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Knicks 123, Cavaliers 107: Playoffs!

I'd like to make a Bactrian camel joke right about now, because the Knicks just got over TWO humps, y'all. First of all, New York saved themselves a bit of embarrassment by finally taking care of the Cavaliers and avoiding a season sweep. Secondly, and most importantly, they secured a spot in the postseason for the first time sine 2004 and the first REAL time since 2001 (and even that one was pretty stinky). I think I'll have a post up tomorrow about the playoff bid, but for now, let's recap the win.

[Eats a snack, watches baseball, tries to teach self shuuto]

Where were we? Oh yeah, recapping the game. It wasn't all that complicated, really. The Cavaliers, for all their pluck, aren't very good. The Knick defense wasn't always great, but they avoided a massive rebounding deficit, mostly moved the ball well, and hit their jumpers to claim the victory. Solid offense, intermittent defense, and an apparent interest in the game's outcome. That's all it took. I feel like I've said something to that effect about each of the last wins, but that's just how it is. This little win streak illuminates just how poorly the Knicks were playing in mid-March. Back to .500, back in the playoffs. Zim zimma.

Take the jump for more!

- The first quarter pretty much belonged to Chauncey Billups. New York forced eight turnovers in the period and turned 'em into quick set-ups for buckets. Billups was cookin' soup off the bounce, using screens to dribble into open space and stick jumpers. He had 17 points in the quarter, including a pair of threes as part of a 14-0 Knicks run. Though those pull-ups stopped falling later on, this was probably Chauncey's best game since his injury. He used the pick-and-roll and drive-and-kick to create for others, and did a decent job getting over screens on the other end. That early heat from outside is kind of a mixed blessing, since it enabled some chucking later on, but it was nice to get a reminder that Chauncey's quick trigger can occasionally pay off. Nicer that he did some splendid point guarding as well.

- Carmelo Anthony was also hot in that first quarter, and also tapered off a bit later in the game. His first basket was a gorgeous play at the rim in which he got past a gambling Alonzo Gee, then hung and drew quite a bit of contact from Samardo Samuels, scooping in the and-one basket nonetheless. We also saw some nice moves off the dribble, a few moist isolation jumpers, and at least one easy basket curling to the rim off the catch. The Cavs didn't double Melo too often (Gee did a pretty nice job by himself), but when they did, he made a few splendid passes to open friends. Like Billups, Melo slowed a bit after an excellent first quarter, but he played a solid two-way game nonetheless.

- His defense on J.J. HIckson et al. was not good (two very nice blocks, though), but it was pleasant to see Amar'e Stoudemire lead the offense through the latter three quarters. After a slow start and some troubling inaccuracy from medium range, Amar'e found his jumper and drew fouls and buckets off the dribble to score 28 points on 20 shots.

- Incidentally, I think somebody finally told Stoudemire to box out, but his idea of "boxing out" is to stare directly at the man he's battling and prod him in the sternum with one outstretched hand. If he loses track of the ball in the process, so be it.

- Shelden Williams played solidly in a starting role once more, pulling down six rebounds and even canning a couple open jumpers in 20 minutes. His sideburns could use a little touching up, but that's my only major criticism.

- It wasn't a particularly Landry evening for Landry Fields, who made some nice moves early but, as has been the case of late, just couldn't finish. 1-6 for 2 points in 19 minutes is less than ideal, but give Landry credit for 1. Chasing yet another shooting guard (Anthony Parker this time) with abandon (and getting almost no help from his teammates) and 2. Poking fun at himself for blowing a transition dunk in the first quarter.

- Bill Walker, y'all. Bully drained a couple three-pointers and, even better, converted an impressive and-one off the dribble and put one DOWN on Samardo Samuels's mouth in the early fourth quarter. Courtesy of Get Banged On:

(Gorgeous feed from Anthony Carter, by the way.)

- Toney Douglas didn't shoot especially well (4-10), but he continued to make smarter decisions off the dribble. Six assists, no turnovers in 25 minutes.

- As flossy noted in the thread, Jared Jeffries has an impressive ability to tip put-back opportunities AWAY from the rim. He did that at least twice this evening. They weren't tip-out attempts, either. It looked like he was actually looking to score but somehow slapped the ball backwards. All defense, all the time.

- Ryan Hollins, who is a personal favorite, resembles the wily gerenuk, which is also a personal favorite.

- The Cavs cut the lead to as little as three (Or was it one? They might've tied it, actually. Wait, they didn't win, did they?), but the Knicks blew it back open by reasserting their first quarter blueprint: Force turnovers, drain threes.

- Shawne Williams hit the bowl on both of his poop attempts. Good job, big guy!

- Is there a place where I can bet on the first basketball player to kick himself in the face while shooting a three-pointer? I'd like to put several monies on Luke Harangody.

That's it! There were lapses, but the Knicks avoided, at least partially, what would have been a humiliating blemish on a playoff-bound season. And oh yeah, they're going to the playoffs! Wonderful! I'll have a post on that subject up tomorrow.