There's a special kind of cheer for a team like the Knicks. It's a different vowel sound-- an utterance that doesn't express approval, but an exasperated release. We watched the Knicks together tonight, and they built a double-digit lead very early on, when our crowd was as its open-bar-fueled peak. And with each bucket, there was this kind of side-mouthed "HOOOOH" sound, like "WELL LOOK WHO RAN A SUCCESSFUL PICK-AND-ROLL! HOW ABOUT THAT! LOOK AT THESE CHAMPS FORCING A TURNOVER AND ACTUALLY MAKING SOMETHING OUT OF THE FAST BREAK!". You sit through 60 teasing, torturous games, and you get like that.
And it's not like anything changed because the Knicks beat the Wolves Wednesday night, but all that sarcastic hooting gave way to some genuine glee at some point, and I'm glad we got to share that as a group. Thanks to everyone who came to the meet-up, and thanks as well to those of you who kept the game thread alive in our cyber-absence. Just a few notes:
- The estimable Charles Osborn reminded me before the game that the Wolves don't have anyone who can even come close to guarding Carmelo Anthony. I countered that his hand might still be bothering him and that overmatched defenders might invite some bad, chuckerish habits. Osborn wins that one. The Wolves let the likes of Corey Brewer and Chase Budinger try to hang with Melo. They failed. Melo was cookin' soup, and an odd pot at that. He was strangely cold from downtown, and strangely inclined to take jaunty, almost floater-ish mid-range shots. I swear he attacked at slightly different angles than he usually does, and pretty consistently throughout the night. Kevin Love matched Melo with threes and easy drop-ins against shitty Knicks D in the first half, then totally fizzled in the second half.
- On one hand, Tyson Chandler played some real, lively minutes, finishing transition stuff out of a full sprint , straining for rebounds, and affecting shots at and away from the rim. On the other hand, he chose the most precarious moment of the game-- the third quarter when the Wolves had whittled New York's lead to almost nothing-- to first set a moving screen and elbow Ricky Rubio in the throat, then to shout at him and the referee and pick up a technical as he headed to the bench. I do not like that.
- When a Wolf dumped in an easy finish off a cut or an offensive rebound and you searched for the nearest Knick, it was often Amar'e Stoudemire, who started and played 31 minutes. But then at the other end, when you looked to see whose movement in and around the pick-and-roll offered the most spacing by keeping the defense most engaged, that was also Amar'e. He banged home several pick-and-pop jumpers and got his inside touches facing the rim. Good things. And for all his poor defense, Amar'e put a FIERCE block on Nikola Pekovic and made that one goaltend count. I don't have a problem with the occasional goaltending violation as long as it's sufficiently rude. Open-palm slapping a clearly descending ball into the stands is sufficiently rude.
- It wasn't an all-the-time thing, but it seemed to me like the Knicks let J.R. Smith run a lot of pick-and-roll even when Raymond Felton was on the floor with him. Like, I'd watch J.R. penetrate and wish for the pass to the weak corner, then notice it was Felton in the weak corner and suddenly feel less wishful. Both those guys played pretty well, though. Both hit their threes, both produced way more useful set-ups than they did turnovers, and both hit a decent percentage of their dumb off-balance stuff, including some late buckets that sealed Minnesota's fate. Nothing ices a game like a Raymond Felton floater. If the tear drops, the game is done. Doesn't matter how much time is left. This was Felton's best game in a while, and it comes after Ray and Mike Woodson had a talk about whether he ought to keep playing with off-court troubles on his mind.
- Yo, Ricky Rubio and J.J. Barea, y'all slipped through the fingers of the almighty FARTDOG. How does it feel to be hopeless? The guardwolves had a productive stretch against Pablo Prigioni et al in a threatening third quarter, but that's pretty much it. Six turnovers for Rubio, 1-9 shooting for Barea.
- I'm amazed there were only 26 combined turnovers in this game. Maybe it's just that they occurred in bursts. It felt like there were whole minutes during which neither team ever actually possessed the basketball.
- Nobody's been able to GIF this for me yet, but I really want to relive the moment in which Raymond Felton lost someone (Dante Cunningham, I think) in transition with an all-eyes fake. Felton was steaming up court and Cunningham or whoever approached him diagonally, but Felton glanced very dramatically to his right with little to no actual head or body movement, and that alone was enough to freeze the defender and permit and open layup.
- And on that note, man, that was a butt game for the Wolves. Such dumb turnovers and sooo many missed open threes and layups. Like, I got kinda mad at them. The Knicks gave Minnesota so many gifts and the Wolves just fumbled them. WE PICKED THESE UNCONTESTED CORNER THREES SPECIALLY FOR YOU, YOU UNGRATEFUL WOLF SHITS.
- Cole Aldrich played some actual minutes alongside Amar'e in the frontcourt. He blocked a shot?
- Tim Hardaway Jr. didn't shoot well, but did hit a big jumper or two in the fourth quarter?
- Iman Shumpert played? We had a conversation in the bar about how Shump's still pretty great at forcing turnovers up top, but it's bittersweet because those backcourt turnovers encourage him to try to create things in transition and that never ever ever ever ever ever ever works.
That's it. Good jobs, Knicks. It got close, but like a puzzled Clyde Abides said, y'all won a game for real. I honestly wasn't sure you'd ever do it again. Now let's see you reel off a little win streak against this super soft portion of your schedule, ya dummies.