Good evening, babies. At long last, I have returned from my visit to Madison Square Garden, where I watched the Knicks comfortably-- if not convincingly-- beat up on the poor Detroit Pistons. This will be a short recap because it's that kind of night and because, well, it wasn't much of a game.
The Knicks' offense was-- as it has been-- very productive. Everything began with another lovely game from Carmelo Anthony, who jabbed-stepped and blew by Tayshaun Prince and Jason Maxiell when he wasn't cookin' soup from the perimeter (and that's between instances of Maxiell battering him about the head on the other end of the floor). Even when Melo got a little too perimeter-oriented and resorted to that weird, leg-kicking, foul-baiting release, his shots fell. Ten out of eighteen, and four of five from behind the arc. We like that.
Beyond that, the Knicks moved the ball much, much better than they have been to find open shooters. A couple guys contributed on that front but the unquestioned leading gunman of the afternoon was Steve Novak, who hit five of seven from downtown and finally found occasion to bust out the championship belt. I cannot describe what a relief it is to see the ball kick all the way around the perimeter to an open Novak, think to myself (and/or say aloud) "that's a layup", then watch the net whip in confirmation. Except for one elbow three I knew was gonna miss because he caught the pass behind him, Novak's whole release looked much more natural and relaxed than it has over the past few weeks. He drilled some contested ones, too. Definitely the smiliest part of my day. I found myself screaming "NOVIE'S HOME!" and pouring $4 bottled water down my shirt on more than one occasion.
It's worth mentioning that New York's outstanding (17-33) three-point shooting wasn't all they had going for them-- a pleasant departure from the last two games of hot shooting but zero winning. The Knicks worked their way to 31 free throws, a number emblematic of ball movement and commitment to attacking far superior than that of the previous few games. Granted, it was against a sorry Detroit defense, but guys like J.R. Smith-- who hit eight of eight free throws to go with a beautiful 15/10/5 line-- made a point of probing open space and seeking paths to the rim. Even when the Knicks' offense sputtered at times, it seemed more a product of bad bounces or risky passes than it did the unseemly stagnation we've seen in recent stretches.
All of that said: The Knicks' defense hardly improved. A very weak Detroit offense easily shook free with basic pick-and-rolls and backdoor cuts, enjoying waaaay more point-blank attempts than the Pistons ever should (and, like $100 Million Contract said in the thread, waaaay more than Knick opponents were earlier in the season). Tyson Chandler got caught floating between ball-handler and roller on an alarming number of plays (this continues to be a thing), and unnecessary helping (often by Jason Kidd) and switching opened gaping holes the Knicks didn't rotate to cover. I don't know if it's a sign of opponent preparation or just Knick lethargy, but I find myself issuing a lot of the same complaints I had at New York's worst defensive moments last season. It's stuff like "we probably don't need to be doubling Corey Maggette 16 feet from the rim" and "this probably wouldn't be an issue if Raymond Felton didn't switch onto Maggette for no goddamn reason". So, yeah. It's a little frustrating. The Knicks' have shot well enough to win each of their last two games and win this one by 40, but their defense isn't what it was to begin the year. I was happy to see Rasheed Wallace and Marcus Camby both get minutes and each deter some shots around the basket (Steve Novak also had two blocks??? One of them was incredibly athletic. The other one I do not recall.) because Chandler stayed looking eerily feeble in the middle.
A few more things before I go:
- I was delighted to see Raymond Felton attempt a couple floaters. I don't think he hit more than one of them, but that's a shot that could open things up for everybody. Felton shot just 6-14, but did a nice job of creating on the move below the free throw line, floaters included.
- Camby played just five minutes, all in the second quarter, which has been customary of Mike Woodson's "here, look, I'm playing Marcus Camby" games. Camby grabbed three rebounds in those five minutes.
- Sheed hit three of five threes, fouled out, and picked up a technical. Did he get that tech simply for shouting "ball don't lie"? I totally missed the incident, but if so, that's fucked up. There's an unwritten rule that Sheed can scream "ball don't lie" as much as he pleases, even if the ball happens to be in a deceitful mood.
- Not that he's not a good player in other regards, but the scouting report on Pablo Prigioni right now should just be: "This gentleman is going to try to steal your inbound passes, especially in the backcourt after your first made basket after he checks in."
- Besides the usual inbound sneak-attack, I though Pablo did a solid job managing the offense in the second quarter, and he had that one baseline and-one drive that was most delicious.
- Not to make too big a deal of it, but for all those help steals Kidd gets, he really does leave a lot of guys open. I've been noticing that more and more over the past week.
- I'm thankful Lawrence Frank didn't realize that Charlie Villanueva plays unnaturally well against the Knicks. The line says 7-15 in 19 minutes, but it felt like he didn't miss in garbage time.
- The MSG Jumbotron graphic with Sheed wearing aviator shades atop a "NEED FOR SHEED" graphic is a winner.
- Ronnie Brewer and J.R. Smith do some punch-dance-y handshake thing before games that I've never noticed before.
- Philip Seymour Hoffman sat courtside next to Aziz Ansari and I so badly wanted to wedge myself between them.
- I ate way too many Skittles, guys. I was so hungry before the game and then I ate a footlong hot dog and an entire bag of Skittles and that whole thing gave me weird, sweaty nightmares on the train home.
And that is all. I'm very happy the Knicks won-- weathering a couple runs in the process but ultimately taking the victory with ease-- and still fairly perturbed by this defensive ineptitude. A team that didn't allow ANY easy baskets to open the season is now regularly surrendering lay-ups to, like, Kyle Singler. I don't like that.
Nets tomorrow, y'all. Enjoy the evening.