These are the nights that make the 20-, 30-, 40-point losses endurable, these diamonds scattered across the dunes of rough. The New York Knicks beat the San Antonio Spurs 104-100 in OT. It was more than that. This wasn't simply 13-53 knocking off the defending champs. This was David slaying Goliath. Goofus beating Gallant. The Generals besting the Globetrotters. The 2015 Knicks -- the very definition of the basketball meek -- inheriting that rarest earth: a remarkable win.
"Be like water," Ray Smuckles wrote. That was part of what made this win so fun. The Knicks are a hodge-podge collection of guys who've barely known each other, much less played together, a team of role players so unsettled in its makeup and direction there really aren't any set roles. A need arises? It needs be met. Tonight, the Knicks were water: buckets were needed, buckets splashed; eight of the nine Knicks grabbed multiple rebounds; seven dished multiple assists. Alexey Shved made enormous plays -- on defense, too!
The Spurs led most of the way, but the Knicks were the tide: nearing, receding, ebb and flow. Danny Green failed to dunk over Cole Aldrich (the Cole meathook to the face probably helped). The ball bounced ten feet up off the rim, then fell from the sky like a jump ball from heaven, right between Tiago Splitter and Galloway. Galloway outmuscled Splitter for the ball and he and Smith hit consecutive jumpers, tying things at 84. It was that kind of effort. You could see the Knicks' teeth tonight.
The score was 94-94 when, after the Spurs inbounded, Marco Bellinelli got away from Galloway and used a Duncan screen to take and make a long two. After Derek Fisher called his last timeout, Shved drove to the basket, forcing Duncan to show and dropping the pass off for Lou Amundson, who laid it in to tie the game. Shved passing the ball off to Lou in a big spot ==> MMiranda nearly stroking from confusion and dismay. But it worked, and Leonard missing a distressingly open jumper meant overtime.
This was not an overtime destined for the NBA Louvre. Each team made only one basket. The play of the game came with 1:57 left and the Spurs up one, when Shved pump-faked Boris Diaw into fouling him on a three-pointer, then hit two to give the Knicks the last lead they'd need. In the final seconds the Spurs had one more chance to tie, but Shved poked away Duncan's pass to Leonard then hit the clinching free throws.
- Is there a stat for the number of possessions a team has where the shot clock's winding down and their guards are totally oblivious to that fact? If there is, the Knicks have to be at the top of the list. Exhibit A: Galloway getting the ball with 4 seconds left on the shot clock, with momentum, then casually driving to the middle of the floor before throwing it back to Jason Smith, who had no time to do anything. In the fourth, Shane Larkin had an open shot and chose to dribble to get in closer. The shot clock expired. Later, up one, the Knicks had 2.4 seconds to shoot, inbounding at half-court. The ball went into Galloway, who dribbled...and dribbled...and dribbled............Lastly, in the final two minutes of overtime, up one, Galloway drove to the basket as the clock was running down, got to the hoop, and instead of putting a shot up looked for someone to pass to, turning it over.
- Your double-double studs of the night: Lou (12 points/career-high 17 rebounds) and Andrea Bargnani (16 points/10 rebounds). Tim Duncan? 17 and 8.
- Galloway: 22 points/4 rebounds/4 assists. Parker: 21/6/6.
- Shved: 21 points, 7 assists.
- Another Jason Smith "power lay-up" attempt tonight. Early in the fourth, Smith caught a pass behind the baseline three-point spot, faked the shot, then drove to the hoop. On these power lay-ups, it's as if the ball absorbs the kinetic energy Smith has built, then erupts from Smith's hand with the velocity of a bullet. Jason Smith > Gambit.
- Down one late in the fourth with the shot clock winding down, Smith hit a beautiful twisting fadeaway that would have made Xavier McDaniel and Larry Johnson proud. Eight in the fourth for Jah.
- You know those quarters where you blink and the Knick deficit has exploded without you noticing? That started to happen in the second quarter. The Spurs opened on a 10-0 run. These were the Knick second quarter possessions:
* Smith brick as the shot clock expires
* Smith airball...from right underneath the hoop
* Smith post-up bucket
* Travis Wear give-and-go with Cole Aldrich ==> free throws
* Turnover: Wear moving screen
* Smith misses short baseline jumper
* Turnover: Bargnani Bargnani'ing
* Bargnani mid-range pull-up brick
* Shved baseline lay-up
* Shved lay-up
* Smith bricks a wide-open three
* Lance Thomas mid-range jumper
* Shved lay-up
* Thomas airball
* Shved barely gets rim on a three
* Galloway airball with clock running down
* Galloway three
* Amundson follow on Galloway fastbreak missed lay-up
* Amundson misses mid-range jumper
* Bargnani misses a wide-open three
* Bargnani misses jumper
* Shved airball
* Amundson airballs half-court heave
Those quarters make me miss Carmelo Anthony.
- Parker's floater is an A+. Shane Larkin's is an F. It's not the only thing separating them. But man, it's a big difference -- like Larkin's playing Super Mario Bros. 3 always as little Mario, and Parker's got mushrooms, fire flowers, and Tanooki suits.
- A Shved three tied it early in the fourth. Cole then blocked Danny Green while barely bothering to levitate (barely even by Cole standards). One of the cooler Knick sequences this year. On the next possession, Cole nearly converted a molasses-slow reverse lay-up for a three-point play. Would've been the coolest Knick sequence all season.
- Nine Knicks played tonight; seven are first-year Knicks. It's like watching a traveling minor league baseball team.
- The Knicks held San Antonio to 38% from the field, 21% from distance. Yeah, Knick D!
- Near the end of the first, Larkin had a nice driving lay-up for an and-one, absorbing contact from Patty Mills to finish the shot. On the Spurs' next possession, Larkin blocked Mills's shot from behind. When the Knicks came downcourt, Galloway hit the type of floater Larkin has yet to develop, and I was reminded in a matter of seconds why Larkin's flashes of promise never override his season-long shortcomings. So many Knicks fans were feeling such feels when Phil Jackson declined to pick up Shane's option. How long ago that seems -- were we ever so young?
- In the third, Parker drove to the hoop and was fouled in the eye socket (from behind!) by Lou's shoulder. For a moment, it was Drake/Chris Brown all over again.
- Near the end of the third quarter, Jeff Ayres missed a post-up jumper, badly. "Fatigue a factor now," Clyde remarked. Ayres had played four of the first 36 minutes. Galloway, who'd played 33 of 36 minutes, then dribbled and dribbled before driving left from the top of the three-point line and finishing with a lovely lay-in. It's a good thing you're cute, Clyde...
An excellent performance and a well-deserved win tonight. Now the Knicks can move on from the minnows and focus on the games that really count: consecutive match-ups with lottery rivals Minnesota and Philadelphia. The Timberwolves are Thursday at Madison Square Garden. You know the Andrew Wiggins/Bargnani posterization is coming...but you don't know who's posterizing whom. 43 hours and counting.