, good, useful positioning and great, quick, good, decisive moves off those catches.
- Metta World Peace played another very light stint, highlighted by an only slightly contested layup that missed about 1.5 feet wide.
- John Giannone did the "MSG 150" in place of Bill Pidto and referred to a Dwight Howard three-pointer highlight as "the NBA's version of a spotted owl sighting" and I hereby declare he should always do the "MSG 150." Although I think spotted owls are pretty common out west?
That was good. It was fun. Winning's more fun than losing, like Russ said. Way to be, the Knicks.