Damn, I like winning. That was fun. It was simple, too. The Nets' awful, awful, seriously reprehensible, borderline quarantine-worthy defense encouraged New York to make smart passes, and the Knicks at the end of those smart passes made their shots. It looked like they were playing the game on easy mode after two or three weeks playing on superstar mode with their thumbs taped together. That's not to discredit New York in victory; they could easily have taken horrid defense as an invitation to double down on isolation and miss open shots. Nice to see them capitalize on an opportunity for once. To the notes!
- What a crisp, lovely game from Carmelo Anthony. He spent the early portion of the game deferring to Andrea Bargnani, as he does, then took more control of the ball as the game progressed. The ball didn't stick, though. If mismatched or given a lane, he attacked. If doubled, he kicked, and the other Knicks made him happy he did so. When he distributed from the post or out of Bargnani pick-and-pops, the ball skipped around to open makes. When he worked out of the side pick-and-roll-- on four consecutive third-quarter plays!-- he set Amar'e Stoudemire up for buckets and drawn fouls. All that flexible offense and the usual doggedness around the backboard got him a clean 19, 10, and 6 in 31 minutes. 31! First time he's logged under 40 since November 19.
- Iman Shumpert's game-opening approach wasn't the prettiest, but it ignited a season-best performance. His first play of the game was snatching a rebound away from Bargnani, then zig-zagging coast to coast to get blocked at the rim. Soon thereafter, he spotted up from like four feet beyond the arc in transition...and it went in. And he just built from there. After those early hijacked possessions, Shump took smart, timely shots and hit damn near all of them. When the Knicks ran a pick-and-roll and sucked in the defense or when Melo drew help and kicked out of the post, it was Shump catching and burying threes at the weak elbow-- five in seven attempts. Nice to see the Knicks find him open (especially after he seemed initially more inclined to gets his touches by force), nicer to see him cash in for a season-high 17 points.
- There was one hiccup in a wire-to-wire (I think?) win, and that was between the late first and early second quarters when the Nets trimmed a double-digit lead back to just a few points. It was the point at which we all said "shiiiiit here it goes again". The Nets ran Joe Johnson, then Shaun Livingston over a few screens, and the Knicks were like "hey you promised not to do that!!!" and gave up open shots. But then the Nets just kinda stopped doing that and the Knicks got back to thumpin'. There was a moment there, though.
- It's childish, I know, but I went from "Well, Andrea Bargnani's having an okay season and I've always liked the guy" to "KNICKS LEGEND!!!!!!!" in one night. To start with, he put a up a nice line of 16 points on 7-13 shooting, along with 3 blocks and 3 assists. He did most of that in the first quarter, just like always, but the efficient play was merely a side dish. The relevant GIFs are here. Kevin Garnett tried to pull his familiar "oh, look a foreigner for me to terrorize" schtick, and Andrea just wouldn't have it. He blew by Garnett for a big baseline dunk, didn't back down from all sorts of elbow-hooking and face-mushing, then followed a little run-in that earned them each a technical with a three-pointer directly in Garnett's mouth and a slobbery run of trash talk that got him thrown out of the game. Then he fucking stared down Joey Crawford before walking off the floor. I swear if all that had happened at the Garden, a hook would have descended from the ceiling on a pulley, grabbed the jersey off his back, and lifted it immediately to the rafters to be retired. I won't speak for all Knicks fans, but nothing endears me to a player like spitting back at Kevin Garnett. Fuck that guy forever. Well, until he retires. I'm sure he's a perfectly decent guy. But fuck him.
- Shumpert had a fun moment, too, when he got knocked over by an illegal Andray Blatche screen, objected vocally, then laughed in Blatche's face when Blatche tried to bark back at him.
- Raymond Felton quietly canned a few of those open threes just like Shump did. He got some rather friendly rolls there and on a driving floater as well.
- Amar'e Stoudemire's help defense rankled a bit during that rough patch in the first half, but he had a productive game on offense. He and Melo had a really nice thing going in that left-side pick and roll, and I liked it even better when Pablo Prigioni and Kenyon Martin ran a pick-and-roll and Martin dished an extra pass for a weak-side Amar'e dunk. It's great when our gogglefriend gets a few opportunities to spike on folks, and he had a nasty block at the rim on Joe Johnson, too (after which he chilled out on the floor while the Nets got the put-back, but whatever).
- What a delightfully quiet game from J.R. Smith! He, like Shump, got a silly early with a long step-back jumper off a crossover on his first touch, but then he settled into taking normal catch-and-shoot jumpers and making extra passes. And, look at that, Mike Woodson really did play J.R. just 25 minutes after he'd complained of knee soreness.
- Tim Hardaway Jr. gets those shots up, man. He made some catch-and-shoot stuff (and one catch-and-take-an-insane-fadeaway-to-evade-a-defender-with-the-shot-clock-winding-down stuff) during the real game, then just let loose in garbage time with some more jumpers and fanciness in transition. I'd have liked to see Toure' Murry (who made some neat plays in transition, but not much) or Cole Aldrich (who didn't really register) get some more opportunities during that fourth, but whatever. Go wild, Tim.
- The Nets could have stolen a shot at this game with offensive rebounds and free throws, but the Knicks limited them to 15 o-boards overall after eight in the first quarter alone and, well, the Nets took 31 freebies but hit just 21 and the Knicks shot 16-27 from downtown so WHO CARES.
All very good. I'm happy the Knicks won. But yeah, that was one of the worst opponents I've ever seen the Knicks play. As several people said in the thread, I'd feel super confident if the Knicks played 65 more games against the Nets. They don't. Real life returns (kinda) tonight, when the Knicks play the Magic, who have a league-average defense and healthy players and stuff. Will Thursday night get the ball rolling, or was it just a quick vacation?