9 PM Seth came very close to starting this recap early. 9 PM Seth already had in mind some trite nonsense he was gonna say about the game, like "sometimes you can't, sometimes you won't, and sometimes you can't and won't at the same time." I pity 9 PM Seth, but I'm also very glad he's dead.
The Knicks game 9 PM Seth had seen was pretty bleak. New York couldn't stop anything amid the Jazz screening frenzy, and even when they shot well, failed to match Utah in any "easy point" department. They didn't get out in transition, they didn't get to the line, and they didn't get putbacks. When the buckets dried up for 5 minutes in the second quarter, Utah took a double-digit lead and just kinda cruised from there. The Knicks kept gnawing off some of the lead, only to watch the Jazz get points off a tough jumper or some garbage foul call. I can't blame 9 PM Seth for throwing up his hands and setting himself up for an early post-stinker bedtime. The game, I mean. The game was a stinker. I don't generally poop before bed.
And then boom, opposite day. The Knicks started contesting jumpers and walling off the rim. Carmelo Anthony ruled the baselines, both as a driver and a shifty-eyed passer. Robin Lopez tipped home anything that fell off the rim. They got a few calls of their own. Arron Afflalo and Langston Galloway appeared to put the game away with a couple threes off Melo lasers, but the Jazz stayed hot, and the tender stalk they call Kristaps got caught overreacting to a Gordon Hayward pump fake, sending him to the line for three game-tying free throws. 10 PM Seth thought the Knicks had wasted a riveting comeback, but the game only improved in extra time. Melo stayed magical, Lopez put the bow on his domination of Rudy Gobert with a crisp lefty hook, and Derrick Williams made the inarguable play of the night, which I will show you now even though I put it in the last post:
It's funny that Sleepy Derrick Who Drops Easy Passes and Maniacal Derrick Who Earns Three Points With Sheer Will can exist in the same game, but that kinda typifies this night. The Knicks woke up and fortune's pendulum swung in their favor all at once, and the timing could not have been better. Just a few notes before we dig into some stuff tomorrow:
- Any of us could have called a big Robin Lopez performance tonight. Since he's hit his stride over the last month or two, his best match-ups have been rim-dwelling big men, the kind who can quieted by a guy insistent on hanging back, holding his ground, and boxing out every carom. When the guards were a-leakin', Lopez couldn't help but allow some sneakin' by Rudy Gobert, but mostly kept him off the offensive glass and obstructed easy lobs. And so, so many hooks the other way. Putbacks, too. Watching Lopez realize he can be an actual offensive option -- a carnivore, not just a scavenger -- has been one of the great delights of this whole season.
- Gordon Hayward can cook Melo, and things weren't looking so hot after the first half. But as Melo told Chris Herring, he guarded Hayward more sensibly in the second half, and did so while stoking a goddamn inferno on offense. After logging 50 minutes on a bum ankle Monday, Melo worked himself into a very encouraging groove. His first steps actually propelled him through the trees and up to the rim, and his jabby jumpers looked very clean. The three crosscourt passes in the fourth and OT -- one for Afflalo, one for Galloway, one for Williams -- damn near had me in tears. It's not just that he's made those passes, but that he orchestrated the opportunities. He waited, he communicated, he feinted, and he threw *THE* pass, not just *a* pass. Over and over again. It's crazy that Melo hasn't quite put together a triple-double this season, and it's crazy that that's crazy.
- The crowd seemed understandably a little petulant early in the game. The Knicks were playing poorly, and fouls kept disrupting any momentum. It was wonderful, then, to hear organic "defense" chants, "DER-RICK WIL-LIAMS" chants (!), and a hearty cheer when one ref took a tumble late in the game.
- Quietly, Derek Fisher turned back to his shorter, happier rotation. Sasha Vujacic played just 2 patch minutes. Kyle O'Quinn only played a stretch of the second quarter. Even with extra time and serious foul trouble, it was basically an 8-man rotation.
- I gotta look at this again once it's online and I'm not falling asleep, but Derek Fisher had some fun with sets late in the game, and I thought I saw him mimic one of Utah's double-pick sets for a Langston Galloway bucket. The Jazz blew plenty of stuff up (like the last-second-of-regulation back screen play that devolved into an awful Melo runner), but Fisher gave the Knicks solid, varied plans.
- Props to the Jazz for never sinking, man. They just kept slinging buckets right up to the end. After Rodney Hood or whoever kept them in it with the 399th straight jumper, Clyde came right out and said "this is no longer funny." It is jarring and meaningful when Clyde describes a turn of events with anything other than a signature phrase. That was genuine exasperation and I cherished it.
The Knicks could have easily succumbed to adversity and random shit. I wouldn't have been that mad at them for it. It happens. But like The Ghost of Kristaps Past said, they overcame it, and it amounted to one of the most exciting games of the season. The schedule ahead gets pretty choppy, so that's a big win. Thanks for recovering, Knicks. Rest in peace 9 PM Seth.