The Knicks clinched a playoff spot, which is great. They did so with a hard-fought road win over a bunch of Raptors who'd previously given them trouble, and that's also pretty great. Alan Anderson solidified his fast-earned place in Knick Killer mythology with a career-high 35 points, including 20 in the third quarter alone. New York didn't even defend Anderson that badly after the first few buckets; he just kept canning threes and floaters no matter how many Knicks crowded him and slapped his little wrists. DeMar DeRozan chipped in as well during Toronto's second-half offensive renaissance.
Somehow, the Knicks withstood the barrage. They'd built themselves a decent cushion by rotating nicely on defense-- covering a lot of ground and deterring a lot of shots for such a small group-- getting to the line, and drilling seven of 15 first-half threes. After the break, the Raptors seriously threatened to dissolve a double-digit lead with all those threes and and-ones, but the Knicks responded with impressive timeliness. Carmelo Anthony started cookin' soup a bit after a clunky start, J.R. Smith drilled a couple big third-quarter jumpers, and Raymond Felton awoke for some critical plays in the fourth.
Some individual notes that are bound to be quick because I'm gonna get some late-night pizza and I can't think about anything but pizza right now:
- Kenyon Martin played his undisputed best game as a Knick, and to be honest, the numbers he put up would have comprised a stand-out performance ten years ago. Martin played 36 minutes-- way too many for an old bro, but it's pretty much him or Marcus Camby-- and dropped 19 and 11 on the Raps. His offense came primarily from expertly-timed tip-finishes (he, like Tyson Chandler, has learned to expect and track Felton misses), but he added a couple baseline jumpers, a coast-to-coast dunk off a jumped passing lane, an important third-quarter hook, and a couple pick-and-roll buckets in the fourth. Martin's defense was as it has been: unnecessarily rambunctious on occasion (though he only drew three fouls), but active and disruptive even when switched onto smaller players.
- Carmelo Anthony didn't have his best night in terms of dealing with double-teams-- his kick-outs fed misses early, then he reverted to forcing shots and dribbling himself into treacherous, turnover-snaggling thickets. His shot improved considerably as the game progressed, though, as he went from missing good open looks to drilling tough jumpers off jab-steps and spin moves and whatnot. After Landry Fields had kinda had Melo's number through the first 2.5 games, Melo lit him (and others) up pretty soundly in the second half. Defensively, Melo made Martin look bad for trapping by failing to rotate a few times, but he did block a couple shots.
- One thing: Mike Woodson spoke before the game about limiting Melo's minutes...then spun him for 43. Woody feels bad and Melo's fine with it, but that's a tad scary. Necessary for the win, but still scary. Melo didn't aggravate his knee or look especially tired or anything, but he did get kicked in the penis.
- Raymond Felton played a silent three quarters, then made a succession of huge plays in the fourth. First he made patient, precise passes to feed those consecutive Martin baskets, then he drilled a huuuuuge and eminently trollish pull-up three to put New York back up 10 with just a few minutes left. That three made me do the thing where I slam triumphantly on the adjacent couch cushion and startle everyone else (one person, one parakeet, many spiders) in my apartment. Worth it.
- J.R. Smith took some bad step-backs (hit one, but still) and committed some very dumb fouls (questionable ones, but still). He stayed driving, though, and drew another seven free throw attempts (hit just three, but still) to go with some useful kick-outs.
- Goddammit I'm so hungry for pizza. I'm hallucinating that my laptop is a little pizza pie and I'm just typing away at various mushrooms and pepperonis.
- Jason Kidd was fine. He passed up a few too many shots and committed one of Clyde's cardinal sins by saving a loose ball under his own basket (which led to a Toronto three), but hit two of four threes and threw the usual excellent passes.
- Pablo Prigioni played way too few minutes. Yeah, he picked up some early fouls very quickly, but he had the game's best sequence when he banked in a ridiculous buzzer-beating circus shot AND stole the ensuing inbound pass and that was great. More importantly, Pablo had a little verbal beef going with Kyle Lowry and it is inexcusable to snuff out Prigioni beef. Prigioni beef is precious and rare. It comes gaucho-style with chimichurri on the side. You let it play out, Woodson. You don't sit it on the bench for the whole second quarter and most of the second half.
- After a couple rough early possessions, Iman Shumpert played decent defense on DeRozan in his limited minutes. Threw some great extra passes, hit a three, and finished left-handed in transition, too.
So, well done. Winning in Toronto against the fairly decent Raptors and previously troublesome Raptors without most of the team's big men is good stuff. The Knicks now look to even the season series in the second of the home-and-home-back-to-back (HAH, BTB!) tomorrow night in New York. I hope they do it. For now, PIZZA TIME YEAHHHHHH