Taken in isolation, Game 4 sucked a whole pail of butts. Taken in the context of a best-of-four series in which the Knicks had the greatest possible head start, it's not so bad...at least not yet. I did my best to recap the thing yesterday. Here's a bit more on some individual performances and interesting occasions:
- I and everyone have made it clear that Carmelo Anthony played a shitty game yesterday. A large part of that was an obstinate commitment to taking very bad shots, but as I tried to make clear yesterday, it's never just that when Melo has an off game. Melo got a decent portion of his looks open off the catch-- good shots-- but, for instance, went 0-7 from downtown. He drove, too, but just couldn't get rolls with or without contact. That happens sometimes. His very last three-point attempt that could have tied it was a great look-- so open, perhaps, that he got spooked. Anyway, all I'm saying is a decent portion of Melo's outlandish 35 attempts were good ones (35 straight bad shots would be grounds for a lobotomy). He just couldn't hit anything, regardless of quality.
- Pablo Prigioni didn't hit his shots (in part because the Celtics realized they should just contest him at the perimeter-- he's not going anywhere) but forced a bunch more turnovers on defense. Jason Kidd didn't hit his shots either but put in a noble effort against Paul Pierce (who, for the most part, hit his shots anyway. I hate when he does that). I'm also pretty sure Kidd was the lone Knick to deliberately send Jeff Green left when given the opportunity.
- I thought this would be Tyson Chandler's offensive breakout game because of the way the Celtics were trapping Raymond Felton on the move (something they-- I think-- typically only do when Kenyon Martin is the screener), but the big gentleman still couldn't get touches. His two baskets were lovely-- a quick early dunk off Melo penetration and a crunchy dunk off a perfect lob from Felton-- but that was it. Chandler's interior defense was stout-- note that Boston shot 12-24 in the restricted area-- and his o-bounding/tip-out game was on even if it didn't always produce baskets. Kenyon Martin's 22 minutes were mostly spent fouling folks, though he did draw a few and finish a couple slightly awkward pick-and-rolls. Those two did not share the floor once (upon initially reviewing the box score, I suddenly realized they had to have overlapped in minutes, only to remember this game went into overtime). If there was a game to give that pairing a try, it was probably this one.
- Not that this game went without experimentation: I don't know if Mike Woodson was pulling his greatest "trolling via initiating garbage time at a premature juncture" feat ever or just suffering a small stroke, but he trotted out a lineup of Jason Kidd, Pablo Prigioni, Quentin Richardson, Steve Novak, and Kenyon Martin in the early second quarter. So, that's Quentin Richardson playing the role vacated by J.R. Smith. I appreciate the reluctance to play Novak and Chris Copeland together, but good GOD, Woody, Quentin Richardson is not an acceptable alternative. That lineup only spun for three minutes-- Richardson's whole stint for the day-- but managed to give up a 6-0 run in that time. Q tossed a layup off the underside of the rim.
- I do not understand the absence of Chris Copeland in this one. I don't really understand why he fell out of the rotation during this series, though I assume and accept that Woodson sees some egregious defensive sins I don't. I also support separating Cope and Novak, but given a choice in a healthy rotation, I'm taking Cope. And in a game missing J.R. Smith's ability to hit open shots and do stuff off the dribble, a heavy dose of Cope makes perfect sense to me. At the very least, it makes a bushel more sense than letting Quentin Richardson set foot on the court for a single meaningful minute. During the action, I came to assume Cope's shoulder was bothering him worse than we knew. If that's the case, Woodson didn't mention it and Cope said the opposite. Pretty weird.
- Joe will cover this more vividly in the afternoon, but yesterday was Iman Shumpert's Shumpiest game in an increasingly Shumpy series. His offense started very poorly with some overcooked jumpers and more aggravating drives into defenders he couldn't beat, then came around in the second half with a couple big threes and even a bit of success in transition. I do wish he'd pulled the good, open look he had at a huge three in overtime-- an opportunity to fill J.R.'s shoes on which he demurred. Oh well. But anyway, Shump's defense was terrific. He got spread a bit thin between Green and Pierce, but did a solid job pestering both of them and rotated splendidly as well. Pierce lost him a few times late by just using screens-- something anyone guarded by Shump should do at every opportunity-- but this was still a fine defensive outing. It feels like we're finally starting to see Shump defend capably with all four limbs, and the timing is great. Our China correspondent will cover that more in a couple hours.
- I feel like I didn't hammer this fact hard enough in the recap: The Knicks had TWELVE turnovers in the first half, five in the first nine minutes alone. It was a weird, lazy stretch indicative of a team that wasn't taking the opportunity to sweep as seriously as they said they would. Combine that with poor shooting and suddenly hot shooting from the Celtics and you get a 19-point halftime deficit.
Those were the things on my mind this morning. On to Game 5 we go. Please win it, Knicks.