New York got out and ran all around Atlanta. The Hawks managed to dig themselves out of their various ditches, but ultimately couldn't get the critical stops and the Knicks will take that worrisome win, thank you very much. Much of the game New York was moving the ball so fluidly, and helping the helpers on defense. It was such a sight! As the fourth quarter wore on, though, the team stopped playing completely together. The offense ground to an isolationist trudge. The Knicks just sat on possessions with nearly eight minutes to play. It was positively Woodson-ian. Still showed some poise and guts to pull out the victory.
I think it's safe to say that these two teams wouldn't mind meeting one another in the playoffs. New York clearly has some ground to make up in the standings, but this one was feisty and fun. Regardless of the outcome, this type of effort should help propel them upward. If they want to be competitive they'll have to cut down some good teams. They also need to maintain focus game to game and give their best efforts without exception. The past two games have illustrated a willingness to buy in to the system on both ends, and a coaching staff starting to press the right buttons. It will be interesting to see how this trends.
- Is there anyone that can explain these awful mullet-hawks to me? Not mullet Hawks. I'm talking about these atrocious hair cuts that are part mullet, part mohawk. Tim Hardaway Jr has it. Rusty Westbrook has it. A zillion dumb kids everywhere have it. It's a bad cut, children. I'm going to be calling it the "shmohawk". Get a haircut, hippies!
- So anyway. My favorite set of sequences came in the third quarter. An amuse-bouche of Kristaps Porzingis canning a dribble pull up over a bed of Paul Millsap. Then we went the other way for soup and salad as Porzingis blocked Millsap directly after Mike Breen noted that it was such a tough matchup for the rookie. All this led to a marvelous entree dish from Carmelo Anthony to Robin Lopez on a drag screen. The Hawks threw their hands up as the furry monster slammed it home. For dessert? Time out, Hawks.
- Carmelo had a pretty wild game. He shot poorly, but the guy was just every damn place. You can live with a shoddy shot chart when the selection was largely quite good. Anthony shimmied, juked, spun, thrust and jammed his way through the Atlanta defense, constantly attacking and causing breakdowns. Then there's these Melo Shuffle Passes of Utter Devastation. Let me tell you, the SPUDs are real and they're spectacular. I'm sorry but if he plays this style of ball and continues to go all out defending and rebounding he is setting himself up for an All-NBA caliber year, and I ain't talking about no stinking third team. Coming into the season I was expecting a more nuanced and savvy Melo. Probably because I'm some rotten assed Knicks-optimist. Nevertheless, I'm very satisfied to see that he has been delivering, in ways I don't think I would have ever expected. Like being an excellent mentor and vocal team leader. Yea.
- Jose Calderon was shrewder than Dennis Schroder for the game clinching bucket. He committed a cardinal sin on an entry pass to Lopez, but he staggered his step as Schroder got rocked by a Lopez ball fake. Jose instantly cut behind the youngster and shouted "Jamon, too easy," as he caught a pass and laid it up in one motion.
- Lots of scuffling. Nothing major, though. You know there's nothing to worry about when the Hawks' toughest guy is their assistant coach, Darvin Ham. Speaking of all these pork products, in this game we had a Darvin Ham, a Dennis "Black Forest Ham" Schroder and a Hamse Calderjamon. I'm sure there's more idiotic things we can do with that. Melo is Porkto Rican.
- The Knicks were called for three defensive 3-second violations in the first half. The Hawks must have seen something they didn't like in the previous game and were on the refs early about it. Maybe even before the game. Then the refs started tagging everyone. It's just some zebras seeing stripes. Or is it? Near the end of the first half New York got tagged for a delay of game by being a beat too slow returning to the floor out of a timeout. This in turn delayed the game for an additional ten seconds or so. Why so serious, zebra? In fairness to the refs, they properly reversed a pair of calls for either team and gave out a couple double technicals rather than create an advantage. It's probably just directives coming from up high in the NBA
- New York did a solid job gang rebounding. It shouldn't be too impressive, because Atlanta actually beat them on the offensive boards, but the effort to close out possessions is intrinsic to competent basketball. I heard a quote today that "success is where you are compared to where you could be." I watched the Knicks last year (I've actually watched the Knicks for the better part of 25 years) and this year's crawl to competency has been a successful one. I'm excited to see how they look when they start walking. Clamor as we may for every individual to reach their absolute peaks at every moment, this is much like the team's first real steps. I would expect them to get knocked down again, hopefully it's just a little tougher each time.
- Paul Millsap, who looks like Skeletor from Masters of the Universe, didn't have much trouble getting smaller guys to switch onto him. Lots of instances had smaller Hawks making very wide curls around rows of pin-downs, that forced a switch by the time they made a full revolution. That action caused a bunch of troubles. Millsap, who also acts like Skeletor, caused a bunch of troubles and was a total jerk for much of the game. Kudos to Paul and Robin Lopez for battling like maniacs and then being a humble winner and a gracious loser.
The Knicks could have stomped the Hawks out a little more decisively, but the did show some grit, as rightlight characterized it in the game thread. Yep, GRIT. That's Genitals Riding Into Tummies if you didn't already know. New York has long been a team that squandered leads and made you sweat. This iteration is proving to be no exception. For now, fantastic win. Much more to come tomorrow as the Knicks keep right on rolling into Miami for a 7:00 tipoff.