I watched this game all the way through, of course, but I'd love to hear from some people who got distracted and had to check back intermittently. I say that because no two five-minute stretches of the Knicks' Carmelo Anthony-less win in Detroit were alike. The game had-- like Dead and gone commented-- all the climbs, dips, twists, turns, and bouts of motion sickness one might associate with a roller coaster. Grab your barf bag, then look at this thing.
Early on, the Knicks displayed the butteriest fingers imaginable, tossing away ELEVEN first-quarter turnovers because nobody could complete an entry pass and Raymond Felton kept having small strokes or something. However, despite attempting just 13 shots to the Pistons' 22, the Knicks led after one. Iman Shumpert came out blazing once more with three first-quarter threes and, after the motley starting unit managed to stay tied for a few minutes, Amar'e Stoudemire hopped off the bench and dominated.
Things appeared to get out of hand in the second. Amar'e dropped a few quick buckets for taking his rest, then a three-point guard lineup forced turnovers and whipped the ball quickly up the floor and around the arc to build New York's lead to 15. The Knicks didn't feel like being done, though, and abruptly ceased defending pick-and-rolls to let various guards and Vlacheslavs stroll to the rim undeterred. After working Felton and Tyson Chandler repeatedly, the Pistons tacked on a couple quick jumpers to finish a 13-4 half-ending run.
New York led by six at halftime, which felt like way too little against the badly shorthanded Pistons. The Knicks were not content to merely let Detroit back into it, though. They wanted a deep handicap before they'd even consider playing competitive sports again. All the defensive foibles came out at once, as if spilling from a ripped trash bag. While heaving jumpers on one end, the Knicks switched needlessly to allow mismatches, they conceded wide-open looks from outside, and they moseyed back in transition to allow Detroit yet another big run-- 18-4 this time, bringing the aggregate nightmare stretch up to 31-6-- and a ten-point lead. Ten points! Even without Melo, surrendering a ten-point edge to a 23-39 team missing Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe, Charlie Villanueva, AND its head coach is pretty outstanding. That takes some truly elite fartwork. (J.R. Smith tips his cap. "It was nothing, really.")
Anyway, once the deficit hit ten, the Knicks got back to work. Raymond Felton atoned for all those turnovers with a delightful spurt of jumpers, scoring ten of the points in New York's 13-3 run. New York strode back ahead on what ended up being a 16-0 run bridging the third and fourth quarters. They once more appeared to have the game in hand, but-- WHOOSH-- the Pistons got back in their transition/pick-and-roll groove and pulled back ahead with a sequence of layups. Then, and only then, did the Knicks take over. J.R. Smith-- ice-cold and outside his mind up to that point-- piloted a 16-0 run with a bunch of steals and threes off the catch, and New York finally pulled away for good, leaving us pleased, if a little motion sick.
Not gonna go player-by-player here, but a few notes:
- As expected, James White and Kurt Thomas both started, but neither did anything. Kurt didn't even open the second half (Amar'e did) after boning a few entry passes and bricking his only jumper in the first quarter.
- This was an eerily pre-All-Star-esque game for Tyson Chandler. He let Jonas Jerebko, Jaxon Maxiell, and Vlacheslav Kravtsov get behind him way too often. He did a decent job stopping guards off the dribble, but rarely if ever hedged screens or made any effort to trap them up high. Honestly, given New York's defensive strategies recently and the back-to-back situation, I think the mellow defense tonight had to be calculated from Chandler on down.
- Both Chandler and Shumpert played the entire first quarter, which is unusual for them and probably a result of the Melo-lessness. Shump really looked sharp draining threes off the catch early on, but got a little overeager and iso-happy thereafter. Not the first time that's happened.
- Pablo Prigioni missed all his three-pointers, which feels unusual these days, but tracked down a couple offensive rebounds and executed at least one signature sneak in the backcourt.
- Jason Kidd's slump-busting comeback tour took a bit of a step back, as he shot just 2-7 from downtown on mostly open looks.
- I don't think I can fully describe how unseemly some of J.R.'s attempts were in the third quarter, which only makes it funnier that he led the way in the fourth. I was sure this one would end with a high-difficulty J.R. game-winner, but it thankfully didn't come to that.
And that's all I've got. The Knicks won and did so comfortably, but they took some detours along the way. And by "detours", I mean they pretty much stopped playing basketball from the middle of the second to the middle of the third, then went on a 16-0 run, then gave up an 8-0 run, then went on another 16-0 run to put the game out of reach. Shit was wild. In retrospect, I mostly had fun, but the game got highly unfun for a few minutes there. Still a solid and highly necessary road win to prelude a frightening visit from the Thunder on Thursday night. We'll discuss that in the morning. For now, I'mma go watch these Americans. <3
Update: I know I said I wasn't going to go player-by-player, but I should add that Steve Novak reverted to being unable to hit anything and that Shump got pretty soundly burned by Jose Calderon off the dribble. Both a bit discouraging.