The average Knicks exhibition game makes us thank Jeebus it's only preseason. Every once in a while, though, one game will leave you wishing it had counted. Tonight's game was one of those exceptions. A bunch of different Knicks had their best outings of the preseason as the New York held off the New Jersey Nets. If it weren't for a swift, horrifying comeback by NJ, this one would have been a blowout. Even with the brief scares, tonight's game was a gem.
Take the jump for notes.
- If I may adapt a treasured sports cliché, tonight's game was a tale of
two halves four quarters. The middle portion of the contest included a dominant, fast-paced second quarter by the Knicks and a blistering long-range attack by the Nets in the third. Book-ending the affair were an evenly matched first and fourth during which both teams got to the line a whole bunch.
- After the Knicks started the game shooting miserably and missing their ample free throw attempts, that second quarter found D'Antoniball in full bloom. With Toney Douglas running alongside Raymond Felton, the Knicks cooked turnover after turnover into speedy offense and easy buckets. With Toney and friends running wild and Amar'e Stoudemire dominating at the rim (19 points, including plenty of trips to the line, in his first 16 minutes), the Knicks headed into halftime up 65-49.
- In the third quarter, the Nets found the range and the Knicks looked lost in their halfcourt sets. Jordan Farmar, who reportedly shared a water bottle with the Toon Squad at halftime, coldly drained 4 threes in the period. (It didn't help that the scrambling Knicks just couldn't close out Farmar and Anthony Morrow on the perimeter). Without missed shots and turnovers to slingshot the fast break, the Knicks were forced to set up and work the offense. All of a sudden, that Felton-Douglas lineup didn't look so hot and Amar'e looked mortal. The ball stopped moving, bad shots were forced, and the lead evaporated in no time. The fourth quarter began with the Nets up 1.
- After a bit of back-and-forth action to start the final quarter, Mike D'Antoni broke his preseason trend and dispatched Amar'e Stoudemire and Raymond Felton to close the thing out. Interestingly enough, Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari stayed seated in favor of Bill Walker and Toney Douglas. In any event, Amar'e made some sensational plays around the rim, the Nets blew some open shots, and Toney iced the thing with a huge three and a huger steal in the final minute. Let's talk individuals.
- Since we're talking about Toney, let's keep that train runnin'. For the second straight game, Toney Douglas did absolutely everything that Toney Douglas do. His primary weapon was the Take 'n' Bake offense. Douglas wrangled SIX steals, at least 3 of which resulted in uncontested lay-ins. Watching Toney peer in two opposite directions like a chameleon was goddamn electrifying, and it was the key to his larcenous tendencies. He put his man and the ballhandler in split screen, hopping back and forth in order to jump passing lanes while simultaneously swiveling as his match-up moved around the perimeter. Sure, Toney got overzealous at times, but his unparalleled cunning did plenty of good in some important moments. One of his coast-to-coast heists broke a fourth quarter tie, and his final flourish was a brilliant interception of a moments-late Brook Lopez pass. Throw in the fact that Douglas got over screens to draw a charge or two and you have a legitimately dominant defensive performance by the second-year guard. Oh, and he hit 7 of his 8 free throws and put the Knicks up 4 with his third three-pointer of the game. No big deal. In the name of all things Toney, DWTDD, my friends. Well, don't steal shit, but do everything else TD do.
- While TD made offense out of defense, Amar'e Stoudemire made offense out of nothing. Stoudemire had plenty of nice connections with Raymond Felton, but the brunt of his work came on brutish feats of isolation: finishes in traffic, second efforts, and, above all else, drawn fouls at the rim. Amar'e was more than Derrick Favors or Kris Humprhies could handle, and he made good on their follies at the foul line (16-19). 39 points in 37 minutes in a game in which Stoudemire didn't even shoot well (11-24) is pretty serious business. As I've said before, it's a wonderful, long-awaited feeling to have a guy who can just win possessions by himself when the offense is sputtering.
- Clyde mispronunciation time: To protect his eyes, Amar'e wears "gargles"/"gargoyles"/"Garfields". Also, someone in the game thread pointed out that "Farmar" is a pretty Clyde-proof name. That's true, but my guess is that Clyde's roster sheet says "Jordan Former".
- Oh, and I'm pretty sure Clyde referred to Johan Petro as "Pecherov", which was excellent.
