The beauty of this winning streak is how short it's been on "ohhhh no, here we go" moments. That first win in Minnesota got a little dicey, but every game since has been a uniform thumping. The Pacers have been struggling-- and holy shit did they look bad Wednesday night-- but they weren't going to just roll over for the Knicks. I found myself oh-no-here-we-go-ing several times in the second half, but the Knicks pushed through those moments, and there was some beauty in that, too. And it was nice, of course, for the Knicks to pull off a gritty, nationally televised win with New Dad sitting courtside.
New York definitely didn't give Phil Jackson an elegant game. Mike Woodson trotted out some of his fancier play-calls-- a few double-screens and creative hand-offs, plus some nice use of decoys and backdoor cuts out of the pick-and-roll-- but the Knick offense was full almost to the brim with farts. No amount of ball movement could get J.R. Smith going or coax points out of anyone on the Knicks' bench. A pick-and-pop that had served Amar'e Stoudemire very nicely in the early going faded in the second half. When the Knicks really needed points, they just handed the ball Amar'e on the block or Carmelo Anthony on the wing and let them go to work. Melo in particular made magic out of isolation. He often acted alone, but quickly, eviscerating Chris Copeland on a couple consecutive possessions, outmuscling Evan Turner, then giving it to Paul George again late with more spinning and winning than that gangly dope could handle. The Pacers sometimes take their chances single-covering Melo, but they got to doubling and Melo picked up on it, either getting his shot off swiftly or bailing out. He fed a big Iman Shumpert three in the fourth quarter and let Raymond Felton drop in a couple weird-ass buckets to ice the game late.
New York's defense was pretty good for them, which is to say it was quite bad and fundamentally unsound, but marked consistently by effort. They forced turnovers early in the game-- or, well, they allowed turnovers, because the Pacers just kinda gave the ball away pretty often-- and they took care of rebounds, which was huge. When both teams shoot around 40% from the field and around 20% from outside, you look to second opportunities and free throws for the difference, and the Knicks held the advantage in both place. Tyson Chandler's work on the glass was crucial, and he got help from every other Knick, including each of the guards. Well, not Shannon Brown. Shannon Brown grabbed zero rebounds in his one second of playing time. What the fuck, Shannon Brown?
But yeah, like DehShadow said, that's the thing I wish the Knicks had discovered-- remembered, really, since they seemed to figure it out last year-- months ago. They don't actually need to be that competent defensively. They just need to try hard and limit opportunities. You can let a team shoot well as long as they don't shoot a lot. The Pacers didn't shoot well at all, but they outperformed the Knicks in that regard. It just didn't matter because the Knicks shot more. Because they had the ball more. Because they tried.
Just a couple notes:
- It felt like it had been a while since we saw a signature Pablo Prigioni Sneak. Pablo jumped an inbound pass to force a turnover in the first quarter. Joe Flynn's trying to tell me Pablo deflected the ball with his ass, but I didn't catch that.
- Paul George shot four of damn seventeen from the field, and I think Iman Shumpert deserves a couple pats on the back for that. Like I said after the game, George was and has been cold as tundra, but Shump contributed to that whenever the two crossed paths by sticking close to him over screens and making certain he didn't have a step to the rim.
- Shump may never stick close to a person ever again because he got clocked directly in the face at least two and possibly three times in this game, including a
vicious viscous George elbow directly to the cheek area that had Clyde matter-of-factly stating "Oh, his nose is gone." so promptly that I believed him and kinda freaked out.
- Cool, simple first-quarter play. Melo holds on the wing, Pablo cuts backdoor from the corner, catches a nice Melo entry, drives baseline beneath the rim to draw the defense, then leaves the ball off for a big Chandler dunk. That's...that's almost triangle-y?
- The Pacers floundered in the second quarter and Frank Vogel got mad. His anger at one point manifested in screaming something to the effect of "PLAY DEFENSE" at George Hill while Hill and Felton were like six inches away. What I mean to say is Frank Vogel screamed with his mouth pretty much pressed against Felton's eardrum. It was not cool. I blame the subsequent turnover on Vogel shouting Felton into a daze.
- RIP Tim Hardaway Jr.'s Hot Hand: 3/10/14-3/15/14. He got good looks against Indiana. He hit exactly none of them.
- I really think Chris Copeland is a sleeper agent and I love him for it. Dude bricked two important open threes when the Pacers had pulled within a couple points, let Melo tear him apart at the other end, and even fouled Melo on a three-pointer. YOU GOTTA PLAY IT COOLER THAN THAT, COPE. We appreciate the embedded help, but be more subtle.
- I've mentioned this before, but I love Amar'e's increased patience on the block. When he makes his move, he makes it with speed and force, but in the seconds before that, he's surveying the floor and looking for a potential outlet where he was once frantically gathering the momentum to run into somebody.
- Cole Aldrich got torched. His few first-half minutes were fine and he played some good interior D, but his few second-half minutes were just a montage of Roy Hibbert dropping hooks in his eye. That's a scary image if taken literally. I once got a fishhook caught under my eyelid. Bad time.
- Pablo got the Knicks two points at the third-quarter buzzer by laying a long Melo outlet pass up toward the rim only to have it goaltended by a Pacer. I fully expected him to dribble straight out of bounds as time expired instead of putting up a shot, so I think that deserves recognition.
- And while neither shot was pretty, snaps to Felton for banking in a desperation 30-footer off a loose ball at the end of a late shot clock, then sinking the dagger with just over a minute to go. The play for that one included some good ball movement...but ended in a Felton 15-footer...but he hit it, so...cool.
I keep typing and typing when I could much better summarize the mood of the evening and of this whole week with two items of media: