It's not over, technically, but it feels that way. The Knicks only play challenging opponents for the rest of the season, and they can't count on teams to just hand them wins anymore. The Wizards did that Friday night; they whiffed on a surprising number of the open opportunities New York granted, leaving that door wide-ass open. Despite the bad defense, and despite one of Carmelo Anthony's worst games, the Knicks had a win within reach down the stretch. J.R. Smith shot them there with an outrageous shooting performance, Amar'e Stoudemire kept them afloat with a dominant third quarter, and a couple big, unusual plays (Stops! Melo kicking to a Raymond Felton three!) amid the endgame muck made it seem like the Knicks could do the unlikely and seize the crucial victory in front of them.
The Knicks did the likely. They gave Bradley Beal an open jumper and a Wizards lead, then thoroughly shit themselves on the potential game-winning possession. With the ball, a one-point deficit, and 22 seconds remaining, the Knicks ate clock for no reason, abandoned any semblance of a plan after the Wizards gave a foul, and stood paralyzed while Melo coughed up what could have been his TENTH turnover had J.R. not caught the loose ball for an errant last-second heave. The Knicks would have maintained their footing in the standings if they'd just avoided Knicksing for once, but they couldn't help it. The Knicks Knicks.
Just a few notes because I am sleepy:
- Melo's hurt. His right shoulder is strained. I've felt this way maybe twice this whole season, but Mike Woodson should have let him rest. Whether it was the injury or just a bad night, Melo's shot AND his timing and execution in other realms were totally off. He couldn't gain the separation he expected on drives and some smart ideas for passes ended up in the wrong hands. The dude said in postgame that he called a timeout at one point because his arm just wasn't working. I don't expect that kind of temerity out of Woodson, but if he just benched Melo down the stretch of one of the few games this season in which he's plainly hurt his team, the Knicks might not be circling the drain right now.
- It took Clyde two minutes to say Marcin "Gortart" twice." I feel like there should be an umlaut somewhere in there, because Clyde's garbling is more exotic than the way I just spelled it.
- J.R. Smith stayed calling his own number out of the pick-and-roll and just...always, and until the fourth quarter, he was hard to deny. Whether pulling up over those screens, catching as a trailer or decoy, or just launching out of an inch of space against good defense, J.R. was at one with the net. And then he missed a couple in the fourth and committed a horrid foul in transition off one of his own long rebounds and severely undercut his own production, but at least he got the Knicks that far. It was fun. I will always have room in my heart for J.R. Smith splashing without shame while Mike Breen clucks paternally. Even though I know where that train is likely headed.
- Clyde, on John Wall: "Wall's one of those guys who'll turn off the light and jump in bed before it goes out." He's fast, you see.
- After Jill Martin named a few of the sideline-dwelling Julianne Moore's movie credits, Clyde said something like "I've known crazy stupid love a long time!".
- The Knicks bench stomped the Wizards' "AARP Unit" in the second quarter. Iman Shumpert played active-- if not effective-- defense all night, but that quarter was the only stretch in which he was useful offensively, burying an open three off a Pablo Prigioni pass and canning a pull-up two of his own. J.R. and Tim Hardaway Jr. each benefited from some transition Pablo/Felton dump-offs and extra passes around the perimeter as well. Those were good times.
- Amar'e was sparsely used in the fourth quarter after a third that included a big block on Görtårt, a couple pick-and-pop jumpers from either side of the floor, a nice post-up (and another in the fourth), and one vigorous besmashing of Gørtârt's face and neck region. Woodson even had Melo play the five for a moment.
- Late in the game, Shump just couldn't handle Bradley Beal. When he got to Beal early and denied him the ball, that caused the Wizards genuine problems, but once the picks arrived and Beal got a chance to handle, Shump got lost. And not for lack of effort. Beal's good, Shump's a little jumpy, and the lack of support always makes things tougher.
I've lost hope on a couple levels, but that was still disheartening. And that might very well be the season, like Bronx Chica said. At least the night left us with one item of value: