The Knicks are known to tease, and they pulled off a signature tease against the Heat. Our friend "JR and the Off-Balance Shots" called it in the game thread. I imagine we all did. The Knicks, to their credit, never looked flat-out terrible like they do in some tease-y games. New York struggled to space the floor on one end and fouled heavily on the other, but guys worked. They didn't embarrass themselves.
So when Carmelo Anthony loosened up a bit, and Amar'e Stoudemire got to cooking, and the Knicks generated a stop or two, the game actually got close. But the Knicks never managed to correct the thing where their jumpers went places other than the basketball hoop. Shots -- open ones, contested ones, smart ones and dumb ones -- just missed. They never even hit a streak, and the cruelty of a tight rim (Clyde actually mentioned something early on about a fresh net) registered hardest at the game's unmistakably critical moment:
Down 4, Tim Hardaway picked off a telegraphed pass, churned coast-to-coast for a finish in traffic, drew a foul, but missed the free throw. Amar'e Stoudemire netted the loose ball and sent it back out to the perimeter, where Hardaway lurked for a deEP BOMB TO PUT THE KNICKS AHEAD HERE WE GOnope, then the loose ball trickled back into the Knicks hands, and Samuel Dalembert flipped it up toward thE RIM TO PULL EVEN HERE WE GO HERE'S THE MOMENTUMnope, but then Shane Larkin crept in front of an outlet pass and found aNOTHER OPEN LOOK OUT OF THE BROKEN PLAY AND HERE FINALLY WAS THE TURNING POINTnope. Nope nope nope, and Dwyane Wade immediately marched the other way and buried a jumper. That is the Knicks tease in a tidy little capsule.
- Amar'e dug deep into the post, received the ball in good spots, and turned the corner fast to get his shots up. His 7 offensive rebounds came as a byproduct of that strong positioning, usually on the weak side of the floor, and it helped that he played with a pronounced interest in snaggling caroms. Shawne Williams couldn't hang.
- Speaking of Williams and skills he lacks, Extra E barreling all the way to the rim to draw a foul more or less summarizes the Knicks' defensive rotations.
- In his return, Carmelo Anthony looked like a slightly rusty, somewhat sticky version of himself for 41 minutes. He didn't take a ton of great, fluid shots, but managed to put 31 points (in 26 takes) on the board anyway. Melo may have played through some back problems, but he mostly played through Luol Deng problems. Deng did his work before Melo caught the ball, sometimes walling him off entirely because many Knick lineups lack a single person who can enter a pass over a front.
- Jose Calderon's pretty much *the* guard who can make that pass. Or any entry remotely challenging entry pass. He hit Melo spinning to the rim, he tickled the rarely touched first option of the Triangle a few times, and he sometimes kept his cool against help defense. Sometimes he made bad, casual passes into or out of traffic. Calderon also weirdly pulled down double-digit rebounds for the second time in three games. He also also shot like a butt. Like a butt would shoot. Poorly. Butts lack the dexterity and strength -- even if you consider the propulsive power of a fart -- to shoot a basketball accurately. Jose Calderon, who is typically a good shooter, shot like a butt.
- Butts aplenty, though: Pablo Prigioni entered the game, whiffed, and departed in a jiffy. J.R. matched Prigioni with just six minutes, supposedly because he was under the weather, and not, as it originally seemed, because he got so thoroughly smoked by a James Ennis backdoor cut that Derek Fisher decided to be done with him. Iman Shumpert eschewed good shots for bad ones. I dunno what it is now, but he showed some of the tentative offensive tics that had completely disappeared during his recent stretch of excellence. It's tremendously frustrating. So, too, was Shump burying some genuinely great moments guarding Dwyane Wade under a pile of dumbshit fouls. Shane Larkin played some but helped little.
- I think I've mentioned before that, in the rare instances I've been up close at a basketball game (Summer League mostly), I've been baffled at how the players seem to ignore whistles blown near their faces. Those shits are SHRILL, and refs really wail on them sometimes. Well, here's Melo flinching so hard when Ken Mauer blew a whistle that he dropped the ball he was supposed to inbound. He followed this by complaining until Mauer gave him a technical. Melo takes his techs very calmly. He's got strong whining inertia, like he doesn't even notice the call. His gripes do not dampen after a tech, but they neither turn nor intensify. Fascinating specimen, that one.
- Tim Hardaway Jr. didn't play the entire first half until the very last possession, when he missed a three. Then he played like 15 minutes in the second half, most of it spent guarding Dwyane Wade. None of the above makes sense to me. I blame those sorry-ass mutton chops he's got going on. They clouded Derek Fisher's judgment.
- The thing I most scream at the TV about, night to night, is Melo not passing the ball out of the post when doubles come. I'm not even mad. I just want it to happen because I think it's a good exercise for everybody. I counted one very good pass out of the post, and that was kinda delayed.
- I talked before about bad management of fronts, and man, Quincy Acy...man. First he tried to beat a Deng front by just kinda dribbling around it to hand-deliver the ball. Then he tried to beat a Deng front by passing to Deng, as if maybe he'd get out of the way or, like, turn around and relay the ball to Melo.
- This is unrelated, but the above thought just reminded me of a time in fourth grade I was instructed to deliver a class Christmas present to Mr. Fusco in another classroom, but I was shy, so I just poked my head into the classroom, handed the gift to someone in the class I knew, and told him to give the gift to Mr. Fusco on behalf of my class. I lied to my teacher and said I made the hand-off myself. I still feel guilty. Ms. Aronheim, if you're reading this, I'm sorry about that. I think you got married and changed your name to something else. I'm sorry, though.
- This pretty much has to be the case when the Knicks are in a game against a better team, but the Heat spent a loooong while bricking open shots before Josh McRoberts and Chris Bosh got to splashing.
- Acy seems to get madder than most when people steal his rebounds. The Knicks fight over easy rebounds too much, I think.
- The Knicks didn't hit a three-pointer until Calderon buried one mid-way through the third quarter. The scoreboard operators were so surprised that they momentarily awarded three points to the Heat instead of the Knicks. Not a joke!
- Jason Smith played 6 minutes in the first half, then sat the whole second half. Amar'e started for
Acy Dalembert in the third quarter. Just weird rotations all around. Not even bad weird, necessarily. Just very weird. Fisher's lineups and sub patterns aren't even scattered enough to be totally random. It's just...weird. Weird.
- Carmelo Anthony attempted the exact same three he used to tie and eventually beat the Bulls in 2012. Same choppy, foul-baiting hand motion, same defender, different result. Wouldn't have mattered anyway.
- Dwyane Wade is the worst, man. He's really good against the Knicks. It's very frustrating. I hope his sink gets clogged. I hope he runs out of toilet paper. I hope finds a loose thread on his pant leg and pulls it and ruins his whole pants. I hope he has to sneeze but can't sneeze.
- I once wrote a truly vicious letter to the Heat after Wade hit a game-winner over Trevor Ariza in 2005. The guy really gets to me. I never sent the letter. I don't even remember what was in it, but I feel like it could have gotten me arrested if anyone saw it. I took myself way too seriously at 16.
I'm going to bed. I'm glad you competed, Knicks. I'm also glad you moved another loss closer to supreme lottery odds. I swear those feelings exist in harmony. I feel strange about what makes me glad these days, but such are the Knicks.