This lovely winning streak has included all kinds of victories-- solid wins, comebacks, last-minute flurries-- but, until tonight, no pure, unadulterated laughers. Tonight was just that. The Kings barely bothered to get off the team plane, shooting and defending with dour nonchalance (poor Kings fans. We know what that's like), and the Knicks punished 'em for it. Jeremy Lin hardly looked to score, instead sprinkling fine passes to each of his hungry friends. New York scoring was wonderfully balanced, with seven guys scoring in double-digits and Tyson Chandler trailing close behind with nine. The game was pretty much over mid-way through the second quarter, which meant we got a good hour or so of silly, carefree basketball and, like DonMoosavi mentioned in the thread, plenty of idle chatter between Walt Frazier and Mike Breen (including some important elephant facts).
Take the jump for a quick recap of a pleasant, lighthearted evening.
- The Kings' strategy against Lin was to let him penetrate, then have three to six defenders converge on him with abandon. He responded by tossing some gorgeous lobs to Chandler, a couple slick feeds to Amar'e Stoudemire on the weak side, and a few kick-outs for open outside looks. Lin also hit Fields a couple times on backdoor cuts (once by ground, once by air), which was awesome. My favorite basket of Lin's was a play in which he circled all the way around the paint from left to right, paused momentarily in the middle of the lane, then continued right on to the rim for a lefty lay-in. Save for one of those eerie bouts of abject sloppiness (three consecutive turnovers on telegraphed passes and mis-dribbles), it was a solid, efficient outing (with a career-high 13 assists. Ho-hum.)
- Landry Fields did everything and did it well. He buried some mid-range jumpers, sank his only three-point attempt from the corner, and finished a number of Lin's feeds, including this gem off a back-screen from Chandler:
[Watches that video repeatedly for five minutes.]
What were we talking about? Oh yeah, Fields. He also ran some gorgeous pick-and-rolls with Chandler and snaggled ten rebounds. He was five assists away from a triple-double. Oh, and he guarded Tyreke Evans and kept him mostly on the perimeter. Beautiful game.
- Both Chandler and Amar'e Stoudemire were quiet but effective in limited minutes. Chandler had occasional trouble keeping track of DeMarcus Cousins (though he mostly allowed Cousins to work from outside the paint), but finished nearly everything that came his way and sky-jacked a Jason Thompson dunk attempt (didn't he swat Thompson in the last Kings game?). Stoudemire looked much crisper than he did on Tuesday night, sinking his jumpers and cutting nicely away from the Lin-Chandler pick-and-roll for an easy couple of finishes.
- Bill Walker was terrific! Really, really great. He finally hit his outside shots and actually drove with a purpose off the dribble, getting friendly bounces on those floaters he's grown to love and making a few nice extra passes for easy baskets.
- Steve Novak hit three of eight threes, but I'm pretty sure all of those makes came long after the game was decided. (Update: One of them came well before garbage time and was a Jamal Crawford Memorial Four-Point Play. Can't believe I forgot about that one.)
- Iman Shumpert did a pretty nice job on Isaiah Thomas, and also on Evans. Those two guys are both "point guards" the same way a Maltese and a pit bull are both "dogs", but Shump handled 'em both.
- Things I learned while determining whether or not to capitalize "pit bull": 1. No. 2. Pitbull's real name is Armando Christian Pérez.
- Poor Isaiah Thomas! The Kings' rookie guard, who is by all accounts a sweet guy and an exciting player, got ruthlessly booed every time he touched the ball. I'm not sure if he quite gathered why it was happening, because it actually seemed to rattle him until he got hot in the fourth quarter. Renaldo Balkman, ever the gentleman, was kind enough to repay Thomas by just handing him the ball and letting him take (and make) the final shot as time expired.
- The only period during which the Knicks looked threatened was a brief stretch when Lin sat down in the first quarter. After a few minutes, though, the second unit started forcing turnovers and getting buckets from Bill Walker, so that was cool. They maintained the lead while Lin rested.
- Good observation by Mike Breen: The crowd isn't groaning anymore when Jared Jeffries lines up a mid-range jumper! Astounding!
- Really, Breen and Clyde were the stars tonight. A few splendid moments:
1. Clyde mentioned that everybody had been served sushi on the team plane and that Steve Novak had made a remark to Lin about his excellence being the reason they were offered sushi. Clyde then suggested that Novak should hit more shots so that cheese would be served to everybody. All of that makes perfect sense.
2. I don't know how this came up, but Breen got to asking Clyde about how we know that elephants have great memories. Clyde suggested that the evidence lay in their tendency to return to the same watering holes over and over again. Breen replied that he had some friends in college who were regular at the same watering holes. I really, really pity any of you that have Time Warner Cable.
3. Clyde offered to take Breen sailing because he needs "some shark bait".
4. Mike Breen, noticing today's date asked Clyde if he knew what happened on February 15th 43 years ago. Clyde: "Valentine's Day!". In fact, Clyde had a triple-double in a win over the Warriors. I'm sure there was enough subsequent romance that night to justify confusion over whether or not it was Valentine's Day.
5. Clyde referred to this person as "my kind of woman" and suggested that he might ask her out. All of these things happened.
- At one point, Mike Bibby made a nice steal in the backcourt, then just threw an alley-oop into oblivion, or perhaps to a ghoul.
- Garbage time! Renaldo Balkman shuffled around the court like he was the only guy there, Jerome Jordan kicked himself in the legs a few times, and Toney Douglas got to spin! He missed four of five shots, though.
- Deadspin was kind enough to post Jill Martin's interview with Mike Tyson if you'd like to check it out. I have never been more on edge during a halftime segment.
But that was pretty much the only time to be on edge in this one (SEGUE!). 'Twas a cakewalk of a game and a head start on some much-needed rest for the Knick starters. Lovely stuff. And the best part...the Knicks are .500 again! Hooray! Next game's Friday against the Hornets.