At times this season, I've watched opponents navigate the Knicks' defense and wondered why they didn't just run pick-and-roll variations every time down the floor. Tuesday night, I watched the Knicks navigate the Celtics' defense and was very pleased to watch them run pick-and-roll variations pretty much every time down the floor. Boston's D looked like New York's at its drifting, inattentive worst. One pick and they were toast, so the Knicks set those picks early and often. Mike Woodson sent out lineups that left room for Raymond Felton, J.R. Smith, and Pablo Prigioni to free themselves using screens from Tyson Chandler and Jeremy Tyler, opening up clean looks, entry passes to the rollers, or kicks to the perimeter as Boston's defense constricted. Shit was easy, and the Knicks took a sure win in three quarters.
Just a few notes from a really simple game:
- Carmelo Anthony put up a pretty fancy line for such an abbreviated stint. He worked on either end of the pick-and-roll and also as a decoy, finding open jumpers both pulling up and off the catch for a swift 24 points. He started the game with a couple gorgeous entry feeds to Iman Shumpert cutting baseline, then created a few more buckets by kicking out of the post either directly or hockey-ly to find a weak-side shooter. Lovely game, lovelier opportunity to rest the legmeat.
- Shump and Pablo Prigioni were both responsible for a bit of forcing, both of passes and shots. Before Shump left with a sprained shoulder (still no concrete update on that), he demurred on a couple open takes and took some uglier arrhythmic ones, shooting a quick 0-3 between those early buckets and his premature exit. Same deal for Pablo, who tried some weird, uncharacteristic stuff off the dribble (some of which fell) while passing off some great looks. I was happy to see him hit an open three in garbage time, just to get a feel for that again. He's been cold since returning. Overall, though, that over-passing bothers me way less than its opposite. Knicks becoming overeager to assist one another is one of them good problems.
- J.R. played a most excellent game. He shot better than his 6-14 line'll tell you, since a couple of those misses were wild garbage-time things. Over ball-screens and hand-offs-- especially when Kenyon Martin joined him pre-ankle-trouble-- J.R. made all the right decisions, balancing pull-ups and drives with simple entry lobs and kick-outs. Some of that came as a sort of secondary action, with J.R. catching out of the initial set in position to run his man into Martin's slide-y, grabby screens. His threes came when given space in similar scenarios. This, without a real pick from Tyler and with Chandler looming at the rim, was J.R.'s neatest pass of the night:
- The same generally goes for Raymond Felton, who didn't shoot well, but crumpled the Celtic defense with ease to set up smashin' lobs (or at least rebounding lanes) for Chandler. And Chandler had a fine big man game with 12 points off besmashings and 13 rebounds, mostly defensive, but...
- ...yoooooooo Jeremy Tyler. That's the big man of the night. Tyler first played with the night's only big-ish lineup, lingering alongside Kenyon Martin's rolls and getting some lovely buckets as the bail-out guy. And while Tyler set a few screens himself, that was generally his role for the night: linger on a wing or near the rim, then catch and pop a mid-range jumper or take a quick extra pass in for a dunk. He looked confident and his movements, stretching that jumper out to a good 18 feet. Tyler's been a delight to watch, and his garbage time partnership with Cole Aldrich should become a regular thing if the Knicks know what's good for 'em:
(Thank you, alispeech, for these GIFs)
- The Knicks, to my eye, didn't switch or dumb-double any less than they usually do. The Celtics just couldn't hit shit. I'm used to Jeff Green punishing the Knicks for their ways, but he reeeeeeally didn't. This is not a complaint.
- Nice, varied game from Tim Hardaway Jr. Pretty much all his touches came off kick-outs, and he kept the weak-side close-outs off-balance by mixing some drives in between his quick threes. Earned himself a finish or two around the basket plus two trips to the foul line.
- I counted two occasions in which over-ambitious lobsmen (Felton and Hardaway) nearly killed their receivers by tossing alley-oops too high (J.R. took a spill after trying to reach a lofty one) or too far (Tyler could have been decapitated chasing down a long lob). CAREFUL, everyone. This is how you do it:
I love when a passer jumps in unison with his scorer. It's like when I watch my dog eat her dinner and find myself biting at the air.
- Along with Shump's shoulder and Martin's re-ankling, Chandler stepped on Jeff Green's foot and turned his right ankle. He shouted in pain and limped off the floor, but returned and said nothing about the injury after the game, so I guess he's...fine?
- Tyson Chandler has died. Rest in peace, Tyson Chandler.
- Metta World Peace played. Hit a three, too. I'm kinda just forgetting he exists until he's back in the rotation for real. No idea when that'll be. No idea if it was a possibility tonight if Woodson wanted it.
That's all, really. Screamedia's comment quoted above sums up exactly the kind of performance we like to see. The Knicks played very crisp offense, which was more than they needed to beat Boston's chronically late help defense. Most everything came easily, and I don't mean that to be dismissive. This team-- albeit with a slightly different make-up-- beat the Knicks by 41. Lots of teams have beaten the Knicks by a lot. It's awesome to watch the Knicks execute and just TRY like they have been over the last few days. The more they try and execute, the sooner garbage time arrives. Rest is good.
That's three straight wins now, with two more games (Cleveland and Miami) left in the home stand.