Hooray, that was fun! The Knicks, coming off three straight wins and facing a potential trap game against the Raptors, avoided the letdown with gusto. They beat Toronto in all four quarters and every statistical category (unless you want to be a buttock and count free throw percentage), snuffing out Toronto runs with a balanced two-way effort that culminated in a gleeful fourth quarter replete with flying ass-bumps and a couple minutes of garbage time. 2xtheBully's comment from the game thread (quoted above) captures several of the many ways in which the Knicks beat the Raptors into submission.
Take the jump for some notes!
- The Knicks really did win every statistical category. The biggest ones, to me, were rebounding (16 for the Knicks, just four for the Raptors) and turnovers (11 for the good guys, 17 for the shitty tiny dinosaurs), but you can take your pick. Go ahead. Assists? Sure. That was a good win, too.
- Both team started hot hot hot from the field, but cooled to a low simmer for the rest of the night. That was kind of a stupid, useless bullet point. Sorry. Ugh, I'm the worst.
- Amar'e Stoudemire made a number of defensive errors, but did a nice job on the defensive glass (nine d-bounds). On offense, he was just great. Amar'e's still not launching to the rim, but-- in a rather encouraging turn-- he's finally accepted that fact and has been using feints and nifty dribbles to get himself easy looks. More cool side steps and spin moves and in-air adjustments, less inert bull-rushes toward the basket the paint. Stoudemire had 22 points on 13 shots, made a couple of gorgeous passes, and, though the defense generally wasn't great, helped Tyson Chandler(!) with a gorgeous rejection of Andrea Bargnani at the rim in the fourth quarter.
- Amar'e also hollered "OH SHIT!" within range of the microphones on at least four or five occasions. Somewhere, a child and his or her hypersensitive parent were watching the game on MSG and the hypersensitive parent, after like the third "OH SHIT!", snapped and turned off the television and forbade the child from ever watching the Knicks again. Now that kid is going to become a Celtics fan or an arsonist or something, and it's going to be the fault of Amar'e and whoever failed to censor Amar'e.
- Jeremy Lin played great again! 'Twas a lovely line-- 18 points, 10 assists, and just three turnovers-- with a somewhat unusual performance behind it. Lin missed a lot of his easier inside finishes, but was deadly from outside, hitting a couple big threes and sinking a few mid-range jumpers in set plays. His passes were the usual fare-- some of those lead lobs in transition, a few timely entry passes and nice dishes off the dribble, and one beautiful alley-oop to Landry Fields. On defense, Lin gave Jose Calderon much more trouble than he did the last time around by chasing him off the ball and getting over screens to keep a hand in his face. There were several occasions, especially in the second half, in which Calderon forced the Knicks to switch and peed on Stoudemire, but for the most part, Lin stuck to Calderon's hip and kept him relatively in check. He also spent a lot of time roaming and made some very useful pokes and strips to harry big men with the ball.
- As is customary, Lin's nose started bleeding when DeMar DeRozan pretty much punched him in the face in the first quarter. The bleeding required one of those foamy little nose-plugs to be stopped, which appeared to hinder his breathing somewhat. That led to a moment later on in which Mike Breen asked Clyde whether he preferred to breathe through his nose or mouth (I didn't know this was a matter of opinion). Clyde came out as pro-nose and mentioned that he used to run with water in his mouth to force himself to practice nasal breathing. I...I don't...I....
- Carmelo Anthony shot poorly. Let's get that out of the way. He kept doing that thing he did earlier in the year where he shoots quickly without really stepping into the shot or flicking his right wrist. It's bizarre and ineffective and led to a 5-15 night from the field, but... Melo, once again, made his presence felt in other ways. His defense was active and disruptive and included three steals. His rebounding was exquisite and often saw him fighting multiple Raptors for tough boards. His passes were plentiful, and he punished Toronto for helping by making some quick bail-out passes to open teammates. Basically, Melo struggled to create for himself and finish plays, but he compensated by exerting himself in other realms. That pleases me.
