In a matter of months, the Knicks have gone from abominable to respectable. In a matter of weeks, the 76ers have gone from a blight in human history to likable scrappy underdogs. Monday's MLK Day matinee between the Knicks and 76ers was a collision between two rapidly rising rosters. But all rises are relative, and after 56 minutes of blockbuster basketball - so entertainment! such dramatic! - New York emerged with their fifth straight home win, 119-113.
Carmelo Anthony returned after missing two games with an ankle sprain and though he struggled with his shot, the Knicks would not have won without his 49 minutes. Philadelphia began the year losing 30 of 31, but since signing Ish Smith they're an actual NBA team again. Both teams were scorching and swishing early - New York shot 54%, Philadelphia 59%. The quicksilver Sixer guards sliced the Knicks from the opening tip, outscoring them 10-2 on first half fast breaks and getting 32 of their 47 first half points in the paint. But the Knicks were at home...and Kristaps Porzingis was Kristaps Porzingising (blocked a couple shots; leaked out ahead of a somnolent Sixer squad for a wide-open dunk; hit a three; dreamshook Nerlens Noel)...
... and they were up 18 as the third quarter was closing and it was all yeah woo! chill win mos def. But it wasn't.
The Knicks' first second-half guard off the bench was Sasha Vujacic. Perhaps unrelatedly, an 18-2 run spanning the third and fourth made a game of things, and once it was a game it was a game. Six Sixers scored double digits thanks to
Allen Iverson Ish Smith, a man who made art shooting 29%. His 16 points and 16 assists were the molten core of Planet Comeback. Adding injury to insult, Porzingis landed awkwardly going for an offensive rebound and strained his foot.
An Ish jumper put the Sixers up three in the final minute. Carmelo hit a game-tying three in the dying seconds.
Overtime. More Ish: took Lou Amundson baseline and, with Sweet Lou tugging on his cape/jersey, hit a reverse while fouled. With Kristaps out and Carmelo gassed, Arron Afflalo came through with 25 points. Every basket he hit seemed to tie the game or give the Knicks the lead. 44% Career Free Throw Shooter Lou Amundson hit two free throws. Ish finally missed. Carmelo found Afflalo across the floor, drove baseline and hit that baseline jumper he always hits. The Knicks had the lead. Ish and Lou went mano-a-mano. The gods held their breaths.
Lance Thomas hit two free throws to put the Knicks up three. Ish missed a three. Game over, right? Nope. The Sixers retained possession and Robert Covington banked a three.
Double overtime. Langston Galloway is your hero! Tourniquet D on Ish stopped the bleeding. Drove for a lovely bank shot high off-glass. Grabbed a tough rebound and found Afflalo leaking out for a one-on-one break that made it 113-109 Knicks. A spin move and floater off-glass by to refresh that four-point buffer. Blocked Canaan's shot from behind on a drive. Afflalo missed a three as the shot clock expired, but Carmelo fought for the rebound and hit a fadeaway to put the Knicks six to the good side. Covington drove for a big throwdown but Lopez met him at the rim and looked like he got leather as Covington began his roundhouse. Carmelo got the rebound and waited for the Sixers to foul, only they weren't fouling and the Knicks were thisclose to an eight-second violation and your nerves were on the verge of total system failure. Then, like waking from a bad dream, the Knicks called consecutive timeouts and advanced the ball to midcourt and Lopez hit free throws and Covington aired a three and the. Game. Was. Finally. Won.
- 49 minutes in Melo's first game back from injury? :(
19 points, seven rebounds, seven assists? Clutch hoopage come crunch time? :)
Weird game for him. Missed a ton of clean looks. The most difficult - a double-pump contested long-range jumper; a midrange launch off-glass while getting fouled; a three over Noel to tie things in the final moments? Nailed 'em. A noble if not rusty 7 of 28. Speaking of Rusty...
- Brett Brown benched Jahlil Okafor (20 points, 7 rebounds) through the fourth quarter and overtime. You know when Daffy Duck was hungry and Bugs Bunny would show up, and Daffy would drool hallucinating Bugs as a giant fried chicken leg? That's how Lopez looked when he had the ball in the post against Okafor. 16 and 10 in 33 minutes for RoLo. When RoLo's coming at you like he's Brook, you're hurtin'.
- Last year there was an article on Jason Smith's play being impacted by having a new baby. Jerian Grant played seven forgettable minutes. Wishing y'all peaceful nights.
- Free throws: NY 25-30. PHI 13-25.
- With Porzingis out and Amundson in, the Knicks went with Lou/Lance/Langston/Melo/Afflalo. Defensively, that's kinda cool.
- Did You Know? Lance Thomas edition:
Lance Thomas And-One plays: 2014-15: 8 in 62 games 2015-16: 16 in 43 games Source: @bball_ref— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) January 18, 2016
- Hollis Thompson had 11 points. I mention this because HELLO, MR. THOMPSON.
- Sometimes Rebecca Haarlow seems more bored with her questions than I am.
- Interviewing Afflalo after the win, Haarlow said, "Free throws - such a big factor in this game tonight. Describe the confidence level that this team plays with in overtime situations when you guys know how solid you are at the line." This was the Knicks' second overtime game all year. And their first win. I wish Afflalo had said, "These go to 11."
Quoth rcnt123: "OMG Cmon." This is harvest season for the Knicks, the start of a stretch of 10 of 13 at home, where they've won seven of eight. They get a chance to reach the .500 mark Wednesday when they host the Utah Jazz. Pray Porzingis v. Goebert's a go.