Dumb game of basketball right there, buddies. The Knicks were short-handed and looked sleepy in the second of a back-to-back. The Jazz are just really sad and lifeless and poorly coached. So this game was RIVETING. The Knicks fell behind double-digits early because the Jazz started uncharacteristically hot from outside, then the Knicks made a predictable comeback when non-Carmelo-Anthony people started hitting jumpers. They took control in the second half and walked away with a win in hand to keep pace with Atlanta.
Very few notes:
- The Jazz don't have the guys to defend Carmelo Anthony one-and-one and don't have the coordination to crowd him capably, so he just bullied Marvin Williams and company. Some strong, defiant stuff off the dribble, plus a nice 4-7 line from downtown. That's reassuring after a couple bad shooting nights and the vague concerns about his hand Sunday night.
- The Jazz don't have a good FARTDOG candidate-- Trey Burke isn't ready and Diante Garrett/Ian Clark combined for a donut-- but they still managed to expose New York's sedentary defense early on. Derrick Favors dominated the offensive glass because no one bothered to obstruct him and Richard Jefferson dunked more times in the first half than he has in the past six seasons combined (this is an estimate).
- That said, I credit the Knicks with once again dialing the defense up a bit in the second half. Raymond Felton in particular gets some snaps for fighting over picks and making himself a nuisance instead of just fading out of plays at every opportunity. Iman Shumpert had those moments, too, but lost some minutes to foul trouble.
- This was my favorite play of the night and may be one of my favorite plays of the season:
That's Melo coming out of a half-ending timeout with a 25-yard football pass to J.R. Smith, who wisely let the ball bounce before collecting it for a fading corner three right before the buzzer. Clever stuff, perfectly executed. And of course J.R. hit that after tossing up bricks on nearly everything he attempted prior.
- No Amar'e Stoudemire meant COLE ALDRICH POST PARTY. He looked genuinely graceful looping baby hooks out of his right hand and genuinely hilarious trying to do the same off countermoves to his left. And despite a little outmuscling by Enes Kanter, Aldrich played some fine defensive minutes as a shot-contester and pursuer of rebounds.
- I was not prepared for Ian Clark's jumper. Not even a TV-MA before the broadcast or anything.
- The Knicks' comeback was mostly free throws while the Jazz committed idiotic turnovers (key, since they'd committed none in the first quarter. That flipped in the Knicks' favor.) New York's second-half lead and weathering of a Jazz run was built off guards finally hitting open catch-and-make threes. They just needed someone other than Melo to score. Their win was was cemented when Felton dropped his his signature FloaterTM to make the lead 13 with about eight minutes to go.
- Tyson Chandler seems to be picking and choosing when he makes a play on the ball these days. He managed to contest enough shots, collect enough rebounds, and finish enough plays at the rim to put together a respectable 15, 9, and 2 line in between instances of not protecting the rim. As always, he was on an island under the rim, but he looked a bit too comfortable lounging on the island at times.
And that...was...the basketball game? This one really didn't offer much. It's like JRmyth said: The Jazz didn't really want to win, so they didn't. The Knicks really wanted to win, but didn't really look like they did, but did anyway. They needed that, because the Hawks survived a challenge from the Sixers.
And now it gets tough. All playoff-bound opponents, all with something to play for from here on out.