After a tortured hiccup of a start to a matinee that'd have made J.R. Smith proud, the Knicks rebounded with a strong second half and defeated the Pelicans 95-87. Carmelo Anthony led New York with 29 points and 13 rebounds. Anthony Davis paced the Pels with 36 and 11.
The opening of the game was Davis and Kristaps Porzingis going at each other hard. Not surprisingly, the veteran outshone the rookie: AD hit four of his first five shots and was 8 of 13 in the opening half, while KP stumbled out to a 2 for 11 line. It took nearly eight minutes for any Pelican besides Davis to score a field goal, but New Orleans' defense was active, forcing the Knicks to take what was conceded, which was a lot of Porzingis being contested by Davis, or Lou Amundson post-ups, or Derrick Williams mid-range jumpers -- the sort of nightmares that lead you to dream of the day this team has a real live point guard dictating on offense.
The Pelicans forced some early turnovers and got out in transition, but then the spigot shut; the Knicks ended the first quarter with four turnovers and only committed one in the next two quarters combined. They hit enough threes early to stay close, trailing at the half by only two. A close game throughout found some breathing room in the fourth thanks to unlikely hero Kevin Seraphin, who entered the game with 10 points all season before going off for 12 in 14 minutes. Not only was the Baseline Angel swishing, he dished off a couple heavenly dimes, including one where Anthony screened for a cutting Langston Galloway.
The Knick lead ballooned to 10, then was quickly whittled down to four in the final minute, but after all the talk of late concerning their late-game offense, it was the defense that carried the day. New Orleans tried to set up Ryan Anderson but Anthony was blanketing him, and the Knicks eventually forced Eric Gordon into missing a long three. Several Carmelo free throws and one Langston Galloway steal later, what's done was done.
- Carmelo never forced the action today. Knew when to pass, when to drive, when to pull up. He was in perfect rhythm, as a scorer and a player. Very Bernard King-like. Very, dare I say...Zen-like.
- At the half, Anthony Davis was 8-13 from the field for 18 points, to go with 7 rebounds and 4 blocks. The other Pelican starters combined: 2 of 9 shooting for 5 points. Porzingis seemed to improve in the match-up as the game progressed, which was important. The one time Robin Lopez ran out to guard Davis, he went right past him for an and-one.
- This wasn't the best team for Lopez to match up with, and he barely played (14 minutes). But he was a presence in the defensive post early on. Lopez wasn't swatting shots or owning the boards, but he has a way of contesting and he clearing opponents out of space so Knick teammates can get rebounds. The analytics of tomorrow will look back kindly on RoLo.
- New York's bench outscored the New Orleans bench 44-31.
- Sasha Vujacic saw his first (limited) action in a few games. Six quiet minutes.
- Derek Fisher brought Carmelo off the bench in the fourth a few minutes earlier than usual. The Knicks again went with a 13-man rotation. Carmelo played 39 minutes. No one else topped 26.
- Davis and Porzingis were clearly fired up to play each other. This could be a fun matchup for a very long time.
- Jerian Grant was out there late, taking and making tough shots, drawing fouls. He also pulled a Sun Tzu and turned Ish Smith's strength - his speed - against him, establishing position behind Smith while his back was turned, forcing him into a travel while he was bringing the ball upcourt. Both Knick rookies were out there in the closing minutes. Nice.
- On one especially nice sequence for Porzingis, he blocked a Davis jumper, beat him downcourt, got position under the hoop, Melo found him in secondary transition, and KP drew the foul. It can't be overstated how both these young players contribute in ways beyond hitting their shots.
- Lou Amundson wore a French braid today, while Seraphin had "Paris" shaved into his head, nice gestures of consciousness after this week's violence in the French capital. Gracias to Rebecca Haarlow for clarifying that Lou's braid was in fact of the French variety. If I have to define what style long hair is in beyond "up" or "down," I'm lost.
- One early Amundson post-up is apparently called "Chicago." Before the Knick bench called out the play's name, I was flashing back to Stacey King pulling that same move back in the 1990s against the Knicks. Threw up in my mouth a little.
- New York entered the game 7th in the league in fewest turnovers; New Orleans was 8th. Nine for the Knicks today, 18 for the Pelicans.
- One thing the Pels have figured out regarding Davis that Knicks are still learning regarding Porzingis? Dude's tall. Just throw it up high to him. He'll get it.
- I'm a big fan of Robin Lopez. He was near the top of my summer free agent wish list. Very glad he's here. Having said that...when the Lopez boys were in utero, Brook took both twins' share of scoring moves/touch.
- In the middle of the otherwise tight last-minute Knick defense, the Pelicans ran a beautiful (successful!) out-of-bounds alley-oop to Davis. Pay attention, Lance Thomas. This will be on the test. (Also pay attention, Lou Amundson, since you were defending that. - Seth)
- Late in the game the Knicks were outscoring the Pels 19-0 on 2nd chance points. New York shot 33% in the first half, 57% in the second.
- More Melo MVP chants today. Maybe it's a Sunday thing, like last week against the Lakers. But so far, he really is playing as aware and in-control as I've seen in his Knick years.
- A soccer analogy note regarding Anthony: he's playing more of a linking midfielder role this year than before, often acting as the outlet after a defensive possession, bringing the ball up and initiating the offense. More of a liaison than an out-and-out sniper.
- Early in the game Mike Breen said Jose Calderon's hit 25 of last 30 from the field and I fell out of my chair. He kept it up today, hitting four of his five shots, many off Lopez screens.
- Your annual "If Eric Gordon ever makes moves like this with any consistency, someone's taking a flyer on him."
- One of these days, Knick possessions will end with someone highly-qualified taking open corner threes, and you'll know this team is legit on the rise. Until that day, the role will be played by Lance Thomas.
- Good call by Clyde Frazier: Porzingis can learn watching Seraphin how to use his body to get clear hook looks whenever he want. If Kristaps ever masters a standing hook or sky hook, goodnight NBA.
- Best Breen/Frazier came after they noted how stacked Kentucky and Duke are yet again in men's college basketball.
Breen: "How's Southern Illinois this year?"
Clyde: "Man, we're down. They're still talking about me."
This essentially was "National Kevin Seraphin Day" - word to HighFlyers28. But a lot of guys had strong stretches of play, and Carmelo was Leonard Bernstein-ing from start to finish. Next game is versus the Michael Jordans. It's a big game for the Knicks. A win gets them to .500 before yet another stretch of rough games the rest of the month (two vs. Houston, two vs. Miami, one vs. Orlando). Two years ago the Knicks were 5-15. Last year they were 5-36. So a win to go to 6-6 is no joke. See you then.