- Building on Sunday's performance, Raymond Felton looked even more comfortable leading the action. He made some textbook pick-and-roll feeds to the big men, worked a stellar two-man game with Toney, and made one pass I loved so much that I feel compelled to describe it. Felton, leading the break, had the ball momentarily jarred away from him. He scooped it up with one hand, flicked it into the other hand, and in one motion, spiked a low, long-distance slider of a bounce pass to Amar'e Stoudemire streaking to the rim for a dunk. I nearly pooped out my ears. Ray also looked for points when necessary, and canned a few of his signature floaters that I love so very much. 13 and 11 for Felton.
- Anthony Randolph's brilliant-play-to-ghastly-mistake ratio is gradually swinging for the better. He looked sharp from outside tonight, made one or two gravity-defying finishes in the open floor, and played some surprisingly stout defense against Brook Lopez.
- Let me just take this moment to acknowledge that Brook Lopez is really, really good. Don't let anybody tell you otherwise.
- Ronny Turiaf played exactly the kind of game we'd love from him every night. On offense, Ronny didn't look rim-ward once, acting merely as a way station between scoring stops. On defense, Turiaf was nearly as pivotal as Douglas. He did a splendid job trapping and hedging on screens, scrambling back to Lopez or some other big man in time to prevent the entry pass. A number of Douglas's steals resulted from desperate passes heaved by Net guards whose fields of vision had been eclipsed by Turiaf's torso and beard. Terrific stuff. Turiaffic, even.
- Timofey Mozgov had his hands full with Brook Lopez, and actually did a decent job shadowing the big guy's fakes and spins without fouling. There were a couple instances early on in which Timo reached or jumped with his hands outstretched and drew a whistle, but you could tell he recognized the mistakes and corrected them later on. Offensively, Mozgov didn't do too much. He missed a few of the jumpers he'd been hitting earlier in preseason, but also had a very nice and-one from a Felton dump-off and generally moved well away from the ball. He's got a great sense for where to move when Felton and Stoudemire are working the pick-and-roll, and I think he'll step into a lot of easy baskets this season when Amar'e draws help. 4 points, 3 rebounds, and no blocks in 20 minutes isn't too impressive, but only 3 fouls and some perfectly adequate defense against a talented big man is nothing to sneeze at.
- I sincerely doubt that Kris Humphries owns any shirts with sleeves.
- Danilo Gallinari only spun for 22 minutes and was conspicuously absent during the fourth quarter stand, but he did appear more determined (if a little emo) with the ball in his hands. Gallo took (and hit) only one three-pointer, using the rest of his attempts to attack the rim and try and draw contact. He committed the sin a few times of driving directly into the teeth of the defense and getting wrapped up, but also scored off a rebound and converted a strong transition and-one. One other thing I noticed was that Gallinari got a trifle overexcited when he encountered a mismatch. Presented with an opportunity to back down a smaller guard (I think it was Travis Outlaw), Gallo looked hurried and perhaps stricken with momentary tunnel vision. Gallo can and should back down diminutive defenders, but it's important that he stay aware of his teammates, particularly in the event that his post-up demands a help defender. The back-to-the-basket stuff is clearly a facet of the game that isn't second nature to Danilo, so it'll take some repetition for him to get to a point where he does it fluidly and without such deliberation. Also, I wouldn't worry too much about the fourth quarter bench time. It's still just preseason.
- On that note, I wouldn't read too much into Wilson Chandler's silent 17 minutes or Landry Fields's and Andy Rautins's DNP-CDs. Just rotation tinkering.
- Bill Walker still isn't missing. He went 3-4 from outside, catching and burying treys like it was nothing. Bully didn't do much else, but that's still better than Roger Mason Jr., who finally connected on a three-pointer...and nothing else (1-4).
- Just me, or does Anthony Morrow look like he could be Chris Taft's nephew?
- Just me, or does all that tape/sleeve stuff Raymond Felton wears on his calves make him look like he has prosthetic legs?
- In the second half, Bill Walker found himself tangled up with Brook Lopez and escaped said entanglement by deliberately elbowing Brook in the throat. A frustrated, fallen Brook kinda tripped Walker from the ground and got whistled for a flagrant foul. Score one for the good guys.
- Derrick Favors fouled out in like 3 minutes, but he looked pretty solid to me. Mike Breen said that he has a "big ceiling", which seems like kind of a mangled metaphor.
- 52-34 rebounding deficit, but 9 more free throw attempts and 5 fewer turnovers. Whatever works, right?
That is all, friends. The Knicks play again tomorrow night in Philadelphia. Between now and then, I'll be in the lab trying to bottle whatever New York had going in the second quarter tonight so I can drizzle it over the entire regular season. Thanks for reading.