The Knicks are cruel, man, and I am so weak-willed. I've come into each of these games acting all blase, just for my own benefit. I sit down practically inviting the Knicks to lose. I can't bring myself to care anymore. Losing will only accelerate the inevitable big changes to come. And so forth.
I did this last night. I double-did it, remembering how sheepish I felt to have my heart broken in that Denver game. I knew the Pelicans' top-flight offense, with all its scoring guards and dynamic bigs, was going to tear the Knicks apart, so I peeled open a string cheese and kicked back, resigned to a ninth-straight Knicks defeat.
AND THEN THEY FUCKING GOT ME AGAIN. The Pelicans didn't run pick-and-roll enough and missed some open threes, but New York's defense looked surprisingly chipper. Guards-- Raymond Felton, even-- worked over picks and actually affected the drives of New Orleans ball-handlers. Andrea Bargnani looked for a while like he did in that win against Charlotte (You remember that win, right? Not the one, not the other one, but the other other one. That one.). He kept his footing against posting bigs and penetrating littles, casually swatting their attempts aside.
And the offense! The D flagged once Tyreke Evans started rumblin' and the Pelicans just hit some open jumpers, but the offense looked so composed for so long. Felton and Pablo Prigioni ran some beautiful pick-and-rolls to find Kenyon Martin or Amar'e Stoudemire near the rim, Bargnani popping out for straight-on jumpers, or-- and this was the best part-- a decoy on the weak side in position to shoot or attack. That quick pick-and-roll to set up a one-on-one on the opposite side is soooooo much better than a straight-up iso, and the Knicks stuck smartly with it to find open shooters, or to rock Carmelo Anthony's defender off-balance and facilitate his attacks.
And so they got me. The ball movement dazzled me, the moment of adequate defense fooled me, and the inevitable collapse killed me. Again. And it wasn't anything special. Anthony Davis broke his hand, which made me feel very sorry, but also jacked up Ryan Anderson's minutes, spread the floor for New Orleans, and probably hurt the Knicks' chances. Evans and friends kept pushing harder and harder in the pick-and-roll, finally exploiting Bargnani's switches and strolling to the rim. And if Bargnani's on a guard, that means... WAIT, who's got Anderson? The big fellow exploded in his increased second-half minutes, sometimes because he's just tall and good at shooting, but often because the Knicks got scrambled and lost track of him, which is one of maybe two or three things they really needed to not do. The play that got Iman Shumpert shouting at Melo was one such bescrambling:
And Shump was right to bark at Melo, because you can't just switch whenever you want. That leaves people open for threes. But yeah, anyway, the Pelicans-- Anderson, mostly-- hit six of seven threes in the third quarter while the Knicks got tight and began to swallow their extra passes. The game stayed close, but a closing lineup with Tim Hardaway Jr. and J.R. Smith (and no Iman Shumpert or Kenyon Martin) could not hit enough threes to take a win. Hardaway and Smith had hit three in a row when Prigioni joined them early in the fourth, but the swing-passing broke down late. Or sometimes it didn't and the Knicks just missed open threes. You know how that goes. It's missing bad shots, it's missing good shots, it's just getting tense and clumsy at the worst possible moments. The Knicks find a way to lose. First they find a way to get my hopes up in spite of it all, then they find a way to lose. A couple people were left speechless after the final buzzer, as noted in the headline. Nine straight losses will do that.
When this team finally does win a game, I won't believe them.
- Pablo Prigioni getting minutes over Beno Udrih pleases me, though only ten does not. If he's still facing plantar fasciitis, then should he maybe just sit? (Real question. Should he?) If he's not, then I think he should play more. He's always good for that extra pass. Meanwhile, Metta World Peace played 30 seconds at the end of the second quarter. He's struggled lately, but that's still weird. Mike Woodson really has a gift for inexplicable rotational quirks like that. The other day my dog was misbehaving and while I was reprimanding her, a single biscuit fell out of my pocket and she ate it. Then I continued scolding her, which must have been confusing. It's like that.
- Woodson's treatment of J.R. Smith would be like me feeding my dog whole ham hocks while she shits on my feet.
- Good on Felton and Shumpert for pushing hard off rebounds in the early going. Shump got Bargnani an easy cherry-pick dunk just by keeping his head up after a rebound and Felton hit Melo for a beautiful alley-oop streaking up the floor after a Bargnani block. Isn't it funny how rushing up the floor and using picks and stuff creates openings? If you don't just stand there, it makes it tougher for the defense!
- Melo was in an entry-passing mood, but guys just weren't ready for his one-handed bullets. I enjoyed Melo's game overall. He was silent early on, as the Knicks featured Bargnani out of the pick-and-roll, but his shots picked up as Bargnani drew help toward the middle of the floor. I know I keep repeating this, but Melo's life is so much easier when he can attack against a shuffled defense instead of just creating out of thin air. If he weren't so ice-cold from downtown (1-7), Melo would've had a nice line last night.
- Regarding the Shump thing: I don't know that Woodson benched him because he yelled at Melo. He probably just benched him because he's Mike Woodson. Shump did head to the scorer's table with a few minutes remaining, but never actually checked in. What stood out to me more were the play that led to the shouting (GIF'd by Bronx Chica above) and the play in the second quarter where Shump got lit up by an Anderson screen because nobody called it out. I'm trying very hard to stifle the voice in my brain shouting LOOK THEY'RE FREEZING HIM OUT ON OFFENSE AND HANGING HIM OUT TO DRY ON DEFENSE LOOK LOOK THE ORGANIZATIONAL VENDETTA AGAINST SHUMPERT HAS ACTUALLY INFECTED THE TEAM ITSELF THEY'RE GONNA LET HIM DIE OUT THERE, but yeah, it's hard to stifle because it's in all caps like that.
- Hardaway was really great off the catch, but did some rookies things down the stretch. Evans's and-one layup came off a rushed Hardaway miss in transition, a bail-out foul saved Hardaway from hurting the Knicks with an awful three over two people (J.R.'s swing pass was a beat late, but still), and Timberlake was one of a couple Knicks to rush threes in that final minute when the game was on the line.
- Remember how there was that talk about the "Steve Novak Effect" where Novak had weirdly good defensive numbers because guys were getting over-excited and going at him too hard? I feel like that happened a little bit when the Knicks switched little guys onto Anderson before he got out to the arc. A few times, Anderson drew Hardaway or Felton around the basket and I got upset, but then he'd rush a weird post shot and it kinda worked out!
- This was one of Amar'e Stoudemire's best games, I think. He played 14 minutes, made his shots, drew a couple charges and generally didn't embarrass himself on defense, and only had one flurry of awful unforced turnovers.
Those are my notes. Life is pain. Nothing matters. Stop wearing orange. ROSENTHAL OUT.