The Knicks fell up the stairs again. New York's demonstrated over and over this season how fine the line is between winning and losing, and I guess it's nice they came out above that line this time. The Pistons played so, so terribly, and the Knicks-- well, given the records, it'd be vain to say they "played down" to Detroit's level, but the Knicks definitely didn't exploit Detroit's torpor, at least not continuously.
After a first half of mutual poo-flinging, the game seemed to tip the Knicks' way in the third. Carmelo Anthony, who'd been productive early, started cooking soup for real with a torrent of catch-and-make threes out of the Raymond Felton-Kenyon Martin pick-and-roll. And for a moment there, it was like "yeah, duh, run pick-and-roll, force turnovers aplenty, and this is easy". The Knicks went on a 13-0 run. I was fooled. I figured they'd made enough progress on the Texas trip to know how to put the thing away, but noooooooooo madam. A lineup shift I'd typically expect to behoove the Knicks-- going from "big" groups with no point guard to "small" groups with a point guard-- gave up more than it produced, benchmen and starters alike. Detroit had been playing inside-out all night, and they started to get something from the -out part of that, barreling up the floor to collapse New York's defense, then kicking to jumpers that finally began to drop.
The Knicks boosted Detroit's late chances with a generous offering of Raymond Felton foot-dribbles and reckless Melo isolations, but Josh Smith declined. Down one, he tried to hit a long two over good Melo defense and fell well short. The Knicks even missed one of the ensuing free throws, but Melo chased down the offensive rebound and put the game away at the line himself. And so, in a game that-- like CARMP said-- both teams deserved to lose, the Knicks were declared victor because of a league rule wherein the team with more points at the final buzzer wins. Some notes:
- Andrea Bargnani's match-up with Greg Monroe was interesting, because Monroe operates in the kinds of sets and ranges that Bargnani can usually guard-- back-down stuff-- but does so with such elusive footwork that Andrea can't hang. A lot of Detroit's offense was just establishing their bigs very deep very early in the clock, then drawing fouls or getting easy buckets because New York wasn't ready.
- That said, 13 points on 13 shots and 11 rebounds is a wonderful little line from Bargnani, though pretty much all of it came in the first half. I don't know how, but I'd love to see Bargnani and the Knicks spread his scoring out a bit more.
- Raymond Felton returned and played 31 minutes on a groin injury that's surely still bugging him. He looked pretty nimble considering, and I thought the Knicks played their best offense when he was penetrating over picks. It seems like Melo doesn't get to play decoy as much (perhaps his best look) when it isn't Felton running the pick-and-roll. Good GOD was Ray bad down the stretch, though. Just gave the ball away on a couple crucial possessions, which was funny after Mike Woodson had shot down the prospect of playing Toure' Murry in crunchtime because of his inexperience.
- (Murry wasn't very good to begin the fourth, though. He had a couple nice moments off the dribble, but couldn't contain Will Bynum at all. Mike Woodson surely played him only because Beno Udrih's knee was acting up.)
- Iman Shumpert cooled off, missing all his threes. He made a lot of mayhem on defense, though, and did a decent job extra-passin'. His signature sequence of the night was when he stripped Josh Smith, drove coast-to-coast, turned the ball over, stole it back, then rattled out an easy dunk attempt.
- Tim Hardaway Jr. cooled off, too, huh? He tried to microwave with four (clean enough) three-point looks in 13 minutes, but the microwave wouldn't microwave. I'm realizing as I write this that I've never seen a microwave fail. I've seen a microwave catch fire because someone put aluminum foil/a lit candle inside it, but I've never seen one just break down on its own. Good job, microwaves.
- Kenyon Martin quietly remains one of the Knicks' best creators. Guys know to cut when he's holding the ball up top, and he's got the height and patience to hit them perfectly in stride. Makes a sound bail-out pass when he's clogged on the roll, too.
- They say he was "faking it", but J.R. Smith at least made the appearance of doing the shoelace thing again in the first quarter, which was like the most obvious thing in the world to not do. Just don't. Even if it's all in good fun, you're on TV, everybody already thinks you're a buffoon, and you're not playing nearly well enough to distract anyone. Not bad work as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, though. 2-6 in 30 minutes isn't hot, but it's better than 6-18, and I like the earnest attempts to create for others.
- JORTS! Throw him on the "if you're not gonna play him, then give him back" pile, please. Although Mike Woodson would hate Jorts, I think.
- Nice dunk, Amar'e. Bad, clumsy, short-armed game overall, but very nice under-dunk on a very nice move past Andre Drummond.
- For whatever reason, the TV game clock was just a tight camera shot of the actual game clock, and the actual game lock had boogers all over it so I rarely knew how much time remained.
So that's three wins in four games, which is a good amount of wins in four games. The Knicks have been pretty good in 2014! They haven't always looked good-- they've looked outright awful at times-- but only the wins and losses count, and they've got more wins than losses. Hopefully they can start getting W's by truly *winning* these games as a home-heavy January continues. The Heat are next, and I'd put money on the Knicks looking better in that game (whether or not that's enough to win) than they did Tuesday night.