This wasn't that kind of Knicks game. No, not that kind either. The other other kind. The kind where they win, but only after needless trouble and exhaustion. That kind. We have seen this game maybe half a dozen times this season, and at no point has it been pleasant, but all the Knicks needed was a W to gain ground on the Hawks, and they got that, so they did, however yucky it may have been.
Even down a few men-- Isaiah Thomas included-- the Kings devoured New York's defense by taking the usual routes. The more they pushed the ball up the floor, the more they used screens, and the more they let DeMarcus Cousins go to work on Amar'e Stoudemire, the more they ate away at New York's lead, which had once been 24 points. Travis Outlaw and Ben McLemore each enjoyed a half of unmolested jump-shooting, and even sad, trodden little Ray McCallum, whose 3-14 shooting in his first career start marks what might be FARTDOG's greatest failure of the season, made some plays down the stretch.
But the Knicks' saved their lead the same way they built it: threes and threes and threes and long twos and more threes. Aside from an Amar'e boost, New York's early offense was just J.R. Smith burying in-rhythm threes and Carmelo Anthony connecting out of isolation or as the decoy in a pick-and-roll (often run by J.R.). In the second half, they only dialed that up. I count 34 of the Knicks' 44 second-half points coming from Smith and Anthony. Each wild Kings run met its demise at the hands of a J.R. or Melo jumper (or both). They cut it to 14 in the mid-third quarter, then Melo sunk a tough, long three to snuff a 10-0 run. They cut it to 11 toward the end of the third, but J.R. dropped a three in right before the buzzer. They cut it to seven early in the fourth, then Melo drilled a tough fadeaway over Rudy Gay. They cut it to four, then J.R. caught an elbow three from Raymond Felton and Melo followed with a pull-up two. They cut it to two on a Cousins and-one, then J.R. did it from downtown again. Eventually, the Kings just stopped cutting. Some lovely pick-and-roll play from Melo (including a splendid dish-off to Amar'e) and a ballsy Tim Hardaway jumper put the game away for good. It should have been put away for good about an hour prior, but whatever, it's a win, and wins hold ostensible value right now.
Some notes, mostly about Clyde:
- Every once in a while, Rudy Gay's name is funny. Like when some running Clyde commentary goes: "McLemore reluctant to shoot this time, but not Gay!".
- You see, he was explaining that Gay was more inclined to take shots than Ben McLemore was, but it sounded like he was inappropriately alluding to McLemore's heterosexuality. Listen, I'm trying to enjoy these games.
- Both Felton and Pablo Prigioni got shed like snakeskin every time they defended a ball-handler, but snaps to both for facilitating much of that 22-40 combined shooting by J.R. and Melo. Nothing complicated. Just heady dribbling and identification of the trailer on the break and crisp extra-passing when the ball swung out of a pick-and-roll or a post double team. My favorite play of the former kind was J.R. violently swatting a McCallum layup (it felt like four or five promising McCallum drives ended up getting shat upon) then racing up the floor to receive a lay-off pass and splash a right elbow three. When I typed "splash," I pictured a meatball being dropped into a bowl of tomato sauce, which is a terrific image that I highly recommend imagining.
- Some nice movez: Melo making Derrick Williams look like a big toddler with a quick shake and drive from the left elbow for an easy blow-by dunk and Iman Shumpert doing two nice things off the dribble, which is two more nice things than he's done maybe all season. This as some fantastic timing and keen sense of the defender's balance from a guy who's shown exactly none of that in previous opportunities. (Thanks, BJabs.)
- Clyde: "The clever Isaiah Thompson!" "The Pizza Man!" 0-2 on names, 2-2 in my heart.
- I'm not gonna lie, I got a little distracted as the Pacers-Heat game was ending during the early second quarter of this one, and I thought the Knicks were losing for a few minutes there when they were actually up double digits.
- Clyde said Jim Todd is a good dresser. I would like to witness a conversation between those two people. That could hold my undivided attention for ohhhhhh 14 consecutive hours.
- This wasn't J.R.'s most passing-est game, but whenever he's on, he gets generous, and his four assists included when perfectly-thrown lob to a slipping Tyson Chandler and a reverse dunk.
- Clyde would never get a tattoo. He claims he has neither the pain tolerance nor the patience. Clyde doesn't need a tattoo anyway.
- Clyde, after Stoudemire got a technical: "Stoudemire got a technical!"
- I'm sorry these are all about Clyde.
- I am not remotely sorry these are all about Clyde.
- Cole Aldrich got a sudden spurt of minutes when Chandler got in foul trouble. He, too, got burned by Cousins a few times, but he also stopped him at least once at the rim (a "block", but Cousins just lost the ball) and ripped a nice dunk 'n' holler off a patient feed from Pablo.
- The Kings shot fourteen free throws in the third quarter, which mattered. That was their primary second-half lead-eating weapon before they figured out how easy it is to attack the Knicks later on.
But the Knicks won. They scored more points. As LadyKnick mentioned, and as is their wont, the Knicks made it way too hard on themselves, but they won. Aaaaaand now the schedule gets tougher. Suns on Friday.