The Knicks kept the rhythms of Friday's win alive, if not the magic. Like they did against the Bobcats, the Knicks treated each other to space. Carmelo Anthony controlled the ball just as much, hitting an unhistoric but respectable portion of his many shots. His moves diverted Lakers, and some of his teammates punched through the shifted defense. When things are going well, that feels like all the Knicks need-- Melo to distract, others to capitalize on the distraction. The greater distance opponents must travel to bother Melo, the longer opportunities his teammates have to capitalize. The same goes for the pick-and-roll-- if it makes opponents help, then the farther they travel to help, the better. Mike Woodson's lineups favored that equation with multiple outside threats, and enough of those threats followed through for the Knicks to take a win even while Melo played merely well.
Plenty of the above applies to Pau Gasol and the Lakers, but not quite as much. The Knicks' defense sucked and the Lakers got their points efficiently. They just didn't get as many. That's a Knicks win-- the kind that stirs up just a whiff of hope within me. When a guy drops 62, it's hard to know what to expect afterward. What we saw Sunday night seems like a reproducible method for beating some kinds of teams. You know, if Woodson keeps playing those lineups and those lineups keep hitting shots. I feel like this is the third or fourth time the Knicks have made me say "yeah, just keep playing like that and you'll win more, even if it's imperfect". Previously, they've failed to keep at it for long, so we'll see. Some notes:
- Melo came out gunning for another boom. I would do the same against Ryan Kelly, or any of the Lakers really (if I were good at basketball and not a flailing cheesebag). The flow proved fleeting, and Melo couldn't summon scalding hot soup for the second time in a weekend, which is fine and understandable. He still hit some tough shots off tough moves, he still moved to find some easy shots, and he still freed the ball often once it'd drawn help in his direction.
- Four Knicks, I'd say, reaped the rewards of Melo's gravitational pull in a spaced-out offense. Raymond Felton chugged through seams and found the net from every range. In my estimation, this weekend was Ray's finest offensive stretch of the year-- only the second time he'd hit at least half his shots in consecutive games. The room has suited him well. He's taken better care of the ball and let his shots come naturally.
- J.R. Smith used quality weak-side touches to hit a couple open threes, dribble and finish with grace, or just keep the ball moving around the arc. J.R. works much better as an opportunist than a creator, right? Pick-and-rolls fed him good looks as a decoy so he didn't feel compelled to produce them himself. I like to see him shoot off the catch and I love to see him slash when there's a hole in the weak side. The Lakers were full of such holes.
- The same goes for Tim Hardaway Jr., just with lots of exclamation points. He drilled four of five threes off the catch because ball movement teed him up to succeed. And when he drove or filled the lane, he finished with the kind of poise few other Knicks can match. Through some blend of strength, hangtime, and aerial pliancy, that kid negates contact like a flying robocat.
- You know, a flying robocat. A robot cat that can fly. And finish in traffic.
- And then there's Tyson Chandler, who stays lagging up and down the floor and still isn't contesting every shot in his range and can't quite launch 'n' crunch like he's supposed to BUT set lots of good screens and kept possessions alive off the glass. A spaced floor leaves Tyson alone with scant competition for those caroms, and he won enough of those battles to grab six offensive rebounds and 14 overall.
- A healthy, composed Pablo Prigioni would be able to force some turnovers and hit some jumpers against the flaky Lakers, but this Pablo Prigioni was not that one. He drifted and dragged defensively, and he just wasn't on beat with the rest of the guys on offense. Threw a couple perfect passes nonetheless.
- Iman Shumpert was there, too, just helping and recovering too wildly as a defender while failing to catch many offensive waves.
- Cole Aldrich and Jeremy Tyler played less and produced little, though Cole impacted the game as a shot-stopping help defender (and even a little as a Gasol-stopper, though certainly not often). Aldrich goes up straight and with good timing to contest shots, plus he's a big dude, so things work out for him pretty often. 3 shots blocked with zero fouls committed in 12 minutes is some genuinely helpful defense for a team that really needed it.
- ...VERTI-COLE-ITY. THERE I SAID IT.
- I thought I saw J.R. and Timitation gamble a lot early, but less as the game progressed. I think a lot of things, but I thought I saw that.
- I caught this strange vibe early on that the Knicks were going through some of the same motions as the insane Friday night, but without success. Like Melo was way late on a buzzer-beating attempt and Tyler couldn't grab hold of a very familiar running tip-dunk and J.R. would drive looking to create but not find a suitable recipient for a fancy pass and that kind of stuff. The gestures, but not, ultimately, the same stream of huge plays.
- I looooove it when a guy-- Melo or Felton, if anyone-- passes out of help, then the ball touches every other hand on the floor in rapid succession until it swings back to the original guy, who is now open. That's the Knick offense at its prettiest.
- I also love a nice, exotic pick-and-roll, and we got to see a few of those. A particularly lovely scissor-handoff thing in the fourth produced a massive Chandler reverse dunk off a lob from Felton.
- No Beno OR Toure'.
- Sunday night's brief supersmall lineup: Prigioni, Smith, Hardaway, Shumpert, Tyler.
As Spades17shouted: Ball movement! Shooters and spacing and ball movement and buckets. We saw the Knick offense in fine form, so fine even shit defense couldn't sully it. The Knicks can win games that way. Two in a row now, with three more opportunities coming to make this home stand count .