Cool. That was nice. Like abudabi64 said, the Knicks got themselves a relatively stress-free victory in their return to Madison Square Garden. Carmelo Anthony came back from a three-game absence looking like himself, nobody else went down with a new injury, and the Knicks mostly took care of the very bad and VERY depleted-- like even more than the Knicks-- Orlando Magic. New York's very small lineups gave up far too many offensive rebounds to Orlando's equally small lineups, but other than that, the Knicks looked decent. They built a big early lead by moving the ball brilliantly for open threes and trapping/rotating like they gave a shit on defense, then weathered subsequent Orlando runs solidly enough that Melo et al. weren't needed in the fourth quarter.
*Iman Shumpert tweaked his left knee a bit and sat the second half, but it sounds like that was just him overreacting to a "pop" in the knee, which is normal after a reconstruction. The rest was precautionary and he'll get checked out tomorrow to make sure nothing happened, according to MSG.
- Melo didn't look amazing, but he looked healthy. Dude played pretty heavy minutes in his first game back-- 33 in three quarters-- and did the things he usually does when his legs work. He hit most of his jumpers off the catch (including a three on the very first play of the game), shot okay on pull-up jumpers, got to the rim off a quick first step at least once, and passed out of very many double teams in the post. Melo's defense on Moe Harkless wavered a bit, especially once the shot was in the air and it was time to box out. Nice, relieving performance overall, though. Melo was Melo.
- Pablo Prigioni started again and played a quiet but useful 20 minutes, shining most in the early third quarter with a couple nice feeds and a three out of the pick-and-roll. It's been said UN MIL times, but Pablo just needs to shoot. He hit both of his uncontested three-pointers, but only after checking and double-checking to make sure his man didn't wanna come out and defend him. Just pull, Pablo! You're kinda great at three-pointers!
- Again, Shump felt a "pop"-- normal in a surgically repaired knee, but probably scary the first time it happens-- and sat the second half. Before that, he had a couple nice drives end in a basket and a drawn foul and hit one of his weak-side threes off some terrific ball movement.
- Raymond Felton played an adequate if uninteresting game, but good GOD did he miss his two of his three-pointers as badly as anyone has ever missed anything. Two pretty good looks-- one in each half-- slammed violently off the backboard adjacent to the rim. The tremors could be felt in Tibet.
- Kenyon Martin could be seen and heard communicating very well on defense and had moments of success against the very impressive Tobias Harris. Most of the time, though, he was just out there scratching, clawing, and stiff-arming while somehow only committing four fouls in 28 minutes. Martin did a great job finishing around the rim, including a few tip-ins and one alley-oop finish off a Jason Kidd lob. I'm glad we finally got the Kidd-to-Martin alley-oop out of the way. It was minimally upsetting and now I feel ready to move on in rooting for those two.
- Jason Kidd over-passed a bit, but hit a couple important jumpers and made many of those little deflections and nifty passes that tend to affirm his presence no matter what else he's doing.
- J.R. Smith played a pretty terrific game. With the exception of just a couple step-back 18-footers (a.k.a. "Breen-Displeasers"), J.R. drove and drove and drove off the dribble and only took jumpers off the catch. Some of his finishes were kinda forced and awkward, others were quite nimble, but pretty much all of them dropped or at least drew contact. He also made a valuable contribution on the defensive glass (6) on a night when the Knicks needed that to keep their lead.
- Chris Copeland shot a whole lot. Oddly enough, his best moments came in the third quarter, when he drew some undersized defenders and camped out in the deep post. Kidd hit him with some sharp entry passes (checking down Melo in the process, which was funny) that ended in a couple easy buckets.
- Steve Novak shot a cool 3-7 from downtown, added a sexy pull-up leaner off one dribble, and only got humiliated a few times on defense.
- Marcus Camby played just seven minutes and, except for one gorgeous re-post lob to Melo, didn't look so sharp. His help defense wasn't quite up to snuff. He attempted a first-quarter buzzer-beater that-- with his elaborate-ass clockwork wind-up-- somehow actually beat the buzzer. It didn't go in, but I think Marcus should get one point for getting a basketball in the air in under a second. It's not easy with all those gears and pulleys and whatnot.
- James White got his first minutes in a bit during garbage time and looked the most okay he's looked in a while. He finally did a cool dunk!
- The same-size-same-headband confusion between Martin and Melo (also known as the Gallo-Landry effect) was even more pronounced tonight. Nate Taylor got to the bottom of it.
- Something I've never seen before: Late in the first quarter, Jason Kidd forced a jump-ball against the much taller Moe Harkless and-- instead of jumping for the tip-- darted out of the circle as soon as the ref tossed the ball in an effort to field Harkless's tip-out. It didn't work, but that's some elite trickery from a guy with more guile than athleticism (and pride, evidently).
- Mike Breen, giving his tentative eulogy for Kurt Thomas's career: "He played with a lot of great players." Clyde: "Did he play with George Mikan?". Breen: "He knew Dr. Naismith personally."
- The rebounding really became a problem in the second quarter. Kyle O'Quinn-- who I absolutely love, by the way-- just kept breaking free for put-backs under the rim. If Nikola Vucevic had played against these Knick lineups, he might have grabbed over 15,000 rebounds, which would be a record.
- Patrick Ewing did a nice job in his halftime interview and in the post-game show. The biggest revelation of the evening (aside from PATRICK REALLY WANTS TO BE A COACH GUYS SERIOUSLY) was that Ewing does not email. You can text him, you can call him, or you can fax him. Or you can just shout "HEY PATRICK EWING: [message]" at the top of your lungs and he might hear you if he's nearby.
- J.R. Smith played with the halftime babies again and, according to Twitter reports, actually got the ball and recorded an assist this time.
- I didn't get to watch any but the end of the Cavs-Heat game because of, ya know, the Knicks game that I'm currently recapping, but we did get on-air updates of that craziness from Mike Breen. My favorite part of the whole night was Breen announcing the Cavs were ahead by 27 and Clyde responding with a mere stoner chuckle-- "huh huh huh huh"-- then Breen going on to share that the Heat had come back to tie the game. Clyde's response? Just one, nervous-sounding "...huah". Breen: "You just keep laughing at these scores!"
- J.R. Smith outdid White's garbage time dunk with an amazing pin-block of a meaningless O'Quinn lay-up. Clyde then outdid J.R. by offering a sort of meta-remix of his signature replay call: "So nice, we'll slow it down!". It's funny because it DIDN'T RHYME this time. Wonderful.
The Knicks won, as they should have against the bleached husk of a mediocre Orlando team. Melo looked good. Nobody-- unless everyone is very wrong about Shump-- got hurt. Threes dropped. Defenders rotated. Mouths smiled. The Knicks have won two in a row, which feels weirdly great. Up next is a weekend home-and-home with those meddling Raptors.