Good day! The Knicks beat the Celtics last night to go up 2-0 and hold home-court advantage. The first half sucked. The second half did not suck. I recapped as best I could during my late-night adrenaline comedown, but here's a bit more from my notes, along with some accompanying .gifs and videos.
- The one thing I typed a lot in the first quarter was "AWFUL CALL" (and/or AWFU CLAL). As much as I loved Kevin Garnett's foul trouble, his early fouls were bullshit. Paul Pierce just walked to the basket without dribbling a few times and nobody blew a whistle. Tyson Chandler drew contact that went uncalled and got away with some on the other end. The refs were somehow oversensitive and over-permissive at once. Poor showing all game long, but especially early.
- On that note, Iman Shumpert's chief early contribution was committing a foul with his hair. I'd been waiting for it to happen. Right after Garnett left the game with his second foul, Shump dialed into attacking mode and drove headfirst at Jeff Green. The fuzz tower connected with Green's sternum, compressed, then sprung him forty feet backward into the crowd. Offensive foul. Shump's D on Green in the early going was okay-- he let him go right a few times, but also rotated well off the Knicks' doubles to make sure Green didn't get open outside looks. His offense was ineffectual until a crucial stretch to begin the third quarter. He went on a personal 6-0 run to erase Boston's lead, first catching and drilling a left elbow three three off a Pablo Prigioni drive, then badly bricking a lay-up on an otherwise timely drive, then drilling another catch-and-make elbow three in transition.
- Shump's hair column might have also absorbed some of the shock from Kevin Garnett's pulverizing screen at the end of the third quarter. It matters, that hair.
- Tyson Chandler had nowhere to go but up after his feeble Game 1, and up he went-- not all the way up, but unmistakably up. Chandler never really got involved in the offense beyond setting screens (and might not ever do so against the Celtics' starters), but he did a lot of that screen-setting and did it usefully. Tyson's defense in the first quarter looked much more Chandler-y, too-- he barricaded the rim when Green and Paul Pierce got free off the dribble and fought hard for defensive rebounds. Chandler's worst stretch was his return in the mid-second quarter. He got baited horribly by a Garnett pump fake, assisted a Jason Terry three with a long tip-out, and didn't seem to have his legs under him on one of a couple blown finishes from a nice pick-and-roll feed. In the third, Tyson finally looked like Tyson. He blanketed all of Garnett's jumper attempts-- forcing him to fade and miss-- and helped force turnovers by trapping Pierce a few times. Better yet, he violently swatted (and/or goaltended but shhh) an Avery Bradley drive and finished his first pick-and-roll of the series:
- Pablo Prigioni, as seen in the patient set-up above, is a wizard, and he played an effective if quiet playoff debut. He didn't make any field goals or come up with any sneaks, but he did do a lovely job of pressuring Avery Bradley and knocking seconds off every Boston shot clock. As expected, Pablo's presence gave the Knicks an additional pick-and-roll ball-handler and passer off the bounce. His timing in transition and over picks helped mightily during that third-quarter takeover.
- Raymond Felton ceded a lot of the assisting duties (in part because Chandler rarely rolled off picks for Felton, perhaps by design) but thrived on the attack. We saw a healthy dose of Felton turning the corner to force switches, then dancing big men onto their heels as he slipped to the rim:
Not just big men, though:
Dishing or not, I like an aggressive Ray in this series, and pretty much always. Penguins belong in the paint. That's a saying.
- Ray could only do so much against Pierce, but he stayed aggressive in trying to deny the ball. His ball denial efforts (against Jason Terry, I believe) drew Garnett's fifth foul. If you're willing to get elbowed in the face or kneed in the taint, you can draw a charge pretty much every time Garnett sets a screen. He will try to hurt you.
- Melo worked almost exclusively out of iso in the early going, and rarely with a preceding pick of any sort. He hit just three of his first 12 shots, but faked damn near every Celtic into foul trouble. Melo drilled eight of his last 12 shots, getting free as a screener and ball-handler over screens, but also just splashin' in people's eyes. Melo's pretty reliable in token isolation, but give him a pick or a drive-and-kick and things really get excellent. Even a basic set like this, in which Melo handles the ball all the way and rejects the pick, gives him an extra step that's mighty difficult to contain:
- J.R. Smith scored steadily all game long, but his first quarter was undoubtedly the gem of his evening. He built the Knicks' first lead by laying a gorgeous shuffle pass off to Kenyon Martin, drilling a couple ill-advised fall-aways, then doing all this in the closing seven seconds (via Deadspin):
Vindictive person that I am, the Pierce turnover is my favorite part of that. David Jones ain't on your team, fartlips.
- While I enjoy Paul Pierce's despair above all else, this is pretty much the perfect .gif. It has everything:
- Oh, and here's the spinning lay-off to Martin that preceded all that excitement (via Bronx Chica):
- Jason Kidd had the usual quiet but effective outing-- good help, good rebounds, smart passes, etc. Don't underestimate the lead chip (left bumper + Y) Kidd threw to initiate this highlight:
True story: When that play happened, I clapped hard 'n' loud in celebration. At that exact moment, Domingo decided to launch off his perch and fly a lap around my apartment (also, I assume, in celebration). The little daredevil flew DIRECTLY BETWEEN my clapping hands, emerging totally unscathed. He is a madman and I should probably stop clapping. A Knick playoff victory wouldn't be nearly as satisfying if it made me kill my bird.
- The best thing Kenyon Martin did was swat everything in the fourth quarter...
...but don't forget his passing. Seriously. The Knicks finally beat some fronts by running side screen action for Melo on the baseline, then using Martin as a relay man around the free throw line. He threw two perfect feeds to find Melo cutting backdoor.
- Steve Novak kinda ruined everything. He bricked his only shot (EDIT: He hit one in garbage time. Whatever.) , wasted at least one fast break by being scared of the shallow water, and encouraged Jordan Crawford to light him up with some tentative defense early in the fourth. There may be some utility for Steve yet in these playoffs-- maybe even in this series-- but we have not seen it so far. Every minute Novak's been on the floor I've wished for him to be off the floor. One trick might be to use him in more starter-heavy units and never, ever alongside Chris Copeland.
- James White is a fine human victory cigar, but there really isn't a more wonderfully trollish late-game than message than YOU ARE FACING QUENTIN RICHARDSON IN THE FOURTH QUARTER OF A PLAYOFF GAME IN 2013. LOOK HOW LITTLE WE CARE NOW.
Great game. More to come.