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Knicks 85, Sixers 79: "We are already screaming, bro."

This line came from community member Branta after hearing Madison Square Garden's hype man request to hear the crowd scream, which was already happening in front of countless televisions and computers across the world tuned into this game. The Sixers were playing their third game in as many days, giving the Knicks an opportunity to take down one of the most impressive teams of this young season. Leading by as many as 17 at one point, however, the Knicks did their darnedest to make things interesting down the stretch. Carmelo Anthony, though, as he is wont to do (a lil' Seth vocab for y'allz), hit some huge free throws down the stretch and the Knicks ultimately won a defensive battle against the league's best defensive team.

I have some game notes after the jump, including the fact that Tony Battie, on January 11th 2012, dunked on the Knicks twice.

The Knickerbockers got out to a hot start offensively thanks to Carmelo Anthony, but that's absolutely not the story of the first quarter. Thanks largely to Iman Shumpert and Josh Harrellson, the Sixers could not buy a bucket and finished the quarter with 15 points. Subjectively, particularly against a fast break team like Philadelphia, the first quarter sets the defensive standard for the season. Coincidentally, Shumpert and Jorts had delightful offensive quarters as well, Jorts hitting from long range while ShumpShump did his damage closer to the basket. In particular, Shumpert had a Melo-esque looking drive from the wing during which he executed a spin move and banked a one-handed fade-away in for two points. This kid is so, so talented.

The second quarter gave way to some occurrences that would have been pedestrian a year ago today, but are now the rarest of happenstances: Toney Douglas splashed a wing three pointer and Landry Fields drove, stopped and popped from about 12 feet away and hit the shot. Other than that, Mike D'Antoni decided to rest both Shumpert and Anthony at the same time for a stretch, seemingly to teach the Knicks' fanbase a cruel lesson on the dangers of shot clock violation (the offense stagnated and started to smell like month-old Italian Wedding soup).

The second half started nicely. Shumpert didn't have a great shooting night, but his first two possessions saw him hit the exact same 18 foot jump shot, from the exact same spot on the floor, consecutively. Hitting the same spot twice shows consistency if it shows anything, so I found these possessions encouraging. What I did not find encouraging, however, was his next possession. After being stripped by Jrue Holiday, Shumpert took the ball back up the court and immediately fired a retaliation three pointer, air-balling it (he claimed he was hit, but as Clyde was sure to mention: "don't they all?"). Sometime later in the quarter, the Sixers stormed back to get within two points of the Knicks before Carmelo Anthony decided to play one-on-one basketball for seemingly dozens of possessions in a row with mixed results. The Knicks ended the quarter up by 11 points.

The fourth quarter was not pretty basketball, guys and girls. The Knicks turned the ball over eleven times, squandered the lead accordingly, and won largely because the Sixers couldn't complete the comeback because they seemed exhausted. The main culprits in the comeback were Thaddeus Young and Andre Iguodala, the former of which scored every time he touched the ball for a solid three minute span. Ultimately, the Knicks wound up making more plays down the stretch, Carmelo Anthony hit some free throws to ice it, and the hometown good guys walked away with an important, albeit sloppy as shit, win.

Now, some individual player notes as well as some potpourri.

