The Knicks won, which was satisfying. That they did it against the Sixers and, like DehShadow said, in less than convincing fashion mutes the satisfaction only somewhat. Any win would have sufficed and, ya know, the Sixers did shit on these Knicks just weeks ago, so this win wasn't a given. New York's ball movement-- if not their execution following said ball movement-- looked sharp and certain lineups played moments of semi-okay defense. The usual switching and general perimeter wretchedness granted Jrue Holiday his 30, but the Knicks curbed the Sixers' transition baskets after the first quarter and persuaded them to shoot jumpers, which worked for the most part. Timely fourth-quarter contributions from Amar'e Stoudemire and J.R. Smith saved New York when the Sixers did put together some runs of long jumpers later on.
Some quick notes:
- Carmelo Anthony remained weirdly cold on even the cleanest of outside looks, but he dealt with that in the best way possible: He drove and faked and drove and faked and tricked lots of Sixers into hitting him. 16-18 from the line made up for 6-18 from the field.
- I don't know who pissed Tyson Chandler off over the All-Star break, but he's been playing much rowdier, more aggressive defense this week, both around the rim and as a hedger of pick-and-rolls. He trapped, recovered, and swatted with abandon, and even seized an opportunity to do some shovin' when Spencer Hawes got upset about Melo giving him a well-deserved slap in his head:
- I was pleased to see Iman Shumpert start on Jrue Holiday and wept with joy when he picked the little dude's pocket, but he played pretty poorly otherwise. He got distracted and lost track of Holiday cutting backdoor a couple times and offered very little on the other end. If you really squint for some positive offensive moments, you'll see that one jab-step three Shump hit and a growing tendency to cut from the weak side on Melo post-ups instead of just waiting behind the arc, but this wasn't a good performance.
- Jason Kidd did a wonderful job helping on both backboards (nine rebounds, three offensive) and made one impressively athletic finish in transition but good god did he waste a lot of quality looks. Missed open threes off great ball movement were (and have been) a theme, and Kidd's been the mascot. His form looks different to me, like he's kicking his leg out harder as if to DEMAND that the ball go in the basket.
- Raymond Felton looked much better bulling his way to the rim and threading crafty entry passes than he did settling for jumpers, which is nothing new. He hurt himself but returned and claimed to be fine after the game, which is also nothing new.
- Amar'e Stoudemire gave a much-needed gem of an offensive performance, demonstrating all the touch he'd impressed us with during that fine stretch a few weeks back. He and his entry passers showed great patience in establishing solid post-ups-- often mismatched after pick-and-rolls-- and going to work as close to the rim as possible. Amar'e mixed in some post finishes, some pick-and-pop jumpers, some tip-ins, and one lovely backdoor dunk off a feed from Melo. Can't do much better than 22 points on ten shots in 22 foul-trouble-limited minutes.
- I'm happy Mike Woodson stuck with non-Felton on Jrue Holiday, turning to J.R. Smith when Iman Shumpert exited the game. J.R. got beat plenty, but did a nice job sticking with Holiday through screens and denying him the ball. Smith also rescued the Knicks late with three huge three-pointers, a block and deflection on defense, and an offensive rebound that helped New York kill clock when the Sixers had struck within single digits. It's disheartening that New York couldn't muster a decent look or keep the Sixers from scoring down the stretch and equally disheartening that this was like the fourth time J.R. Smith saved us all from disaster, but, again, we'll take any sort of win right now.
- I'd be interested to see an alternate reality in which Amar'e played his minutes without Steve Novak on the floor. Steve, as is often the case, contributed very little in the way of points, but provided for a noticeable abundance of space. The one thing he must avoid is cutting toward Amar'e or whoever when they're backing someone down in the post. Novak setting foot inside the arc is tantamount to him inviting his defender to ditch and help out down low.
- Even after that hot stretch, Pablo Prigioni's still way too reluctant to take open looks, which is funny, because the only shot he made tonight was a heavily contested, fall-away 16-footer late in the shot clock. Pablo played a couple great possessions defending Holiday, for what it's worth.
- Kenyon Martin did not play despite some deeply unsettling "KEN-YON MAR-TIN" chants from the crowd (I'm sorry. I'm still not over this. I promise I will be as soon as he sets foot on the court and contributes something, but I'm not there yet). It sounds like, despite some teasing before tip-off, he never expected to spin. Wednesday, perhaps.
- I think I like Woodson's decision to bench Tyson Chandler late in first quarters so he can return to join Amar'e early in the second. There are going to be awful defensive/rebounding stretches pretty much whenever Chandler's on the bench (if you're into it: +14 tonight when no other starter broke even), but they feel a little less injurious at the ends of odd-numbered quarters. Martin will hopefully relieve this issue somewhat, and if not him, then Marcus Camby or Rasheed Wallace sometime in the future.
- Clyde on Jeremy Pargo: "Is he related to the other one?"
In short: The defense stayed spotty and switchy and the offense stayed failing to capitalize on great looks, but the Knicks summoned enough scoring and thwarted enough non-Holiday Sixer attempts to pull off a win. Thanks, Sixers. We needed that. Couple o' days off, then the Knicks host the struggling Warriors.