- Tyson Chandler finished damn near everything that came his way and actually did some creating for others off dribble hand-offs. He didn't rebound much, but did an admirable job against Andrea Bargnani, who should be a tough cover for a guy like Tyson. Chandler stayed on his feet and forced Barn-yar-ni to take and miss contested jumpers.
- Landry Fields did a couple cool things off the dribble, made a couple defensive plays, and finished that oop, but was otherwise overshadowed by his bench counterparts (who received equal playing time).
- J.R. Smith, in about the same number of minutes, played splendidly. For the second game in a row, Earl came in and made a big difference in a closely contested first quarter. Upon entering the game, he nailed a jumper off the dribble, poked the ball away on defense, drew a charge, then soared above a crowd to tip in one of Iman Shumpert's misses. Later, he tipped in another miss, swatted Calderon at the rim, drew another (rather floppy) charge, and saved an off-balance drive by tossing Chandler a perfect baseline lob. Smith shot 5-9, too, so it was a pretty complete game.
- Iman Shumpert didn't shoot well from distance but squiggled through the lane for one gorgeous righty lay-in and finished a beautiful lead pass from Jared Jeffries with a one-handed flush. On defense, he committed one silly foul in a mismatch on Bargnani, but made up for it with a couple deflections and some arm-swinging terror in front of Jerryd Bayless.
- Speaking of which, Jeffries made some savvy plays on offense-- a hilarious pump fake to draw a foul on Linas Kleiza 20 feet from the basket late in the shot clock, that transition feed to Shump, a large helping of o-bounds and tip-outs-- and, I assume, taught Bayless a thing or two about spelling.
- Steve Novak looked unusually, disconcertingly off on a couple of his attempts, but he finished 2-5 from downtown anyway, including one delightful play in which he deflected the pass as casually as anybody has ever deflected pass, then raced downcourt to the right elbow and drilled an ill-advised (for anyone but Steve) transition three off the catch.
- Mike Bibby played sports.
- Josh Harrellson and Toney Douglas(!!!) each got a minute to spin at the end of the game. Neither did anything particularly cool, unless you count Toney falling on his face or Jorts rimming out a baby hook, which I imagine he calls a "whippersnapper hook" or a "nipper hook" or something.
- Linas Kleiza nailed an impossible twice-contested three to beat the first quarter buzzer, giving Clyde a perfect opportunity to say "Klay-zer".
- The second unit kind of sputtered for a second before finding itself. Eventually, they built the lead with a 7-0 run by forcing turnovers and missed jumpers and getting out in transition.
- As was pointed out by our friend Jason, Bayless appears to have some artificial coloring (and perhaps flavoring) in his hair. He used that stuff to draw a very thin beard thing on his face, too.
- Fat Joe isn't that fat anymore! Instead of eating, he's on a diet of air inhaled while staring, mouth agape, at the MSG JumboTron.
- Al Trautwig called Mike Bibby "Henry Bibby" during a halftime highlight.
- One big turning point in this one was a five-point possession during the third quarter. Landry Fields drove left to the basket and scored on a lay-up while Tyson Chandler got simultaneously fouled by Aaron Gray. Gray, feeling he hadn't done enough damage, decided to kick the ball and mouth off to the officials, earning two technicals (one for the outburst, one for having the proportions, demeanor, and haircut of a massive toddler) and an ejection.
- Clyde claims he has never played mini golf, which I kind of believe. Given the options at his disposal, I just can't imagine Clyde taking the time to poke a ball around with a stick. Maybe if it was like inside a smoky grotto against Jackie Kennedy or something, but just regular mini golf? Not for Clyde.
- Clyde, marveling at the "physiques" of the young referees: "What do these guys do!? They're pumping iron! Heavy iron!".
That's all! The Knicks played great. They did pretty much all of the things well. They ought to keep that up, because they play the Sixers in Philadelphia tomorrow. That'll be a tough one.