I don't know what happened, but the night is over and the Knicks have more points than the Raptors, so that's a win, and New York's .500 again. Cool! Weird!
New York pulled ahead early by forcing turnovers and cleaning up their misses, maintained their lead when Carmelo Anthony dropped 17 in the second quarter, and went up 13 to start the second half ... then immediately undid all of that and fell behind as some strange lineups gave possessions away. Several wacky crunch-time plays, at least one blown call in the Knicks favor, and 4 clutch-ass Lance Thomas free throws later, the Knicks came out of Toronto having survived somehow. Yeah. Like AJJA DE MANN said, life is odd.
- Derek Fisher let a slot machine manage his rotation tonight, throwing out apparently random fivesomes until he'd used every single active Knick for at least 5 minutes, and none but Melo more than 30. Jose Calderon replaced Jerian Grant when Grant committed a bad foul ... then those two swapped back seconds later when *Calderon* committed a bad foul. Kyle O'Quinn was the first big off the bench, but played terribly ... so Fisher played him alongside Kevin Seraphin, who also looked pretty bad, then played BOTH of those guys with Lou Amundson, who just looked happy to play basketball in 2015. Cleanthony Early checked in for the first time with 15 seconds left at the end of the third quarter ... and banked in a heave that ended up being really, really important. Fisher went to Thomas instead of Kristaps Porzingis down the stretch ... and Lance chipped in a huge lay-up, 4 clutch free throws, and a crucial rebound. I guess Fisher's thinking was some combination of keeping minutes light in the first of a back-to-back, matching up with some funky Raptors lineups, and thinking it was still preseason. I did a lot of head-scratching, but the Knicks won, so joke's on me, I guess.
- I think this was Kristaps Porzingis's worst game as a Knick so far. Right? He had his moments -- some fouls drawn, some rebounds, a nice transition finish, and one SKYZING -- but shorted most of his jumpers and got cooked more on defense than we've seen thus far. The shots will fall someday. His legs just aren't fully under him at this point in his conditioning. And regarding the defense -- I guess it makes sense that a shifty old worm like Luis Scola is better suited to shake Kristaps than guys who rely more on speed and power. No amount of arms and legs can contain that veteran guile. Kristaps did elbow Scola in the face one time, so there's that.
- Kristaps also has too heavy an in-game conscience. You can tell. If he's missed one or two shots recently, he'll pass up the next one no matter how open he is. He lost the ball on one play because he decided to dribble into the defender and post up even though he'd been given a wide-open three. The confidence and the rhythm will come.
- Strange night for Melo. I guess he hasn't really had a non-strange night yet this season, eh? Melo started the game distributing and finished the game missing good and bad shots alike. He spent the middle part of the game cookin' soup, first scorching poor Anthony Bennett a few times, then getting so hot that when he got a three-pointer blocked, he chased the ball down and buried a 26-footer to end the first half.
- Lance Thomas's followthrough on three-pointers looks like he's dismounting a horse, and yet he hit both his threes, one of them a damn near Melo-like pull-up. That's all the Lance-mocking I'm gonna do tonight, though, because Lance Thomas played wonderfully. Those plays down the stretch -- a tough lay-in, 4 free throws, and the most important rebound of the night -- made the game for the Knicks. Also his pump fakes look like he's trying to fly a kite in a hailstorm SORRY SORRYSORRYSORRY HE PLAYED SO WELL IT JUST ALWAYS LOOKS SO FUNNY SORRY
- Seriously stinky games for Kyle 'n' Kevin. Biting on fakes, whiffing ugly shots, not running the floor, etc.
- We saw one more Melo/Kristaps pick-and-roll. It worked. I think we should see at least two the next game!
- No matter who else is going off, Langston Galloway is the guy who makes me squeal and pound my fist the most. He got lost a few times this evening, but there were so many little things -- tipping rebounds just enough, shooting when he spotted a rebounder in position, pretending to lag on a rotation so he could jump out and pick the pass, rescuing some garbage possessions with his good shot clock sense -- that made up for every error. And, ya know, big things. He had some lovely finishes in transition/backdoor and buried two threes that seemed pretty important for momentum purposes at the time (but missed the third even though I was screaming "BANG THAT, LANG. BANG THAT, LANG." on my couch.)
- Jerian Grant swerved very quickly from I-guess-I'll-shoot-but-I-dooooon't-think-this-is-a-good-idea to nope-not-gonna-shoot. He had one lovely give-and-go with Kyle O'Quinn and a couple pretty passes, but the stiller the offense is, the worse Grant looks. His defense comes and goes.
- Robin Lopez played a pretty nice game of o-bound-hoarding and rim-protecting, with the glaring exception of every time Jonas Valanciunas tried that goofy-ass fake he loves so much. Jonas pump fakes with his thorax instead of with the ball, and he does it really slowly, yet it repeatedly froze Robin in place.
- The Raptors shot 39 free throws to the Knicks' 18. The Knicks hit 11 of 23 threes.
- The last minutes of the third quarter looked like the beginning of the Knicks' demise, then Thomas buried a three, Grant and O'Quinn ran a gorgeous baseline give-and-go, and Early hit that buzzer-beater. So, instead of being down like 5-7 going into the final frame, the Knicks were tied. All I mean to say in these last two bullets is that some really wacky shit decided this game.
The Knicks won. It didn't feel comfortable, but it happened, and that's great. Onward!