Knicks games feel like random events at this point. Days after floundering against a shorthanded version of the worst team in the NBA, the gave the extremely good Blazers a real game. Why? Did they try harder? Did Mike Woodson coach the team better? Did guys perform better? Did the Blazers struggle? Is it just the cycle of the moon, the changing of the tides? Is any of this even real?
Answers, in my estimation: Yes, I think they tried harder than they did against the Bucks. Yes, Woodson at least made the long-awaited and obvious move to turn to Pablo Prigioni, not Raymond Felton down the stretch. Yeah, some guys played well. Carmelo Anthony fell off hard following a hot start and the rest of the starters were silent and/or bad as scorers, but J.R. Smith created as much as Prigioni did while hitting some big shots of his own and Amar'e Stoudemire played a nice, efficient offensive game off the bench. Yes, the typically composed Blazers got weirdly sloppy with the ball in the fourth quarter and, as several teams have before, just failed to attack the Knicks in the most obvious ways. FARTDOG can't help you if you won't help yourself, ya know? Yes, I think lunar cycles have as much influence on all of the above as anything. No, none of this is real. We are all floating in pods of conductive fluid having "Knicks games" zapped into our brains by cruel overlords.
The Knicks almost stole a win. Or the Blazers almost blew it. I feel better than I would have had the Knicks been throttled. But really I feel nothing, because with a team that decides whether or not to play like a team as if by coin-flip, it's hard to feel much. One game has no bearing on the next. Time does not exist.
- Tyson Chandler is fully in I'm-not-playing-help-defense-for-you-assholes mode, which sucks, and stands in contrast to the vigorous arm-swinging of a guy like Jeremy Tyler, but Tyson did do a pretty nice job catching LaMarcus Aldridge early in possessions, keeping him around the perimeter, and contesting his jumpers. Or LaMarcus just wanted to hang out there. He hit the jumper that sealed the game with Chandler's hand right in his face.
- Melo shot a soupy 6-7 in the first quarter, which means he shot [mathmathmath] 5-21 in the latter three quarters. YUCK, man. The catch-and-shoot stuff just stopped falling, and the rim turned heel, denying Melo friendly rolls and accessible caroms and stuff. You can only carry a team so far, I guess.
- J.R. Smith got pretty cold himself down the stretch-- save for one big three to chip into Portland's late lead-- but man, did he have a lovely game creating off the dribble. Even with a bit of traffic ahead of him, J.R. repeatedly gained separation, drew some help, and tossed a perfect pass to either the trailing big man or the guy cutting baseline from the weak side. Amar'e Stoudemire and Jeremy Tyler both finished his set-ups. Here are a couple nice'uns via Ruka35:
- Pablo fully deserved to play the whole fourth quarter over Felton, and he came up with some kick-outs and an important steal that brought the Knicks close. These grouchily cocksure Felton comments afterward sure are something:
Felton on critics: "I can care less what people say. I'm a strong-minded person. They can say what they want but they cant dictate my life."— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) February 6, 2014
Felton, on why he didn't talk after the Milwaukee loss: "Nobody asked to talk." Told that ppl did ask 4 him, says "Speak louder next time."— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) February 6, 2014
Although, to be fair:
Felton, on not going back in the game in the 4th: "Pablo was playing well. What's the point of me going back in the game?"— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) February 6, 2014
Pablo's just better at this point. He's not locking anyone down, but he's still pesky on defense. He seems to be regaining the rhythms necessary to make useful passes. He's much more likely to hit an open jumper. I like them together, but if I have to pick one, I'm picking Pablo. I was happy to see Woodson make that choice over an important stretch for what felt like the first time ever. I have no idea if he'll do it again.
- Iman Shumpert may as well not exist. He doesn't want to shoot good shots. He doesn't want to stay involved on defense. He just floats from place to place. I so miss that stretch right after the new year when he looked engaged for a moment. It made the Knicks a lot better.
- Tim Hardaway Jr. hit that very deep, very pump-up (and very dumb) three in the final minute and threw down that massive transition slam. He's also 2-13 from downtown over the last two games, so this would be the gap between the streaks for a streaky shooter.
- I am totally willing to entertain the notion that Amar'e's trimmed hair contributed to his fleetness of foot and aerodynamism. It's like how I can dunk when I have a buzzcut.
Good effort, Knicks. Or bad effort, Blazers. It doesn't matter. Nothing matters, like 40yearsinthedesert said. Here's a lamprey.