  • Carmelo Anthony scored 27 points on 24 shots, which is not very good. Despite popular belief, he did pass the ball enough to garner five assists on the night, which were nixed by his five turnovers. Throw in three steals, nine rebounds (which, coincidentally, is the exact quantity of rebounds by which the Knicks won the battle of the boards) and solid shooting from the charity stripe and you have yourself a pretty typical Carmelo Anthony outing.
  • Amar'e Stoudemire, much like Anthony, finished with a box score almost identical to his typical output. He still doesn't seem to be totally comfortable shooting his patented 18-footer, but made up for it by making some nifty six-ish foot leaners and fadeaways. Stoudemire did not record an assist. I wish I could remember more about Stoudemire's night, but overall I'd say it was pretty unremarkable aside from its relative efficiency, which contrasted starkly with Anthony's willy-nilly launchery.
  • Tyson Chandler played a pretty awesome game despite scoring a mere three points. Like Stoudemire, Chandler did not record an assist, but his 13 boards were a game high and he played solid defense while only fouling twice (which was actually a team-wide phenomenon. The Knicks, particularly in the first half, hardly fouled at all, opting to play defense with their legs rather than their arms. More on that in a bit.). Additionally, Chandler's offensive rebounds seemed all to come within the last several minutes, helping the Knicks to lop precious time off the clock to seal their victory.
  • Chandler was also flagrantly fouled by Tony Battie of all people, smashing his nose and causing it to cry red. This was the most confusing part of my day because I had just cooked chicken during halftime and was getting set to eat it when I decided to have some Sriracha sauce. I opened the bottle and went to smell it the sweet, spicy sauce, when some of it shot directly up my nose. Obviously this hurt like hell, so I ran to my bathroom and washed all the red spicy sauce out of my nose in time to return to the image of Tyson Chandler dripping red sauce from his nose too! Although his was blood and mine was sauce, I can't help but think one of us is a voodoo doll for the other. Because I haven't had countless major and minor foot and leg injuries, I'm going to assume I'm his voodoo doll and stay inside on game days. Also, if anyone can recommend a good book on how to cope with the realization that you're an inanimate object of witchcraft, just post it in the comments. It's for a friend.
  • Iman Shumpert looked reckless and feckless for much of the night, explaining his dismal shooting performance and 4/3 turnover/assist ratio, but good lord can this guy defend. One play in particular stands out to me. Sweet Lou Williams was dribbling the ball five or ten feet off the three point line when Shumpert started to absolutely terrorize him defensively. The hapless Williams, who is actually an excellent ballhandler, coughed up the ball. Shumpert then dribbled to his own three point line, waited for a streaking Amar'e Stoudemire to hit the paint before threading the needle to him for a dunkaroo. If you read about sports to any degree (and, if you've gotten this far in the recap, you do), you have heard the phrase "flashes of brilliance" about a million times. Iman Shumpert embodies that phrase, and I can't wait to see him stretch out those flashes into consistency on the offensive end. It's going to be something.
  • Landry Fields and Toney Douglas can share a bullet point. First things first: both players contributed to an excellent defensive outing by a team whose recent history has scarcely provided such events. Fields particularly defended well, stealing the ball thrice and doing a generally good job on his assignment. Douglas must have been good defensively because, frankly, the Sixers' guards sucked this game. Having said that, both were absolutely ghastly on the offensive end, Fields turning the ball over on two consecutive possessions while overdribbling, Douglas failing to record a single assist in 17 minutes of play. Douglas managed to come away with the best +/- rating of anyone in the game, but in my opinion he did not play an ounce better than he has been.
  • Bill Walker had a relatively unremarkable game, hitting a three pointer and snagging some rebounds.
  • Jorts Harrellson played himself a hell of a game, as previously mentioned. Despite only collecting a single rebound, he played spectacular defense off the bench and hit some big shots, scoring 13 points on ten attempts. While Tyson Chandler is certainly the defensive anchor for this team, I think Jorts deserves a lot of credit for refusing to allow a major defensive discrepancy between the first and second units (in terms of big men). For the first time in years, Knicks fans have a reason to eagerly anticipate the return of Jared Jeffries, as their trio of Chandler, Harrellson and Jeffries should form one of the best defensive units of big men in the league (that's phrased like shit, but I don't know how else to say it). What those three lack in shot-blocking, they make up with good old-fashioned position defense, and could do some damage (or, more accurately, prevent damage from being done).
Some other notes:
  • Noted Knick-killer Elton Brand went for 11 and 10, finishing a team-high +10 on the night. Based on recent history, this should be considered a resounding victory.
  • English: Andre Iguodala. Clyde: Andrear Iggo-Dollar.
  • Speaking of Iguodala, he played some great defense against Carmelo Anthony, even forcing him to travel by jumping in the air with the basketball and coming down to the ground, you guessed it, also with the basketball. Iguodala finished the night with two monstrous dunks as well.
  • Lou Williams, who leads his team in scoring despite coming off the bench, scored two points tonight. The last time he scored two or fewer points was December of 2010 against the Nets. Neat.
  • Evan Turner is getting grand at shooting jumpers off the dribble.
  • The Knicks didn't hit a FG in the last 9:01!
  • Nikola Vucevic was -19 in 12 minutes of play.
And there you have it. The Knicks won their fourth straight game bringing them to 6-4 on the season, and pulling them within one game of these division-leading 76ers. Although it was their third game in three nights, there is something to be said for holding a team below 80 points, particularly one that has started its season on such a feverish pace. Hopefully the Knicks can continue their defensive effort and use this win to build momentum.

We all miss you dearly, Seth. Come back soon! And remember, when ski racing: Go that way, really fast.

And finally, this recap is exactly 1776 words long.