That's what the Knicks have to do. They have to win a lot to sneak into the playoffs, which includes whoomping the weaker opponents on their schedule and taking every available win against their neighbors in the standings. Whoomping the Cavaliers in Cleveland on the second of a back-to-back (whoomp-to-whoomp) brought the Knicks into a tie for tenth place and guaranteed them at least a tie in the eventually-important season series. That is good. The Knicks have to take this playoff quest one step at a time-- it's like learning to fly or falling in love-- and they've taken a couple consecutive steps in the right direction.
This whoomping had a trajectory somewhat similar to the whoomping of the Wolves. The Knicks took an eight-point lead into halftime thanks to a lot of offensive rebounding from Tyson Chandler and Amar'e Stoudemire (plus a couple Shump buckets) during Carmelo Anthony's cold first quarter, then a big run in the second quarter when Melo channeled his feverish delirium into a wonderful two-man game with Amar'e. Kyrie Irving took successive bites out of the lead with his little flurries of drives, but the Knicks halted all rallies at break-even, then stormed away with the game behind threes from J.R. Smith and Pablo Prigioni in the early fourth.
It was a good game. Notes!
- I hope Melo got a decent night's sleep, and I hope he's kicking the shit out of that fever right now. How do you beat a fever? I really don't know. My method has always been to take hot showers then just lay in bed moaning, which solves the problem in a few days. Of course, that's how I spend my time fever or not. Anyway, I'm fascinated by Melo's performance through what looked like a miserable flu. He started 0-6 and 1-7 overall in the first quarter, then got to cooking soup in the second quarter and got back going in the second half after a little spell of forced jumpers in the early third (I blame that long-ass Zydrunas Ilgauskas ceremony). His early misses came off forces, too, then something interesting happened for a stretch of the second. Amar'e began to command the ball more, taking long back-down touches on the left side. Help came, Amar'e kicked out a couple times, and Melo got clean open jumpers off the catch. Once he hit those, everything else fell in line. He made wonderful plays out of the pick-and-roll and hit some absurd jumpers both pulling up and off the catch, then got to take a seat with a reasonable 39 minutes behind him. Nicely done. Feel better. And hey, Knicks, next time your best player is under the weather, maybe cool it with the full-court lead passes that require him to sprint the length of the floor, eh?
- Amar'e played a terrific game. He provided a whole lot for the Knicks. He provided tip-ins, he provided that flurry of passing out of the post, he provided some perfect movement at the bottom of the pick-and-roll, and he provided spurts of looming, swatting help defense that thwarted numerous inside attempts. He also fucking COOKED Tyler Zeller on the baseline. This was sexual:
Clyde: "Ring the bell! School is in session!"
AND he finished one of the wildly ambitious alley-oops guards threw his way. Great Amar'e game. And a relatively healthy 28 minutes, too.
- Amar'e and Tyson Chandler have looked most competent at giving each other space and coexisting over these last few games. Melo-Amar'e and Felton-Chandler alternate pick-and-rolls, keeping defenses guessing about where to commit their troops. While Amar'e strides around swinging at layups, Chandler boxes out. It doesn't hurt that Chandler's been playing with some verve of late-- some of that old, familiar will to make the extra defensive effort and crush lob passes and whatnot. Nice game. That tandem and that whole starting unit Mike Woodson put together have looked sharp (against mediocre competition (for just a few games (but whatever))).
- On that note, J.R. Smith continued to attempt catch-and-shoot elbow threes almost exclusively, and he hit a nice portion of them (5-9) again, and that is terrific. He got his looks making in-and-out curls away from the rim or just sitting and waiting for the Cavs to overreact to pick-and-rolls. He forced very little. He created a couple things off the bounce and played a bit of help D on the other end. [kisses fingers]
- I liked that Felton pushed and collapsed the defense whenever possible. I liked the variety of timely entry passes he threw. I liked that, once again, the game was pretty much sealed when he hit a running floater. Ray hitting a floater should be like catching the golden snitch. If you're giving that up, you can pretty much call the game.
- Pablo had his typical trouble guarding Irving, but he made an important contribution with those three-pointers. Is Pablo complain-ier this season than he was last? I guess improved command of English might facilitate more shouting at refs?
- Iman Shumpert had some possessions so forced and hideous that I was screaming "NO NO NO STOP NO NO NO" a full ten seconds before he even took a bad shot or committed a turnover...but he shot a decent enough 3-8 overall, made some nice extra passes, and played the best on-ball perimeter defense anyone played all night.
- Tim Hardaway Jr. remains firmly embedded in the rookie wall.
- I heard Spero Dedes mention efficiency numbers for the second or third time this season, remarking on the Knicks' improved defensive efficiency numbers when Shump's on the floor. Cool!
- Yo, Spencer Hawes, stop.
- Amar'e is a gifted polite fake laugher. I don't remember what Tina Cervasio's first question to him was at halftime, but his response was "HA-HUH".
- The Cavs had a nice thing going for a little while when they pushed the pace, let Irving do some of his defense-stirring work *off* the ball, and created a bunch of open threes. The Knicks tightened up their defense a bit after a bad third-quarter stretch, but the Cavs also just kinda stopped.
- Melo and Shump had a couple lovely help defense strippy-things that were as crucial in the fourth quarter as any three the Knicks hit. Honestly, if the Cavs didn't turn the ball over and eat a couple open threes, the Knicks might have collapsed. New York got characteristically tight with their shot selection and clock management down the stretch
- Amar'e often wraps a towel around his neck, then shoves the ends down his shirt so he looks like a cobra. Last night, the camera caught him at the end of the game with a whole towel under the chest part of his shirt so that he looked like a little boy pretending to have boobs.
- Toure' Murry played like 50 seconds at the end of the game. Woodson screamed at him for the entirety of those 50 seconds.
That's all. The Knicks have won three straight. They are UNSTOPPABLE, like chiniqua said. ...they are in tenth place, one game behind the Pistons and 3.5 games behind the eighth-seeded Hawks. The Sixers, Celtics, and Bucks are on the schedule this week. Forth!