As for the game? Well, the Knicks beat the Lakers. They absolutely dominated the first half. Melo cooked a boiling pot of soup and poured it over the Lakers' heads, dropping a torrent of pull-up threes and baseline dribble-drives to anchor New York's 66 percent shooting in the first half (74 percent in the first quarter). Raymond Felton probed the paint and created repeatedly against L.A.'s awful pick-and-roll defense, the shooters drilled eight of fourteen threes off great ball movement (mostly open, but Rasheed Wallace's contested fall-away from the corner also comes to mind), and New York led by 19 at halftime.
A couple things happened in the second half to make Russ's headline comment come true. First, Melo got swatted out of the air by Dwight Howard, landing such that he sat violently on his own left heel. This is not recommended, and Melo left the game soon thereafter. Without the man who'd scored 30 of their points in 23 minutes, the Knick offense faltered a bit. Mike D'Antoni changed L.A.'s pick-and-roll coverage, having his big folks switch onto Felton when Tyson Chandler set screens for him. Faced with the likes of Dwight Howard in his path, Felton attacked plenty, but missed a few lay-ups and also settled for some shaky mid-range jumpers. That, an excess of isolation play, and a few too many fouls and Kobe Bryant jumpers helped the Lakers cut New York's lead to single digits late. A couple stops, a J.R. Smith three, and some Tyson Chandler free throws (he hit enough, but had he made 'em all, it wouldn't have been close) kept things from getting too close, then a succession of Chandler tip-outs helped the Knicks waste over a minute of crunch time to secure the win.
The margin of victory wasn't quite satisfactory, but the Knicks dominated the Lakers tonight. It was a lot of fun. A few notes:
- Again, Felton took and missed some bad, bad pull-ups late, but some of his 9-26 line was composed of good drives that just got bothered by the outstretched hand of a Laker big. He got a little reckless late, but the
5-11 5-9 shooting in the first quarter wasn't bad, and eight assists-- many of them fine lobs to Chandler-- to one turnover on the night definitely wasn't bad.
- On that note: The Knicks committed six turnovers. Six!
- Felton hit a pretty silly bank buzzer-beater to end the first half, but it did not, in fact, beat the buzzer.
- Melo just had one of those first quarters. His first make of the game was a catch-and-three late in the shot clock right over Metta World Peace, and he built from there. He drilled three or four more consecutive pull-up jumpers, then hit another one off the catch, then finished the quarter with some gorgeous hesitation moves to get to the rim. His jumper predictably fell off thereafter, but he made up for it by driving more, posting up more, and drawing some fouls, including the one that ended his night. 10-15 for 30 points is pretttty good for half a night's work.
- J.R. Smith quietly had himself a second straight slump-busting game. His jumpers off the dribble mostly found the net, which must have felt so very nice for a guy who couldn't hit anything for a few games there. Smith hit a big step-back two and a huge three off the catch to cut Laker runs in the fourth quarter.
- Tyson Chandler had some trouble keeping the Lakers off the offensive glass, but did a great job limiting Dwight Howard's touches (if not his scores once he did get the ball) and scored18 points on five shots, which is a good thing for him to do. Could've been even more if he hit more of those free throws.
- Ronnie Brewer forced a few turnovers, hit a couple jumpers inside the arc, and had a nice dunk in transition.
- Steve Novak drilled four of five threes, which is a good thing for him to do.
- Nine rebounds, five assists, and two steals for Jason Kidd! He put in some great ball denial on Kobe Bryant, too, and checked his isolation play as best he could. A 10-24 night for Kobe is a pretty splendid defensive night for Kidd.
- Applause for Sheed's four fouls in 12 minutes.
- Nice to see a few triple-screen sets, and nice to see that double-hand-off set in the second half, even if they didn't pan out that well this time.
That's pretty much it. The Knicks dismantled the Lakers' awful defense early, then struggled a bit without Melo against better defense late. The former outweighed the latter, and now they're 17-5 and 9-0 at home...
For more, visit Silver Screen and Roll.