Tonight the Knicks had a chance to build on their recent stellar play and their recent success at home. In defeating the Bucks 100-88 they accomplished both, dominating the middle quarters and winning their third game in a row at home and fifth of seven overall. New York bumped Milwaukee four games back in the standings and moved within a game and a half of the eighth seed.
After a slow start out of the gate, the Knicks turned a tie game after one into a double-digit lead at the half. Fluid and unselfish, they got the shots they wanted, assisting on two-thirds of their first-half fields goals while hitting 60% of their first-half shots. They ran a lot early on, and when they didn't run they settled into a real H20 flow in the halfcourt sets. High energy and pristine execution is how you build a ten-point lead despite going one of nine from distance.
In the third, the Knicks put the game away. Kristaps Porzingis was blocking shots and triggering run-outs and New York was NBA Jamming on the other end. After a terrific all-around opening half, Carmelo focused his brilliance into a filament-thin hot hot heat laser. A Porzingis putback dunk, tonight's nightly Porzingis-play-of-the-year, keyed a run that pushed the lead to 22; by that point the Knicks had nearly twice as many points in the paint as the Bucks (44-24) and on the break (13-8). The game was effectively over.
The Bucks did that thing that happens in any game with a 20-point difference: they cut the lead in half, resulting in the hoary irony of the team that got crushed earning praise 'cuz "At least they made a run" while the team that did the blowing-out gets tsk-tsked about letting the lead slip. Carmelo put that nonsense to bed. He's really fun to watch when he gets to play closer. The final nail in the coffin was a Porzingis 30-foot banked three off an inbounds curl as the shot clock expired. That's the most fun I've ever had writing a sentence.
- Carmelo's first half: 5 of 9 from the field, 12 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists. Active on defense. Stuffing crumbums. Stripping fools. In the third alone he put up a 9/6/2 line; led the team with 24/10/8 overall. Previous Melos were the heroes New York deserved: a penthouse player on a skid row squad. Three-dimensional Melo flips the script. He's the hero we need.The Knicks have a puncher's chance against anybody because of KP's limitless future and Carmelo's peak present.
- Mad dunks by the Knicks tonight. Williams had three in the first half alone. Porzingis be jammin'. Lopez, too. Lance had a nice baseline throwdown. When you see Lance Thomas driving to the basket and realize no one can stop him, the blood gets a-pumping.
- Porzingis: 15 points, 6 points, and 5 blocks. Stephen A.'s of the world: make your apologies here.
- Shout out to the super-subs. Pre-garbage time, the Knick bench had 28 points to the Buck bench's 7.
- Barely a minute into the game, Derek Fisher called yet another unorthodoxly early timeout after Giannis Antetokounmpo went end-to-end and missed a lay-up that was put back by Greg Monroe. When you're losing, that looks like micromanaging. When you're winning, it looks like an admirable attention to detail and quality control.
- Interesting substitution: Thomas came in for Porzingis mad early - four minutes into the game - despite Kristaps not having committed a foul. KP returned five minutes later, spelling Lopez.
- The Knicks are now 16-3 when leading after three quarters. Subatomica of success, son.
- You know what's neat? Take a look at the Knick payroll. You have to get down to like number seven before you find anyone whose performance you'd label disappointing.
- No Melo or KP to open the second. In their place, Thomas was hitting every shot and Derrick Williams was owning the boards. 21 points combined on 56% shooting for the pair. Last season, the Knicks were paying Amar'e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani $35M. Lance + DWill = $6.5M. Yyyyeah, payroll sanity!
- The more the Knicks go to Robin Lopez early in games, the better. He uses his body nicely around the basket to wall off defenders under the hoop and he looks more and more comfortable with his hook shots and post game. 13 and 9 in 27 minutes.
- Watched a ton of David Attenborough nature TV today. Porzingis moves like the Baryshnikov of giraffes.
- This happened.
- Color me stoked for MSG's upcoming Charles Smith episode of Beginnings. Always been struck by the contrast between how likable he comes across and the dark spot he represents for so many Knick fans.
- The teams combined to miss their first 13 three-pointers, a miserable streak Calderon finally put out of its misery.
- The Rick Pitino Knicks were nicknamed The Bomb Squad. Occasionally you'd hear the Pat Riley teams called the Black and Blue Crew. Since shortening the rotation, this team seems to be congealing as a cohesive, high-energy unit, in their Triangle sets and streaking out in transition. Hmm. Gamma rays are the most energy-intensive event in the universe. Maybe call them the Gotham Rays? The Furious Frenetic Five-Fingered Fist? Call 'em what you will; the identity they're creating is very very yes yes.
- A few minutes in, a totally spontaneous, organic, un-P.A.-system'd "Let's Go Knicks!" chant erupted from the crowd. There were a lot of those tonight. Let there be life!
Quoth thebasketballgods: "That was all so beautiful." It cannot be overstated how good the Knicks looked. The running, the balance, the efficiency, the cohesion. Lovely lovely lovely. Does beauty invariably fade? Or does endurance define what is beautiful? Find out in the Knicks' next game Tuesday at home versus the Celtics. It's a big one. Win and they tie Boston in the standings.