Oh man, that was gross. Neither the Knicks nor the Bucks showed up at Madison Square Garden with much offense to speak of-- the shooting, passing, dribbling, and even just standing still were all of the lowest possible quality. Since Mike Woodson's been head coach, though, the Knicks have showed the willingness and ability to win ugly games, and they did that in a big way tonight. New York, like Milwaukee, shot miserably and fumbled the ball like it was a soapy dinosaur egg (I'm no good at metaphors), but unlike Milwaukee, they corralled heaps of rebounds and worked to draw fouls and get to the free throw line. And in the second half, they just out-defended the Bucks-- especially in the third quarter(!!!)-- to come from behind and take the victory.
Amar'e Stoudemire is out for the foreseeable future, Jared Jeffries is out for the foreseeable future, Jeremy Lin's knee hurts, Carmelo Anthony tweaked his injured groin, and Baron Davis nearly keeled over on the court tonight, but New York got their win and moved to two and a half games above Milwaukee in the eighth seed. They're also just two and a half games out of the division lead. Oh, and they're .500. Sweet, sweet, .500. It feels so good to be average.
Like Russ said in the thread, the game itself was pretty ugly, but the result was beautiful. Take the jump for some individual notes 'n' things.
- The big numbers of note: 54-41 edge on the glass, 30-12 edge in the made free throws department (and the Knicks shot 86 percent from the line!), and a 21-12 edge in third quarter scoring, which is usually where the Knicks struggle.
- Carmelo Anthony moved up to power forward in Stoudemire's stead, and while he made his share of errors, Melo gave the Knicks the big outing they needed. Melo got his first basket off a quick curl and turnaround jumper, then got most of the rest of his first half points facing the basket, either on pull-up jumpers or drives into traffic. In the second half, Melo spent a lot of time posting up and the Knick offense sort of froze around him. He drew a lot of fouls that way, though, and drained 12 of 12 free throws on the night. The match-ups didn't require too much defense from Melo, but he made an impact on that end by snaggling 11 rebounds. All told, it was a 28-point (on 20 shots), 12-rebound outing in 34 minutes. Some of that was done in quite a bit of pain, because Melo appeared to aggravate his injured groin in the late third quarter. Please, may that not be another long-term thing. Not now.
- Tyson Chandler didn't get too many looks at the basket (and was just 3-7, which saddens me because I suddenly care a lot about his field goal percentage now), but had such a terrific game. His interior help defense was typically brilliant, and he tipped out so, so many offensive rebounds (and ripped down five of his own). Chandler also made some pretty sexy passes-- one beautiful touch assist to Landry Fields in transition and a gorgeous outlet to Baron Davis after a defensive rebound.
- Once again, Landry Fields didn't get too involved in the offense and played sorta spotty minutes. He pulled down eight rebounds and grabbed three steals, though.
- Iman Shumpert started and, though he committed some egregious turnovers, had a pretty big impact offensively. On a night when absolutely nobody could hit an open three, Shump went 3-6 from downtown and drained a massive one to put the Knicks back up seven down the stretch. His ravenous defense also played a big part in Monta Ellis's awful 2-14 outing.
- Baron Davis started in place of Lin and played 32 very weary minutes. It was a lot like a typical Baron Davis outing, only doubled: Double the terrible shots and double the inexplicable turnovers where he just cedes possession with minimal defensive influence, but also double the slick last-second dump-offs in the paint and double the sneaky, savvy defensive plays. Baron's defense wasn't fundamentally great, but he's a wise man and found a way to get into Brandon Jennings's head early on. Jennings went just 6-22 on the night, and that's including a little burst of scoring in the fourth.
- J.R. Smith played 30 minutes off the bench and had a pretty horrible shooting night (3-13, 1-10 from downtown), in part because he took some ill-fated jumpers late in the clock, and in part because he just couldn't get open shots to fall. Smith was also one of the Knicks on the receiving end of Mike Dunleavy's preposterous first half, but his defense later on was excellent. His help D in the third quarter drew Dunleavy's fourth foul then forced a turnover a couple possessions later. He drew another charge later on, and also pulled down 10 rebounds. The offense really was bad (Smith also tried to play point guard a little bit, and that went very poorly), but Earl made himself useful in several other ways. He also hit a big three to put New York up ten with just a few minutes left, so that's cool.
- Let's just get it out of the way: Mike Dunleavy Jr., legendary Knick killer, scored 14 points in like a three-minute stretch of the first quarter and had 24 on 9-10 shooting in the first half. He had just two points in the second half, though, and he also looks a lot like my middle school band teacher WHO IS A LADY, so sucks to your first half explosion, Mike Dunleavy Jr.
- If you take out Dunleavy, the Bucks shot 29.6 percent from the field tonight. The Milwaukee starters shot 12 of 53, which is 22.6 percent, which is not a lot of percents.
- As has been the case lately, the Bucks did a very good job of humping Steve Novak around the perimeter, and he shot just 2-4 (1-2 from downtown) on the night. A lot of those Dunleavy jumpers in the first half were over Novak, too. Steve probably shouldn't have had to guard him.
- Mike Bibby played a few minutes and did very little. He hit a three.
- Josh Harrellson converted one nice layup from Davis (to make up for one he'd flubbed earlier), but bit on a couple pump fakes to commit fouls. Unless he farted on somebody and I didn't notice, Jorts just didn't have much of an impact in 12 minutes.
- Beno Udrih always looks like he just came in out of the rain.
- After the Bucks had a ton of turnovers in the first quarter, the Knicks had nine in the second. Seems like too many turnovers to me.
- The third quarter was really something, though. I don't have the exact field goal numbers, but I can say pretty certainly that the two teams combined for a single-digit number of made shots. The Knicks, for their part, got tons of open looks from outside but couldn't hit a single one of them. Both teams ran stagnant, hideously ineffective offense, but New York kept drawing fouls and getting to the line. I'm pretty sure I heard Mike Breen say that the Knicks attempted 18 free throws in that period. Whatever the numbers were, New York won that third quarter by nine, and that's a big deal.
- As a matter of fact, the Bucks scored just 28 points in the whole second half. Damn.
- And now, the most important moment of the night:
That almost made Amar'e's injury worth it. It didn't, but it almost did. Sorry, Al, for all the laughs we had at your expense. Also, thank you, Al, for all the laughs we had at your expense.
So, the Knicks are in a spot of turmoil right now with all these injuries, but they put all that aside tonight and even overcame their own offensive errors to take an exceedingly important win against a rival team. We'll talk more about the injuries and stuff in the morning. For now, enjoy the victory, enjoy being .500, and enjoy the moment of comfort in the standings. The Knicks are back at it on Wednesday against the Magic.